If you wish to experience working hands-on with a variety of animals, you care about animal welfare and want to be involved in animal rehabilitation then Free to be Wild is the place for you.
I have recently had the pleasure of volunteering at FTBW and I was so sad to leave that I have already made arrangements to return again later this year! I am so grateful to be able to contribute to such a worthy cause and hope that even in my short time as a volunteer I was able to make a positive impact on the lives of the residents (whether temporary or permanent) as they have certainly had a positive impact on mine.
Even though the Sanctuary only opened four years ago and this is only its second year of accepting volunteers I was thoroughly impressed. Once you’re through the gates you enter a mini paradise, the grounds are clean and well maintained and it’s really peaceful. When I arrived I had the pleasure of being greeted by Peck (the resident ostrich), Jupiter (a male impala) waiting for release and Klipie the klipspringer. Within 10 minutes of arriving, Miles (a baby monkey) was on my shoulder and Klipie was doing his best to lick the suntan lotion off my arm.
The main section of the house is open plan and spacious. There isn’t a fixed external living room wall so even though you have a roof over your head you still have the feeling of being outside in nature. Being on my own, my double bed came in handy as I shared it with some of my furry friends, which by the end of my first day now included Pax and Bindie. So even though for the majority of my stay I was the only volunteer, I was never alone.
My daily activities/duties were listed on the information board, these included food prep and feeding, orphan sit, bushwalks, enrichment, maintenance, cleaning and much more. The bush walk involved taking the babies (5 orphaned Baboons) out of their enclosure to allow them to forage and play and gain confidence in preparation for their release in the future. My only advice is not to wear your best clothes. The Babies, Lucy, Kuda, Darrel, Mana & Naleti, each with their own personalities are amazing to watch and interact with. I played with them every day and allowed them to use me as a launch pad to reach tall branches etc. and in return they ensured that I was always lice and tick free 🙂
Every day I worked and socialised with the Handlers and staff, who are really friendly; I thoroughly enjoyed working and chatting with them and can’t wait to see them again. They are all dedicated to the welfare of the animals and you can see how much they truly care. I even had the opportunity to share traditional foods e.g. Mopane worms, maybe not for the faint hearted but delicious none the less. We also had a Braii and sat around the fire toasting marshmallows.
During my stay I also visited the markets to purchase food for the animals, was involved in animal enrichment; where we made objects to hide food in to give to the monkeys, baboons and mongoose and had a wonderful opportunity to spend the night at the Phase 2 release site; Longueville Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is spectacular and has already become the home of many released animals.
My time at FTBW was an amazing experience and I have some wonderful memories that I will cherish. FTBW has reignited my desire to work with wildlife and conservation and this is not only from spending time with the animals (all of which are not mentioned above) but also from the people involved in making my stay an incredible one.
Firstly Katie, thank you for helping me organise my stay at FTBW and also for arranging my return visit. You have been very helpful and informative and are happy to answer any questions that I have.
Dingani, your dedication to the wellbeing of the animals in your care is evident. You can see your love for the animals and in return, their love for you.
Zweni, I enjoyed our conversations and you really are a fountain of knowledge, I have yet to find something relating to wildlife and nature that you are unaware of. You can tell that you are working for a cause that is really important to you.
Thank you for showing me how to cook traditional foods, nothing was ever too much trouble and I’m really grateful for having the opportunity to try your local delicacies.
Khumbu, even though our time together was short I enjoyed working together, you are very easy to talk to and thank you for showing me how easy it is to develop and maintain a garden, you’ve given me ideas on starting my own.
Aimee, Alec and little Oliver, you are some of the most wonderful people that I have met. You have great aspirations for the sanctuary and are at the start of a journey to lead exciting, fulfilling lives in the field of animal rehabilitation and wildlife conservation.
And finally to Baye, you are a true inspiration. Your perseverance and dedication to animal rehabilitation is second to none and you should be proud of all you have achieved in such a short time. Your plans and ideas for the future of FTBW are truly encouraging that it will continue to be a success and any animals that pass through your care are lucky to have you.