During the Easter break, a group of Animal Management students from Brinsbury, the Countryside Campus of Chichester College, embarked on an epic 36 hour journey to the Northern Tuli Game Reserve in Botswana to learn about the challenges and complexity of conserving wildlife in an un-fenced reserve.
After two flights and a seven hour coach journey through South Africa, they reached Pont Drift where they crossed the border from South Africa into Botswana via a cable car over the Limpopo River. Accompanied by staff members Holly Hackney, Amy Gould and Mark Nason, the Brinsbury students received a very warm welcome and much needed refreshment on arrival at camp and felt instantly at home.
The students experienced a real culture shock when they discovered the poverty and lack of resources in the local village where they ate a traditional meal (including dried and seasoned caterpillars) under the watchful gaze of the village chief and elders. During the first night, they were visited in their huts by scorpions, snakes, geckos, rodents and various other creepy crawlies.
During their time at Tuli, the students took part in activities such as game counts, tracking and trailing, night drives and bush walks all under the supervision of experienced rangers. On one of the bush walks, they found a hidden snare, which they carefully helped to remove, portraying that poaching is still a problem at Tuli and made the Brinsbury students visit all the more important.
Mid-way through the week, the students slept out in the wild. Once they had found a suitable place to set up camp, they made a fire and settled down for the night, taking it in turns to keep look-out for any animals that may be approaching. Sleeping in the African bush listening to all the wildlife sounds (including lions, baboons, hyena and elephants), and watching the clear night sky is an experience the students will never forget.
Despite the exciting encounters with big game, many of the students consider their experience at the village school to be the highlight of the trip. Botswana invests more in education than any other African country; as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product, Botswana spends more on education than the UK. However, Botswana is not a wealthy country and the school the students visited had few resources, no electricity and no science equipment. Chichester College’s Maths and Science Department kindly donated seven robust microscopes and the students enjoyed teaching the children and staff how to prepare slides for their first experience of viewing cells, and also gave lots of pencils, pens, crayons, and books.
After an incredible life changing ten days, it was time for the Animal Management students to say goodbye, which was emotional for everyone. The trip was better than any of the students could have imagined it would be, stating it really was the best ten days of their lives and vowing to return to Tuli one day.
One Brinsbury Animal Management student said: “During our visit we saw many different animals including elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, crocodiles, scorpions, snakes, spiders, warthogs and many more! We would like to thank Amy, Holly and Mark for giving us this opportunity and huge thanks to Stuart, Chuggy, and the rest of the staff at Tuli Wilderness: you really did make it the best trip ever!”
Mark Nason, Head of Learning in Animal Studies, is extremely proud of his students, some of whom have been studying at Brinsbury since they were 14, he said: “During their studies they have demonstrated responsibility and compassion by caring for our large collection of animals and by contributing to school, charity and community events such as our College STEM fair and the Brinsbury Show. This trip was a fantastic way of thanking them for their hard work and commitment, but we will not yet be saying goodbye to them all as many are staying with us to study university level courses at Brinsbury. They are all ready looking ahead to their next adventure.”