Make a School Teacher's Africa Internship Come True!

Cathy Dawson Start Date: Jan 29, 2017 - End Date: Jun 28, 2017
  • Educational/Research Trip
  • Intern Abroad
  • Professional Development
  • Botswana

My Travel Story

by: Cathy Dawson Start Date: Jan 29, 2017 - End Date: Jun 28, 2017
  • Educational/Research Trip
  • Intern Abroad
  • Professional Development
I’m a school teacher in Virginia. I now have the opportunity to go on a conservation internship to learn about African wildlife. My goal is to bring back what I learn from a conservation internship with Wildlife ACT in the Okavango Delta, Botswana to my students. I’m asking for your support to ‘fund my travel’: your donation will aid endangered species conservation in Africa and will support education of young people in the United States to become a “Wildlife Ambassador.”

Creating the Next Generation of Wildlife Ambassadors:

I’ve created an afterschool study program called the Wildlife Ambassadors Program (WAP) that educates children about endangered species and inspires them to make a difference. The program that I launched is now filled to capacity and other teachers are carrying it forward. It has just been replicated and will be offered as a day camp program this summer at the highly esteemed Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C. My goal is to continue to replicate the program in other schools, so that our school children can be wildlife ambassadors themselves.

While school and Wildlife Ambassadors is out this summer, I will participate as a volunteer with Wildlife Act from August through September. I will be collecting data about wildlife population demographics, checking camera traps, removing invasive plants, and going on patrol drives. This information will be used by national parks to make informative decisions to best protect wildlife and their habitats.

Wildlife ACT advances conservation by initiating and managing monitoring projects of endangered species on wildlife reserves which do not have the means to do so themselves, and they do so FREE of charge. They run a wildlife volunteer program that I will be part of this summer. Conservation volunteers such as myself assist in the daily tracking and monitoring of endangered wildlife species such as the African wild dog, cheetah, black rhino and with priority species such as the elephant, lion, leopard and many more.

When I’m in the enormous Okavango wilderness, large herds of elephants will be roaming along banks of papyrus-lined rivers where crocodiles and hippos lurk. Huge prides of lions will be on the prowl in the tall grassy plains under brilliant starry nights. Pink flamingos, one of 900 hundred bird species in the Delta, will be wading in the crystal clear channels. The few wild dogs (“painted wolves”) left in Africa will be stalking Impalas. And I will be tracking these animals while walking under ancient trees on one of the many islands or drifting on a mokoro (canoe).

 The Empathy of Elephants:

Since I was a child, I have been fascinated by the big game in Africa. My favorite animal among the ‘big five’ are elephants. Elephants are such majestic and intelligent creatures that form deep bonds with one another. When a member of their herd dies, they gather around the deceased to show their respects and make noises and gestures that are no doubt signs of mourning and empathy.

We are still learning so much about these amazing animals. For example, scientists are researching the possibility that elephants can communicate with each other for miles away by detecting seismic vibrations through their feet and trunks. And elephants do have amazing memories. The herd’s matriarch can remember how to locate a watering hole hundreds of miles away that she hasn’t been to in decades.

Elephants also remember the terrible violence committed by poachers. The method of poaching has changed a lot in recent years. Instead of a of a couple of people with a machete or a hunting rifle killing one elephant at a time, there are now small armies of poachers slaughtering whole herds with automatic weapons. Elephants never forget. Many of them now hide their tusks in the bush when humans are near. With their profound empathy for one another and sharp memory, I think about the trauma they must endure.

Empowering Young Conservationist to Help Wildlife:

Africa is a place that I have always been drawn to and I always thought that my first experience of going there would be as a tourist on safari. Yet, it was a faraway dream that never seemed possible. Then, a little over a year ago, I went through a huge personal loss. Through this loss, I gained a clear vision of what is most important to me, which includes taking direct action in Africa to help save endangered species and empowering young aspiring conservationists to help wildlife too.

One of the things I would like to get out of my internship is a deeper knowledge of conservation issues and wildlife in Africa and pass this knowledge along to my future students and continue to inspire future generations of conservationists. However, going to Africa is expensive, and I am asking for your support. Every little bit helps. Please help me make my dream come true and give any financial support that you can spare. I’ll be starting a blog to document my adventures and to take you along with me on the journey. For everyone who donates I will provide you with access to the blog and with updates every few days. Thank you for supporting wildlife conservation and education! Cathy Dawson
  • Botswana