Living and working at VulPro remains today the most fulfilling, meaningful endeavor of my life. I lived on site for three years (2014-2017) while conducting my Masters research with the Cape Vulture breeding and reintroduction program.
I came to VulPro for academic reasons, but I became incorporated into a small community where the life of every individual vulture is the priority. This was hard to adjust to at first as vultures in the region need so much help. This burden falls on VulPro staff and days are long, but the lifestyle and work was so deeply rewarding.
I left VulPro reluctantly in early 2017 with far more than a degree. I stand today with a greater appreciation and understanding of what it means to work hard, dedicate yourself to a cause, and live your life in service of other living beings.
Birds, especially raptors, soared into my heart while studying animal behavior at Indiana University. Volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation center brought me up close and personal with injured owls and eagles, many of which became my partners in education programs.
During the final year of my studies, my early childhood desire to travel and live in Africa were realized. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to manage a chimpanzee research project in a remote region of Uganda. The experience of living in the relative) wild and cultural dive of managing a field staff of grown Ugandan men changed my life and exposed me to an entirely different world. Unable to escape the continent, after graduating I returned to East Africa to manage a blue monkey research project in Kenya. I later moved to Louisville Kentucky where I volunteered at a raptor rehabilitation center, the impetus for countless questions regarding the release success of injured raptors. These questions, my internal pull to return to Africa, and desire for a higher degree brought me into contact with VulPro.
2014 will forever remain my year of vulture copulations. I spent countless hours (not countless, exactly 511) watching the breeding and copulation behaviors of VulPro’s captive Cape Vultures. I subsequently followed the development of 5 captive-bred chicks and several older individuals through their growth. We released 10 vultures total in February 2015 with GPS tracking units. My Master’s thesis compares the integration rates and release success of the captive-bred chicks into the wild population, based on their age. The results of my research helped advise VulPro’s programme and development of the Magaliesberg release site which has just recently been realized after years of planning and fundraising.
In early 2017 I returned home to the USA. I am currently travelling in Montana and Idaho with a work trade programme (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or WWOOF) where I am learning organic/permaculture farming basics, other sustainable-living techniques, and primitive skills. I take my lessons learned at VulPro with me everywhere I go. It is my dream to steward a property in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest where I can contribute to wildlife conservation efforts or initiate my own facility.