Glade Spring student gains veterinary experience with very large animals
CAROLYN R. WILSON SPECIAL AT THE BRISTOL HERALD COURIER
At 22, Sydney Campbell said she’ll probably never look at a photo of an elephant – or even elephant design jewelry – the same way again.
At least not after spending the summer as a volunteer at an elephant rescue and rehabilitation center in northern Thailand.
Campbell of Glade Spring, who is a senior at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee, was selected as part of a small team to travel to Thailand with study abroad organization, Loop Abroad.
She was selected based on her transcript, admissions essay, and professional references.
As an animal science student, Campbell and other UT students spent three weeks at the sanctuary helping rescue animals, study conservation and learn by doing what it’s like to be a veterinarian. .
Campbell, who is pursuing a career as a veterinarian, said the experience was fascinating, although she doesn’t plan to work with exotic animals in the future.
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The service-learning experience cemented Campbell’s love for animals, a passion she has enjoyed since she was a child caring for dogs, cats, horses and chickens on her farm. family. She even participated in equestrian dressage competitions when she was younger.
“I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian because I love animals. Now I love the science behind it all,” Campbell said.
While attending UT, Campbell worked part-time at the Charles and Julie Wharton Large Animal Hospital on the college campus.
Elephant Nature ParkHer first week of service-learning was spent at Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary for dozens of distressed elephants from across Thailand. The sanctuary is home to elephants that have been rescued from trekking, logging or forced herding programs. Many of them have been abused and suffer from chronic injuries or blindness.
Volunteers like Campbell play an important role in sustaining the sanctuary.
It was an enriching experience that aroused both good and bad emotions for the student.
During his visit, Campbell learned that many elephants across Thailand and other Asian countries undergo phajaan, a process that tortures the wild elephant so that it ends up feeling helpless against people and does not protest. not against something he doesn’t want to do.
Wild elephants are abused for domestication in an effort to break their morale, often for the good of the elephant tourism industry. Some elephants are even taught to paint to entertain tourists.
“Just because elephants are big doesn’t mean they have to be ridden,” said Campbell, who learned during his stay that many rescued elephants had spinal problems and back injuries from carrying. heavy loads.
“It’s very taxing on their bodies,” Campbell said. “And, they have to go through the process of breaking their spirits just in order to be ridden. People think it’s cool to ride an elephant.
Sticky riceThe most fun part of working at the sanctuary was making food for the elephants. Nearly 80% of the animal’s day is devoted to feeding.
In addition to cleaning elephant stalls and water tanks, Campbell and the student team helped prepare a special food mix for older elephants who have lost their ability to chew hard foods.
“Some of the older elephants don’t have a lot of teeth, so they can’t eat bulky foods like corn stalks or hay,” she said.
Using soft products like bananas, the group of students prepared a food called sticky rice. Once the mashed bananas become sticky, a ball of the mixture is placed in banana leaves, wrapped and steamed.
“We gave the baby elephants their medicine and vitamins by putting them in their mouths. For older elephants, we put the food in front of them,” she said. “One day we just watched the elephants all day. It was great.
A river on the property helps rescue elephants stay cool in hot weather.
“They get covered in mud and have fun playing in the mud,” said. “Elephants don’t sweat, so they flap their ears to cool off.”
The students were allowed to travel with a veterinarian to the fields to observe the administration of treatments to injured elephants.
Elephants can live even longer than humans up to their first few hundred.
“They have really good memories and they’re supposed to be very forgiving too. Everyone has their own personality,” she said.
Although she was allowed to pet the rescue elephants during her trip, ideally the sanctuary elephants are limited to human contact. Elephant keepers called mahouts strive to give the elephants an environment as close as possible to what they would have in the wild.
The student also spent a week volunteering at a small animal shelter in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The shelter houses dogs, cats, rabbits and other small animals that have been rescued after being abandoned or abused.
Additionally, she and other students were allowed to administer anesthesia while working at a facility that performs neutering and neutering procedures on pets in the community.
coral reef Before returning home, Campbell spent a week on the island of Koh Tao in southern Thailand, working through Loop Abroad with the New Heaven Marine Conservation project. Marine conservation projects enable volunteers to make a tangible difference in protecting biodiversity in the world’s oceans
During her first scuba dive, Campbell witnessed the mystery and majesty of coral reefs up close, documented her findings, and learned about marine conservation.
“It was fantastic. I hadn’t realized how massive coral reefs are,” Campbell said. “A good majority of ocean life starts in coral reefs. “We don’t have coral reefs, the fishing industry will decline. Coral is also very special. The water can’t be too acidic or basic, too hot or too cold. They need specific conditions to thrive.
CultureWhile visiting the foreign country, the student easily adapted to the Thai culture.
She described the place she stayed as a rainforest with rolling hills that resemble the landscapes of southwestern Virginia.
The students were given vegan foods, such as curry and rice.
“I was never quite sure what I was eating because it wasn’t labeled,” she laughed.
A primitive type hotel on the premises served as a dormitory.
“There was no air conditioning but I was fine,” she said. “People there were very accepting of others and very kind.”
Using a study abroad model, Loop focuses on educating its students so they can contribute and serve in meaningful ways. It also works with local animal welfare and protection organizations so that students contribute to long-term, on-the-ground improvement in the countries they visit.
Loop Abroad operates programs in Thailand, South Africa, Australia, Costa Rica, Belize and Spain.
In a Loop Abroad press release, Jane Stine, Executive Director of the program, said: “Our students are some of the most amazing people I have ever met. They are kind, compassionate, dedicated and hardworking people who have big goals and want to make a big impact. It’s amazing how eager they are to learn and challenge themselves. Over the past 13 years we have seen them continue to do wonderful things.
Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at [email protected]