Put your hands up for wildlife
I WAS asked recently for advice on how to volunteer in the world of conservation, a subject always close to my heart and an easy request. Just go to: environmentjob. co.uk/volunteering for a veritable field-day, literally.
My son, Culain, and I have done a spot of volunteering in the pristine wilderness in the far north of Belarus, a stone’s throw from Russia.
The Taiga forests cloak the land as far as distant Siberia, and the only tourists you’re likely to encounter, are the brown bears, wolves and lynx that criss-cross borders with no need for visas. They are indeed the free-men of their domain, Europe’s last expanse of wild lands little altered since the Ice Age.
I have a good friend, Dmitry, a guardian of the forest and wildlife researcher, who until recently was employed by the Belarusian government to carry out surveys and monitor the wildlife 300kms north of Minsk.
Culain spent a month with Dmitry monitoring Ural owls and lynx. I wanted to be that age again, and was very excited for my lad at the very thought of it.
Fortunately, his mobile phone still worked, and the daily texts included: ‘Hi Dad, Just had three beaver, two white-tailed eagles and Lynx tracks before breakfast’...’ Ouch, I’ve just felt the wrath of a Ural Owl’s talons as Dmitry tagged it’... ‘Listen Dad, those are ‘wild’ wolves howling in the night, can you hear them?” I could, and ‘wow’, just about conveyed my feelings. He emphasised the word ‘wild’, because Dimitry has two semitame wolves himself; they were orphaned when hunters shot the mother, and they now accompany my friend on his daily rounds. If you are intending to work as a volunteer, knowledge of GPS is useful, being unfussy about your food is essential, the ability to get up early is another plus, as is being able to work alone once shown the task, such as hide building.
Also, depending on where you volunteer, you may find the nearest shops are much more than a walk away, so any little treats you cannot do without, such as your favourite tea bags, you had better stuff a few in your bag. I am sure readers would love to hear from anyone who rolls their sleeves up and gets stuck in, whether at Leighton Moss Reserve or in Belarus, as it is always encouraging to hear first-hand accounts.
Culain for example used his experiences with the wolves to good effect in his university dissertation gaining a 1st class Honours in countryside management.
Here are two examples of current volunteer posts which are available. Catering assistant at the this year’s Birdfair.
Held at Rutland Water Nature Reserve this is the event of the year if you’re into birds and wildlife. Birdfair encompasses the whole spectrum of the wildlife industry while at the same time supporting global conservation projects.
They are looking for volunteers to help with the catering team. You can help on just one day or for the full three days. Entrance is free for volunteers and refreshments are provided, volunteering@ rutlandwater.org.uk.
Further afield, is International Primate Rescue in South Africa where they give a home to ex-pet, ex-lab and ex-zoo monkeys. A lot of the primates have behavioural problems and can never be released in the wild. At the moment they care for 120 primates: marmosets, macaques, tamarins, mona monkeys, squirrel monkeys, patas monkeys, grey mouse lemurs and capuchins. Once a week, short-term volunteers get the opportunity to spend quality time in safe enclosures.
Check out IPRSouthAfrica@yahoo. co.za for further details.
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop
●● Woody while volunteering in Belarus with wild bison