International Programs

Alexandra Wilson

Kenya Wildlife Service

My international externship experience in Kenya, Africa was an adventure filled with amazing animal encounters, different methods of veterinary care, and interacting with new cultures and perspectives. Throughout the five week stay, I traveled to three different areas of Kenya. I was originally stationed at Nairobi National Park and the KWS headquarters in Nairobi, before moving onto projects in Mwea National Reserve, and Maasai Mara National Reserve. Each place held different tasks and lessons concerning wildlife veterinary care and African culture.My first full day in Nairobi, Kenya consisted of visiting the Giraffe Center and David Sheldrick Animal Orphanage. The Giraffe Center is conservancy for the Rothschild giraffes, an endangered species while the David Sheldrick Foundation takes in orphaned elephants (whose mothers are mostly killed by poachers) in order to nurse and reintroduce them to the wild. At both centers I had close encounters with the animals and was educated from local Kenyans about the wildlife/human conflicts. Next, I stayed with host family in Nairobi and held position at Nairobi National Park's Animal Orphanage and Safari Walk, which consisted of husbandry and physical exams on the Park's collection of orphaned animals and those unable to be reintroduced to the wild. I also attended lectures and was called out on cases with veterinarians when there was situation with local wildlife.

Afterwards, I spent one week in Mwea National Reserve, sleeping on the floor of ranger station within the reserve. With the company of two veterinarians and two rangers, our team's task was to manage an outbreak of anthrax that occurred in the local population of Rothschild giraffes, killing 12 of 44 animals known to reside there. Each day, we traveled by safari truck to sites for burning carcasses, with the goal of reducing the anthrax spore contamination/spreading. Then, we drove throughout each day searching for the remaining giraffe herds in order to vaccinate and monitor them for the deadly disease.The Kenya adventure ended with two week safari in the Maasai Mara Reserve, where I witnessed several rare animal spectacles, including the Great Migration, and assisted the vet on site with three major clinical cases; cheetah with limb injury, buffalo shot with spear, and an elephant shot with poison arrows. In addition, our team sought out other injured wildlife but we were unable to track down or safely immobilize other cases. I also took part in post mortem examinations of Wildebeest in addition to collecting samples of lion feces for parasite studies. The accommodations were meager (electricity, toilets, and running water were rare), but I was able to take in and learn much beyond the scope of wildlife care in Africa. My eyes were opened to Kenyan culture; their food, rituals, language (Swahili), and mindsets. All the components varied according to each area, veterinarian, ranger, tribesman, and other international students I encountered along the way.