Student fundraising gives anti-poaching patrols more bite at wildlife reserve

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Thanks to money raised by Hartpury University Centre students, two dogs will be joining the fight against poaching at Mankwe Wildlife Reserve.

Every year, Hartpury’s Animal Science and Animal Behaviour and Welfare students get the opportunity to travel to Mankwe Wildlife Reserve in South Africa for an ecology-based field course which enables students to get up close and personal with the animals they have been studying.

Staying in an open camp at the heart of the reserve, it is not uncommon to wake up and spot a giraffe wandering past the window. As well as getting the opportunity to observe the abundant wildlife, students gain hands on experience by doing surveys of birds, insects and large mammals.

Hartpury student groups have been visiting the reserve for the last five years as part of their studies, and inspired by the work that is done there, they have donated more than £2500 to help support the reserve’s work, raised through a range of activities, including a sponsored walk, cake sales and raffles.

Aleksandra Lipinska, who visited Mankwe as a student in 2014 and is now Animal Centre Manager at Hartpury, led on the fundraising effort. She said: “Mankwe is such a special place, I just had to support them anyway I could.

“I now go back every year to volunteer at the reserve, and take out any donations we can. Last year we were able to donate night vision binoculars, kindly donated by Bushnell.”

Their fundraising efforts have enabled Mankwe to purchase two dogs - Bullet and Sheila - who will be used during nightly patrols to help protect endangered wildlife from illegal poaching.

Lucy Bearman-Brown, subject leader for Animal Science at Hartpury University Centre, met the new arrivals during a recent trip to South Africa. She spent time talking to the rangers who train them and enjoyed walking the dogs in the 4750-hectare reserve.

Lucy said: “It has been a real pleasure working with the reserve over the last five years, and to meet the dogs that help protect this beautiful part of the world has been a real privilege. Every year we bring a new group of students here, and to see them leave so passionate that they spend their time fundraising makes everyone at Hartpury very proud.”

Mankwe - set up 25 years ago by owner Dougal MacTavish - is now run by a small team headed up by Dougal’s daughter Lynne. She oversees operations and coordinates the hundreds of students and volunteers that visit each year.

Situated in the North West Province, Mankwe boats almost 500 different species. Some of these rare animals are under threat and deterring poachers to protect them is an important aspect of running the reserve.

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