Kissing a rhino and enjoying a mud bath with baby hippos are just two of the wild experiences a Bicker teen had on a volunteer trip to South Africa.
Lauren Bell, 19, took part in a two-week placement at Care For Wild - which rehabilitates orphaned animals and educates locals against poaching.
Describing her trip as ‘amazing’ she said: “I worked with 11 rhinos in their care – all of the mothers were killed by poachers. It was extremely hard work, but I’ve come away having felt I’ve helped towards making a difference.”
Her experiences included sharing a bed with orphaned hippo ‘eMMa’ to care for it overnight and coming face-to-face with a wild baboon who had broken into the feed shed.
Along with the dirtier tasks of helping animals to take mud baths and cleaning out enclosures, Lauren also helped out with nursing care.
“I spent a lot of time caring for Blue, a caracal kitten paralysed in his back legs and unable to toilet on his own,” she said. “He completely stole my heart. I spent most nights waking up every two hours to help him toilet and stretch his legs. He improved a lot over the time I was caring for him, so I am hopeful he will make a full recovery.”
She added: “I learnt more than I could have imagined.”
Lauren is now looking forward to starting her veterinary nursing training course in September.