Taylor Robb-McCord

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MIIS Program: International Environmental Policy, Spring 2017

Traveling during J-Term to: South Africa

A look at a past immersive learning experience…

I spent time working as the Animal Welfare Supervisor at an elephant orphanage in Lusaka, Zambia. The Elephant Orphanage Project has two locations, a nursery in Lusaka and the other in a national park where the elephants are released. I worked at the nursery where all of our babies were still bottle fed. When I arrived there were four babies at the nursery and by the time I left, we had five – Kavala, Maramba, Musolole, Zambezi and Suni. 

What woke you up in the morning
I’ve never been a morning person, and it usually takes me at least 30 minutes of mental prep before I can convince myself to get out of bed. I woke up to my alarm every morning, but what got me out of bed was hearing the babies waking up. The sounds of baby elephants in the morning seems like it would be cute to wake up to, doesn’t it? Wrong. They can be incredibly noisy and have the most distinct personalities. So when breakfast came around everyone started screaming, bickering and arguing over who was going to get their breakfast first. But it was a reminder that I was going to spend my day with five baby elephants…what could be better?

A daily task you that you had to do differently
Everyday before breakfast, I made the elephants formula for the next 24 hours. They each had a bottle of milk every two hours, 24/7. With five babies each on their own special mix of formula, that was 60 Tupperware containers of perfectly measured mixes of formula daily. And if we were lucky, we wouldn’t have to battle the Tupperware from the monkeys that enjoyed crawling through the window and stealing it from us. 

Most memorable experience
I was walking back to my room one evening after taking pictures at sunset. I came around a corner and was suddenly face to face with a gorgeous waterbuck. We were both startled and took a few seconds just staring. Naturally, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to take a picture, so I picked up my camera and started snapping away. The waterbuck didn’t flinch and kept staring straight at me and I started to realize I was pushing my luck. I calmly apologized for invading his space and said I would be on my way. I was backing up the trail so I could keep an eye on him when he decided to drop his head and charge me. All I could imagine was being impaled by one of his massive horns, so I started screaming…hysterically. Before I knew it, I was using my camera bag as a weapon and violently swinging it and whacking him in the face. Luckily a few people heard me screaming and as soon as the waterbuck saw them running towards our commotion, he turned and darted off into the bushes.

I told my mom this story later, and rather than being concerned that I could have been impaled or trampled to death, she was upset that I lost the camera lens and made me go back the next day to find it.
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