Jacobs Ridge – Final Day (28.07.2019) 🇪🇸

Jacobs Ridge

My time at Jacobs Ridge had quickly approached its end. I had the most incredible time spent with some of the most inspirational and kind people, and beautiful animals.

Before leaving for the airport, I went on my final morning dog walk, changed the animals’ waters and spent quality time with them. Barney (one of the resident dogs) followed me around and I couldn’t help but feel guilty for leaving him behind, yet, motivated to return to the ridge again in the future for more love and cuddles. 

I was driven to Murcia (RMU) airport at 5:45pm by Amie – Volunteer Coordinator. The drive was lovely, and very scenic along the way. We chatted about my time at the sanctuary, animals, family and uni.

I arrived at the airport, and prepared myself to say goodbye to Amie, who I had been lucky enough to spend a large proportion of time with throughout the week. We unloaded my luggage from the boot, hugged and then I wandered into the airport in preparation for check-in and security.

RMU airport opened in January 2019. I found it very Autism friendly! The staff were extremely kind and accommodating, and the airport itself was quiet and easy to navigate around as it was very small. Bliss!

I then waited by the gate ready to board the plane at 7:45pm. I went in first to reduce my anxiety-levels, and the staff were very understanding with regards to this.

I boarded the plane and was set to travel the 2.5 hour journey back home to Manchester. I sat comfortably and read my book whilst peering out of the window occasionally to take in some of the most stunning landscape views.

I arrived in Manchester and was quick to collect my luggage from arrivals, after showing my passport to the lovely men sitting at the arrival desk.

Following this, I was met outside of the arrival section of Terminal One by my Mum and Grandad, both of who kindly offered to pick me up from the airport to take me back home.

I sat and chatted about my time at Jacobs Ridge, talking about the wonderful people and the beautiful animal residents I met throughout. I’m extremely excited to begin planning my next overseas work experience adventure, and I’m glad I chose Jacobs Ridge to be my first placement abroad.

Jacobs Ridge – Day Six (23.07.2019) 🇪🇸

Jacobs Ridge

We begun the day at a slightly later time of 7:30am, to which the (always exciting) morning dog walk commenced.

Upon return, after another enjoyable dog walk with the canine companions, I prepared the animals’ feeds according to the feeding rota in the shed and headed down to the field to issue the morning feed to the animals. I then changed their waters.

Jade and I then gave a mud bath to Ben. Ben is the largest pig at the sanctuary and his brother Bill tragically passed away during the beginning of 2018. The life he fulfilled at the sanctuary was bliss in comparison to the fate he was otherwise destined to have.

I then changed the waters of the animals, which would then be changed again in the evening during feeding time.

In the afternoon, I relaxed in the pool and spent my time playing with the animals. Barney (one of the resident dogs) had quickly stolen my heart, and so a large proportion of my time was spent with him and playing his favourite game of fetch.

We then prepared the evening feed and gave it out before heading on an evening dog walk with the pack.

Jacobs Ridge – Day Five (22.07.2019) 🇪🇸

Jacobs Ridge

We headed for the morning dog walk at 7am. One of my favourite parts of the day, I loved being surrounded with multiple fur babies. The surroundings were stunning, as always, and I felt truly comforted due to the lack of noise and the absence of people.

The sunrise was coming up and the views were simply gorgeous.

We then came back and changed the animals’ waters. Before feeding time commenced.

Jade and I gave Ben another mud bath. He was becoming sunburnt and we were working hard to prevent this from worsening, we wanted to keep him free from pain and discomfort. His enclosure did have pool within it as an attempt to keep him cool throughout the warmer days, but as previously stated in a prior blog post, he cannot bathe himself effectively.

We then refilled the animals’ waters for the afternoon before relaxing during siesta.

Flora and I went lemon picking in the forested area surrounding the tents. I felt as though I was reliving my character on Animal Crossing (DS game) as I pondered for fruit up high. We reached up and grabbed those that looked the most appealing, before heading back to the house with a tray filled with fresh lemons, which would later be used to infuse cold, fresh drinking water.

We prepared the animals’ evening feed and refilled their waters. I hugely enjoyed witnessing them rushing to get the best pick at their food, which was scatter fed for the majority of the animals, placed in a basket for Ben and in food bowls for the cats and dogs. Scatter feeding helps to encourage natural feeding behaviours, alongside mental and physical stimulation, and works to eliminate boredom through motivating the animals to work for their food.

In the evening Flora, Amy, Jade and I spent time at a local (30-minutes away) spa. It was wonderful. However, it wasn’t like a typical spa where you’re rubbed down or relaxing with a face full of guacamole and cucumber. It had different components such as jacuzzis, a lazy river, and hot “springs” which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Following this, we returned home to the ridge. The evening feeds had been carried out whilst we were at the spa, and after playing with the kittens, it was soon time for bed.

Jacobs Ridge – Day Four (21.07.2019) 🇪🇸

Jacobs Ridge

I woke up at the usual time of 6:20am, eager to start yet another fulfilling day. I got dressed and came out of my tent, welcomed to a stunning pink sunrise in the near distance.

I then headed to the house to apply suncream and to brush my teeth.

Amy and I headed on the morning dog walk, today it was just the two of us because Flora was helping with the morning feeds. It was lovely! I walked Marley, whilst Amy walked Goaty and Eyebrows. We chatted about all kinds of things – Uni, movies and just general life.

We returned from the dog walk an hour later (8am) and I headed down to the field to change the animals’ waters. This was completed quickly by Flora and I.

I then cleaned out the pig’s enclosures, before proceeding to give Ben (largest pig at the sanctuary) a mud bath. Mud baths are essential to reduce the risk of sunburn, and they’re also a very good moisturiser, and so I gladly learned!

Unfortunately, Ben is unable to bathe himself as he cannot turn over unaided, due to his large size. The meat industry genetically modify animals and aim to speed up their growth rate to move animals straight into a transport truck without considering the health and welfare implications of the individuals, so they can reach a certain weight and body condition before being sent away to slaughter.

Ben arrived at the sanctuary after luckily being saved from slaughter. As Jacobs Ridge is entirely Vegan, they aim to provide Ben with the longest, healthiest and happiest life possible. I’d never seen a pig so large, but this is because they often only live a few weeks of their lives before they’re tragically cut short.

Ben arrived at the sanctuary with his brother, Bill. But sadly, he passed away at the beginning of 2018 after living an incredible, mud-filled time at the sanctuary.

I then proceed to change the waters for the second time of the day. This was after they were disinfected and rinsed accordingly.

It was 40°c. I cuddled the goats for a while and then headed for a walk around the local area. It was secluded, peaceful and not a soul was in sight! I loved being able to relax with such mesmerising scenery around me.

Amy and I then headed on another dog walk in the evening. We took Goaty, Marly, Daisy, Django And Eyebrows along with us before heading back to the sanctuary for evening feed and watering.

Jacobs Ridge – Day Three (20.07.2019) 🇪🇸

Jacobs Ridge

I woke up at precisely 6:30am after an excellent nights’ sleep, despite try significantly loud, yet joyful, Spanish music playing within close proximity and the horses’ vocalisations adding to that.

I got dressed quickly and headed to the house to freshen up before venturing on a morning dog walk.

We walked the dogs at 7am, around the local picturesque area and arrived back at the ridge at approximately 8am. I loved walking the dogs, it amazed me to witness ranges in their behaviours and their distinct walking patterns. Marley walked slowly, but could be incredibly strong if she felt threatened or if she became distracted by a sight or noise. Goaty on the other hand had a tendency to get tangled in the lead due to his noted inability to walk in a straight line.

After returning from the dog walk, I quickly changed out of my muddy, wet socks and shoes before heading down to the lower field to participate in the morning feeding and watering. The animals wandered around and vocalised eagerly as they awaited corn being scattered around their large, open enclosures.

Jade, Flora and I then cleaned the donkey’s enclosure. In the process, the donkeys wandered up to us curiously and sneakily tipped over the wheelbarrows which were situated at the other side of the fence. We completed this relatively quickly with the help of our trusty tools and many trips to the waste pile, which was scheduled to be taken away at some point.

Flora and I were kindly driven to a nearby, isolated lake by Amy. The drive took approximately 20 minutes, and we were soon mesmerised by our stunning, picturesque surroundings. I was in awe of the stunning crystal blue waters and the gorgeous surrounding cliff and greenery landscape. There wasn’t another person in sight, which made the experience increasingly more special.

The views were spectacular and the sun was blazing down on us heavily.

After spending time at the lake together, we drove to Murcia Castle, which was within close proximity of our current location at the lake. This was after quickly stopping at the pet shop in the town to collect extra dog food.

Unfortunately, the castle was closed off a short while ago due to a tragic accident involving a young girl. The castle could stay open to the public if somebody opted to live there to care for it, but instead, it was closed and is now surrounded by a tall, secure fence.

The views, however, were truly stunning! We could see a vast amount of different buildings ranging from older and newer, which could be distinguished by the roofing style. From the castle, we could also see a glimpse of Jacobs Ridge in the far distance.

We returned back to the ridge and it was time for siesta. Unsurprisingly, mine was spent with the resident goats.

I then had, always greatly appreciated, cuddles with Barney before heading for a solo walk to catch another glimpse of the beautiful surroundings close by.

The views were stunning. This was before almost landing my way in a prohibited area. Luckily, I gained more from my 2 years of Spanish at GCSE than I anticipated, and quickly moved away from the area to avoid unwanted trouble…

We then changed the animals’ waters and did the evening feeds for the final time of the day, before heading for an evening dog walk.

Following this, we sat outside on the sun loungers with pillows and blankets to avoid the slight winds and settled down with a film. We were all surrounded with fairy lights, the sound of nature and the fantastic company of each other. This was done by a projector connected to Netflix, where we watched a movie about a boy who’s life was filmed from the day he was born, and one day he found out and escaped the world that had been created for him. (The Truman Show).

Jacobs Ridge – Day Two (19.07.2019) 🇪🇸

Jacobs Ridge

I awoke at approximately 6:20am to the distinctive ringing of my iPhone alarm. It was time for my first full day at Jacobs Ridge, and I was excited about what the day would bring. I enjoyed my first night of tent living, it was extremely cosy and spacious.

I soon got dressed and headed to the house, after applying suncream as the weather was expected to reach conditions of up to 40°c.

Amy, Flora and I headed to the local secluded area to walk some of the gorgeous resident dogs. I opted to walk Goaty – a charismatic young being who was rescued from a terrible fate. His eyes were golden brown and his fur a pasty white. I’d been warned that he was a puller, but I appeared to have no issues with walking him around tall hills and through the murky surrounding waters.

Goaty was rescued from the side of the road by Julian around a year ago. He was in an incredibly bad condition and Julian stated “it’s the worst state I’ve seen an animal in before”. He’s now living a happier, and healthier, life at the sanctuary where he is constantly showered with love and affection.

The walk lasted for approximately an hour before we headed back to the sanctuary and went on to do the following jobs after putting the dogs away. Throughout the walking process, we also walked: Marley and Eyebrows, whilst Daisy and Django followed us all the way without the need of a lead.

We then changed the animals waters. This task is typically carried out 3 times a day at the sanctuary, since it easily evaporated due to the hot weather conditions, and to simply ensure that the animals have plenty of fresh water to drink throughout the duration of the day.

Then commenced the goat cleaning. I couldn’t wait to meet the resident goats, being a goat fanatic and all. Jacobs Ridge has 14 goats in total, who arrived at the sanctuary after being dropped off by a lady. The story being, she hoarded many animals and was forced by the local authorities to give them away, otherwise they ran the risk of being destroyed. In total, the lady had approximately 80 goats. Julian took 7, who quickly went on to reproduce.

I believe it’s incredibly easy to hoard animals. You can start off with the intentions of saving many different species, whilst focusing solely on the love aspect and not so much the costs and the commitment.

We cleaned our Star’s enclosure, walking in protected with sturdy helmets. Star wasn’t a known aggressive horse, but there stood a possibility that she may head butt us whilst we cleaned, which would’ve caused a serious injury. Prior to this, I had no experience with horses, so I was quite apprehensive about being surrounded by one for the first time. However, she had a calming nature and would only approach us for butt scratches, or curiosity.

Following this, we changed the animals waters for the second time. The animals’ waters were changed and refilled 3 times a day.

The dogs were then taken to the nearby river In the afternoon for a cool off. They loved it, and Marley stood in deep. This is an essential component of animal care, as animals can heat up extremely quickly and can become unwell, or start to show signs of heatstroke. Goaty remained hopeful as he searched eagerly for a toad he spotted over 3 weeks ago…

After the evening feed/water was carried out, we took the dogs on their regular evening dog walk. Again, in the local secluded area with lots of stunning scenery. The dogs were very well behaved.

The kittens (the sanctuary has 5) were let out in the evening for a run around, and we played with them as they climbed on our heads and clawed at our legs. They were adorable, and very mischievous!

Woodlands Animal Sanctuary (08.07.2019)

Woodlands Animal Sanctuary, Work experience/volunteering

Monday 8th July will commence the start of my 4 day placement at Woodlands Animal Sanctuary, Ormskirk. Where I plan to be involved in all aspects of animal care and husbandry.

Woodlands is an incredible sanctuary home to a vast collection of animal species. Including: Goats, donkeys, horses, hedgehogs and birds. They are a non-profit charitable organisation who work under the clock, with the hard work and dedicated volunteer and staff members, to enhance the lives of each individual in their care. I’m honoured to have an opportunity to help out, whilst expanding on my knowledge and currently evolving experience.

Journey planning is well underway. 1 bus and 2 trains which will land me in Rufford, followed by a short brisk walk to the sanctuary. With the assistance of Google maps and my rusty navigation skills.

Here I will be documenting my time at the sanctuary alongside the information I gladly learn along the way. Stay tuned!

Zookeeper for a Day (2019).

Animals, Keeper for a day, Work experience/volunteering

Mum and I arrived promptly at Blackpool Zoo at 9am, following a smooth 45-minute drive, in preparation to be a Zookeeper for a Day.

Much to my delight, we were the first on the car park (aside from the keepers!) and we excitedly cooed over baby rabbits hopping around the vacant area. 

I had previously carried out a Zookeeper experience in November, 2017. I had the most incredible time and enjoyed expanding on my knowledge surrounding a collection of animal species. So when Christmas 2018 arrived, I kindly asked Santa for the same opportunity.

Beginning the day at 9:30, we were greeted in the reception area with 2 keepers. Willeminj and Amy. Willeminj had been working as a zookeeper for years, and previously worked in Antwerp Zoo (Belgium) and the other was a trainee keeper, named Amy.

My first task of the day involved working with the Camels, who had been relocated to the ex-elephant enclosure shortly after the building of Project Elephant. We headed eagerly into the enclosure, armed with a large purple wheelbarrow and a series of tools, in preparation of spot-cleaning out the enclosure. This simply involves the removal of faeces, as opposed to the full removal of substrate. 

MAMMALS

A warm-blooded vertebrate distinguished by the possession of fur, and Females that secrete milk as nourishment for the young.

I then fed the Camels, who soon appeared to the front of the outdoor paddock after hearing the shaking of the carrot filled bucket. They were highly inquisitive animals. We had to be wary of the possibility of being spat on, especially since Camels spit stomach acid, rather than just saliva.

Following my experience with the Camels, we headed over to the Giraffe and Tapir enclosures (Yay!) ready to feed them their morning snack and to issue them with lots of cuddles!

We firstly stopped at Giraffe Heights – Home to the four stunning Giraffes at the Zoo. With a wonderfully built suspended viewing area, allowing visitors to closely see the animals in both their indoor and outdoor spaces.

The Giraffes at Blackpool Zoo are all Female. They are very unique individuals, since they are hybrid (they have been interbred between species) meaning they aren’t allowed to reproduce. All the same, they were curious, friendly and (obviously) my favourite African mammal – So cute! Additionally, they evidently have a black tongue (as pictured above), as this helps to protect them from sunburn.

The Giraffes were given carrots. However, their diet also consists of browse (naturally, they feed on acacia leaves), hey and pellets. Alongside other vegetables, such as cabbage.

We then wandered to the Tapir enclosure, home to two beautiful Brazilian tapirs: G’kar and Pocahontas. This being, the third time I’ve worked with both individuals! Interestingly, Pocohontas has managed to retain spots from birth, which usually fade with age. And she is significantly more wary in comparison to G’kar, who has the personality of a playful labrador.

We fed both G’kar and Pocahontas a collection of carrots, gave them lots of cuddles and tummy rubs before proceeding to our next location.

The Aardvarks were next. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with these fascinating mammals. They were clearly highly inquisitive and curious, aswell as being playful and mischievous. 

Upon entering the enclosure, the individuals were playful and clearly aware that it was meal time. One excitedly ran out of the enclosure and was soon caught by Amy – whilst the other climbed all over me (much to my delight) as they sought mealworms and sniffed me with their extended, adorable snouts. 

They were fed mealworms. I issued this with both hand feeding and scatter feeding methods, to encourage natural foraging behaviours, alongside increasing both physical and mental stimulation, and wellbeing.

The Anteaters were next. Again, both the male and female were fed mealworms. I cupped then through my hands to allow the animals to use their long, sticky tongue to reach for them. This encourages natural behaviours, and prevents boredom.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go into the anteaters enclosure. The reason being, because of the sharp claws, not necessarily due to aggression. The claws are extremely sharp and could easily tare through human skin.

REPTILES

Reptiles are distinguished by having dry scaly skin and because they lay soft-shelled eggs on the land.

After taking a quick break, we were ready to meet our next keeper (Angela), by the Tortoise house. Angela guided us into the enclosure, in preparation of feeding the Zoo’s oldest resident, Darwin, aged a respectable 101! Darwin’s breed have a life expectancy of 200 years. And he’s been living at the Zoo since it’s opening in the 1900’s. 

We fed Darwin a handful of carrots. He was on a higher diet in comparison to the other individuals due to illness, and it was vital to ensure his health didn’t rapidly deteriorate. He confidently crunched them and then went on to having lovely neck rubs.

MARINE MAMMALS

We then walked to the Otter enclosure, which housed both a Male and Female. Otters are carnivorous and have cat-like teeth, therefore, their diet consists of mainly meat.

Both individuals were fed separately to ensure they had full access to their food. And they had to wait quietly and patiently before the food was thrown in. I chose to feed fish, which the otters soon excitedly delved in to.

BIRDS

A warm-blooded, egg laying vertebrate, distinguished by the possession of feathers, wings and a beak.

After our experience with the Tortoises, we headed over to the penguin kitchen. Angela briefed us on the penguins names and gave detailed information into how she can confidently distinguish them. Flipper tags are fitted onto the wings of the individuals, but can easily fall off or start to fade away due to the chlorine filled water.

Some of the penguins were located from other countries, so have coloured flipper tags. The penguins from Germany have red, and those from Italy have black.

We then walked to penguin beach to feed the penguins and to listen carefully to the given talk. Fish (some loaded with essential vitamins and minerals) were carefully thrown in as we had to simultaneously watch for sneaky seagulls in the process. Angela proceeded to carry out a “kan-kan like manoeuvre to kindly gesture the seagulls out of the way. 

We then fed the Pelicans, wandering from penguin island, past the red pandas, to the pelican enclosure. We threw in fish as the animals elegantly caught them with their widely expanded mouths, some helped to feed the babies as they hadn’t quite mastered the art of fencing for themselves sufficiently yet.

ELEPHANTS

Of course, Elephants are mammals and one of the largest, but the Elephant section is separate from mammals in Blackpool Zoo as they are classified as a priority 1 animal.

For the Elephant section of the experience, I had the pleasure of working alongside Zookeeper, Lauren, for the second time. Lauren worked with my cousin and I during our first Zookeeper experience in 2017, and she works primarily with the Elephants and big cats.

We headed to Project Elephant – An incredible project development at Blackpool Zoo, which provides the 5 resident elephants with a new state of the art enclosure, consisting of a large indoor and outdoor area. Project Elephant better suits the animals needs, and helps to encourage natural behaviours whilst working to prevent stress and discomfort.

Kate (The oldest in the herd), has temporarily been separated from the other elephants. This is due to her and Tara initially struggling to get along. So, the individuals have been kept within close proximity of each other to (hopefully) encourage them to become friends. Kate is due to return back with the others shortly.

Lauren kindly showed us around the enclosure, which included viewing behind the scenes and gaining a glimpse into the hefty moving crate, which was used to relocate the 4 newest herd members.

The indoor enclosure has a vast collection of fixtures and fittings – including: Suspended hay nets, which randomly drop at different times throughout the day, feeding boxes, 6-feet of sand, tree trunks for scratching (which can easily be moved around with the assistance of a small vehicle).

After touring base camp, we headed back outside ready to feed the Elephants. Blackpool Zoo offer their elephants a variety of food and important supplements to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. To which also includes daily heath checks, weigh-ins and behavioural observations.

Health checks are important in all animal species. Especially in Elephants, as every individual carries a strain of the EEHV virus, which can be fatal if left undetected/untreated for increased periods. The keepers are currently monitoring one of the youngest elephants daily, and to allow them to habituate to treatment methods if they should ever be required.

Further information on the lethal EEHV virus can be sought here:

PRIMATES

Flexible hands and feet with opposable first digits good eyesight and a highly developed brain.

My final animal encounter of the day involved working closely with some of the Zoo’s resident primates – Ring-tailed lemurs and spider monkeys.

We met keeper, Joe, by the lemur enclosure before venturing in armed with a bucket filled with a variety of different fruits and veggies.

Soon, we were armed with lemurs and feeling highly content as we observed them munching elegantly on grapes, apples and more.

We then headed to the spider monkeys, again, armed with a large box of fruits and vegetables. Including: cabbage, peppers, cucumber and apple. The monkeys were housed with capybaras and ducks, who were also simultaneously fed too!

With that being the end of yet another incredible, and highly memorable Zookeeper experience.

I would like to take the time to wholeheartedly thank the keepers and animals at Blackpool Zoo for making the day so special, and for inspiring me greatly with such amazing animal care and conservation efforts.

Volunteering – Walkden Sixth Form Centre

Work experience/volunteering

Where:

Walkden Sixth Form Centre, Walkden. Lancashire.

When?

July 2015 – July 2016.

I began working at Walkden Sixth Form Centre in the animal unit shortly after the completion of my 2 year Animal Care and Management Diploma, in which I proudly received a D*D*D* qualification.

My roles at the college consisted of basic animal care and husbandry (cleaning, feeding and watering), alongside assisting Student’s practical sessions within the animal unit. I also took regular trips to the local vets with unwell guinea pigs Gerald and Harold, who became poorly shortly after neutering.

I also became involved within the Hedgehog unit within the animal care centre, and worked closely with rescued hedgehogs. The first being an male, named Teddy, who was released months later. We worked on a rota, I engaged in the morning duties and often the afternoon duties before going home. This involved feeding, daily weight checking (to ensure healthy weight gain was occurring), recording and cleaning out the enclosure.

The role allowed me to build on my people skills, whilst growing in confidence and gaining experience with a collection of animal species. Ranging from small and large mammals, reptiles, birds and fish.