Two of the best weeks of my life have sadly just come to a close. I have bottle-fed baby tigers, brushed cheetahs, walked caracals, trained otters, held boa constrictors, played with lemurs, meerkats and servals and cage-dived with crocodiles! What more could you want?
Volunteering at the Cango Wildlife Ranch in Oudtshoorn let me do all this and more; the purpose of the volunteers is to enrich the animals’ lives, so our tasks mostly consisted of bonding, feeding and cleaning which suited me perfectly! It was often above forty degrees so we had to keep the animals cool (for example by making ice lollies with diced fruit or blood…) as well as ourselves. We also got to see a tiger ultrasound to see if she was pregnant, and assist with crocodile catching (494 including babies in one day!) which was awesome.
The ranch also incorporates the Cheetah Preservation Foundation so they have breeding facilities for many cheetahs across the road, and for tigers nearby – their enclosures are adjacent to the volunteer back garden so we can hear them chuffing and roaring! We all stayed in a lodge a few minutes walk from the ranch and I made some really good friends from all over the world.
I really would recommend this experience although don’t expect to just cuddle cute animals all day; that is a significant aspect but you need to be prepared to work hard! Whether it’s shovelling sand to make a turtle nest, pushing heavy wheelbarrows, wading through mud to catch crabs or butchering a donkey to make a meat piñata, it’s important to be a part of everything involved in working with animals. It’s so worth it to have the rare opportunity to spend time with these magnificent and endangered creatures.