“Being up close to these animals, whether it was feeding the cheetahs at the wildlife center or watching wild animals on safari, was a life-changing experience.” — Tiffany Sindel
Mecosta senior Tiffany Sindel spent two weeks of her 2017 summer break in South Africa caring for cheetahs and other animals and learning hands-on what it’s like to be a veterinarian. Traveling with the study-abroad organization Loop Abroad, Tiffany was selected as part of a small team that volunteered at the Feracare Wildlife Centre.
The veterinary service program brings students to South Africa for two weeks to volunteer alongside U.S. veterinarians and South African animal experts. Tiffany and her team took a course in the anatomy, behavior and conservation of big cats such as cheetahs so that they could be better equipped to study and help support the animals at Feracare.
“Being up close to these animals, whether it was feeding the cheetahs at the wildlife center or watching wild animals on safari, was a life changing experience,” says Tiffany, a biology major who plans to attend veterinary school after she graduates from Alma in April 2018.
Cheetahs are endangered, and their lack of genetic diversity makes them a vulnerable species. Because of this, organizations like Feracare work toward breeding cheetahs to increase the genetic diversity of the world cheetah population and to educate the public about cheetah conservation. The center also is home to other animals, including bat-eared foxes, horses, African wild dogs and porcupines.
During her two weeks in South Africa, Tiffany provided care for the animals at the wildlife center, including feeding the cheetahs, cleaning their living areas and providing enrichment for them. She also traveled to Kruger National Park on a daylong safari to observe African wildlife, where she was able to see zebras, leopards, African elephants, giraffes and many other types of African mammals.
“It was an amazing experience,” she says. “The coolest thing about the cheetahs is that they don’t really roar like a lion but kind of meow like a kitty. They look cute, but they are still wild and you have to respect them and not touch them.”
Admission to the Loop Abroad veterinary programs is selective. Tiffany was selected based on her transcript, admissions essay and professional references.