Welcome To Africa

My summer experience in South Africa.


Lily Mummert

Rhinos we observed and studied while on the reserve.

Lily Mummert
Rhinos we observed and studied while on the reserve.

  This summer I got to experience something I knew I would never have the opportunity to do ever again in my life. I earned a scholarship to spend 12 full days in South Africa researching rhinos, and 20 hour flight aside, it was one of the best things I have ever done and one of the best things I will ever do for the rest of my life.

  I knew from the moment the sponsors had told me about all the amazing things we were to experience, me and the other nine students who were chosen were just ecstatic. Twelve full days on a wildlife reserve studying endangered animals that I could only dream to see in a zoo. However, being there, in the country and on the reserve, it was so much more.

  Our first day there, we went on a drive around the reserve and it was mind-blowing. Apparently, there’s more than one species of antelope. Like… a lot more. Impala, Tsessebe, Waterbuck, Kudu… Along with this, we got to see tons of different animals that make the trip seem straight out of Lion King.

   Vultures, zebra, giraffes, ostriches… it was like I was watching reruns of that one kids show I watched as a child, “Zomboomafoo”. As we were finishing up the drive I remember watching the sunset and I just wanted to take a picture so I could remember this moment for the rest of my life, but there were these annoying power lines in the way. You could see the brush, the grasslands, the trees, but these powerlines in the middle absolutely ruined the entire mood of what I was seeings.

  It was almost as if our guide, Melissa, could read my mind. She stuck her body out the side of the truck so we could all see her, lifts herself up, and said, “You see those power lines? You may think they’re ugly and have no right being here, but I think they symbolize sustainability. With environmentalism you’re trying to reverse mankind’s impact on the world but that just isn’t reasonable, but with sustainability you are trying to keep it where we can live amongst each other.”

  That was just the first day and I was already heavily moved and I could never have prepared myself for the lecture and story that the Manager of the Reserve had told us.

  Not many people are aware, and the few that are sometimes can’t see the whole picture, but rhino poaching is a huge crisis amongst many countries in Africa, specifically South Africa. The rhino horn is a very valuable commodity amongst Eastern Asia and because of this, people break into reserve or wildlife parks to mutilate and murder rhinos so they can steal their horn and sell it.

 The owner of the reserve, Lynn, had told us that, despite their anti-poaching efforts, a couple of years ago the reserve was hit with poachers. During this attack, only two animals were inherently killed, but because of the incident, five rhinos in total had died.

  The reserves incident lead to baby rhino dying from malnutrition because it’s mother had died at the hands of poachers. An elder rhino dying because his body physically couldn’t take the anesthesia needed to trim his horn so the reserve could reduce poacher sightings. A pregnant mother who died weeks away from giving birth to its baby.

  All of these deaths had had such an impact on the reserve and that’s why ten of El Modena’s chosen students chosen were there those two weeks. We put up camera traps to see where most rhinos were during the night, as well as deterrents to see if there was a possibility to lead them away from certain areas. We did rhino behavior labs where we observed rhinos for hours just to see how they acted. We did data entry, looking through hours of footage just to find five or six 15 second clips of rhinos just to see where they were and if they were fine.

  I had spent my summer saving the rhinos. That’s massively simplifying the work my team, the reserve, and I did, but it’s true and it’s what I know I did.

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