Caitlin Jacobs '07 Spends Summer Interning in South Africa
Worked at Makalali Game Reserve
By Laura Trubiano '07
September 12, 2006
"It is not every day that you wake up and find lion tracks all throughout your camp," begins one of Caitlin Jacobs' '07 updates on her summer research. "But out here in the bush of South Africa, I have been lucky enough to have these experiences on a regular basis." Jacobs spent her summer interning and learning at the Makalali Game Reserve in South Africa in South Africa, thanks to Hamilton's Joseph F. Anderson Internship Fund.
Jacobs was one of 13 Hamilton students who received college funding to conduct a summer internship. While pursuing internships is an increasingly popular move for students, the realities pose certain problems. Most of the available positions are unpaid, requiring students to fund their own housing and living expenses as well as working for free, all in pursuit of the elusive resume-booster "work experience."
Thanks to generous grants from parents and alumni, Hamilton students can apply for funding to support them while they work in a field of interest with an organization that cannot pay them. Though Jacobs worked in what is known as an "unpaid internship," she received money from the Internship Fund, given in honor of a 1944 Hamilton graduate who served the college for 18 years as vice president for communications and development. The fund in his name provides individual stipends to support full-time internships for students wishing to expand their educational horizons in preparation for potential careers after graduation.
Jacobs chose this internship to pursue her interest with big cats. And where better to study lions and tigers than South Africa? Makalali, meaning "Place of Rest" in Shangaan, is a unique conservation initiative to expand South Africa's green frontier by re-establishing the ancient traditional wildlife migration routes that linked the famous Kruger Park in the east to the lush Drakensberg Mountains in the west. One of South Africa's premier privately-owned conservation areas, Makalali currently comprises 61,000 acres in the Lowveld region of the Limpopo Province of South Africa, a short distance from the world-renowned Kruger National Park. Over the past decade, Makalali has reintroduced a variety of wildlife onto the reserve, including lion, cheetah, leopard, elephant, rhino and the rare sable antelope, making Makalali home to Africa's "Big Five."
"In general, observing and learning about the lions and research taking place on them at Makalali has been my favorite part of the volunteer experience," wrote Jacobs, who worked on a project that helped to manage the large predators on a small reserve, where problems such as inbreeding within the one big pride of lions are prevalent. Jacobs also participated in "game drives" to document all of the wildlife sightings, the results of which helped make management decisions such as what new animals should be brought in and what animals should be sold. On weekends, Jacobs had the opportunity to visit two wildlife research and rehabilitation centers, which provide a sanctuary for injured animals that are unable to live in the wild.
"I truly cannot express how amazing this experience has been so far. From identifying specific animals and tracks, to participating in lion research and learning about how a small reserve operates, I can not believe how much I have learned!" wrote Jacobs in her report.
-- by Laura Trubiano '07