Travelling by plane and boat, twelve students from the RUSVM Zoo, Exotics and Wildlife Medicine (ZEW) and One Health clubs spent two weeks, working shifts, to join the ARCAS Wildlife Animal Protection team in the rescue and rehabilitation of wild animals in Guatemala.
Led by ARCAS Assistant Director and RUSVM Alumnus, Dr. Alejandro Morales, RUSVM students, together with other volunteers, attended lectures and practical training ahead of undertaking hands-on, physical examinations and attending to the variety of animals brought to the Rescue Center.
ARCAS receives between 300-600 animals each year, confiscated through the enforcement of Guatemalan anti-trafficking laws.
Dr. Alejandro has been working with the non-profit NGO, ARCAS for over 10 years and first connected with RUSVM when he embarked on his Masters degree in One Health in 2015. Since graduating, Dr. Alejandro remains connected to RUSVM, offering opportunities for Rossies to get involved in several conservation efforts led by ARCAS: “With a focus on One Health, Conservation and Wildlife Medicine, RUSVM is a good fit with ARCAS’ vision and mission,” Dr. Alejandro Morales.
The experience has helped RUSVM students to reaffirm their choice of career paths into wildlife medicine, as they gain experience with exotic species and contribute to the rehabilitation of confiscated animals back into their natural environment.
Dr. Alejandro has several Veterinary Schools involved in the externship program, but when asked about RUSVM student volunteers, Alejandro says “RUSVM students have a great ‘why not’ attitude to getting involved in all aspects of the work here at ARCAS. They easily adapt to the field conditions here – perhaps due to the similarities with St Kitts!”
RUSVM students consider the ARCAS adventure to be an enlightening and educational opportunity.
“The externship with ARCAS exceeded all of my expectations and I would recommend this trip to anyone” says Alize Rodriguez, DVM6 and President of the One Health Club. And it’s not all work, as volunteers get some free time to explore some of the beautiful Mayan temples and national parks of Guatemala.
Alize’s advice for anyone thinking about thinking about going would be to, “be open-minded and try brushing up on your Spanish phrases. Also be vocal and put yourself forward to participate in activities and always be prepared for the heat!”.
Further information on the range of community development, volunteering, internship and donation opportunities can be found on the ARCAS website.
Arcas was originally founded in 1989 for a very specific and urgent purpose: to build a rescue center to care for and rehabilitate wild animals that were being confiscated on the black market by the Guatemalan government. Since then, the ARCAS Rescue Center has grown into one of the largest and most complex rescue centers in the world, and is providing shelter to nearly 600 animals and 50 different species on site.