Next in the Chats with Conservationists blog series, we meet Sandi, who shares her journey into the practical side of animal conservation.
Realising what made me happy
Most people will start off by saying they have always loved animals and so used to spend a lot of time outdoors. Although I collected slugs, held ladybirds, and stayed outside all night watching bats, those were not my defining moments.
I am sure that a lot of you will feel the same, but when I was 15, fresh out of school I had no idea what I wanted to do. I had a really toxic and abusive relationship, an unsupportive family (other than my twin and mum), not great grades and no hobbies. I was really stuck.
It led me into a big spiral of anxiety, and depression. I thought “What has helped me to be happy?”, and that’s when I knew I should be doing something with animals. I didn’t even know you could study them, many people still don’t, but when I found out I soon signed up for that class!! At college, I grew to love all animals, not one species or group, but all of them! That’s when I decided to go to university.
Discovering the practical side of animal conservation
I find that working with animals can be about trial and error, especially when you’re like me and love them all. You kind of have to try before you buy, that’s what I have done anyway.
I have volunteered at so many different places which include working with people (human wildlife conflict), practical conservation and animal care. My favourite type of work seemed to be the practical side of conservation.
Field Work – the practical side of animal conservation
I worked for a couple of days with ARC (Amphibian and Reptile Conservation) whilst I was in my final year of university and I loved it!! We were helping out The Back from the Brink Project by cutting down an invasive species of tree which had ruined the sand lizard and natterjack toad habitats.
Working on the Primate and Predator Project in South Africa
The final and most amazing thing I have done so far which makes me love the practical side of animal conservation and research was my placement year in South Africa, working on The Primate and Predator Project.
I was lucky enough to experience all three sides of their project (the primate, the predator and human-wildlife conflict). I followed monkeys from when they woke to when they slept (using GPS data, I collected behavioural observations every 20 minutes), vegetation plots, phenology, boma fence building (to prevent farmers killing leopards), camera traps, metadata and then my own research project for final year.
We lived in the mountains and outside of the nature reserves, meaning all animals were completely wild!!
The next steps in my conservation journey
Currently, I work in retail and do volunteer work when I can. When I graduated university, I stayed in Liverpool until my housing contract was finished, that way I could carry on working at Chester Zoo.
As soon as I got home, that’s when it hit, the grit and teeth grinding work you have to do to get a job. I spent three months applying for jobs and internships all over the country. Hearing nothing back at all and with my anxiety, I decided to just apply anywhere because I needed money.
We’ve always been a really low-income household, so at college when everyone was off to zoos and exotic places to get their 300 hours of work experience, I volunteered at a local pet store. I guess my next step would be to save up, get a driver’s licence (which surprisingly really holds you back), get more experience and apply for more jobs.
Returning to the practical side of animal conservation
Whilst lockdown has been going on, I have been out and about learning about all things nature in our own country!! I have written a couple of blogs/articles for people and have an upcoming workshop with Roots and Shoots Norfolk. My dream, my aim and my goal is to do practical field work for endangered species whether it is in the UK or abroad.
HOW CAN PEOPLE GET INVOLVED WITH ANIMAL CONSERVATION AT HOME?
There are so many ways to help with wildlife conservation from home. Here are just some ideas:
- #saynotothemow when cutting your grass, make sure you leave some areas (or all) for dandelions etc to grow. Insects will love you for the long grass and especially bees!! They love dandelions.
- Planting wildflowers. You can buy these almost anywhere (supermarkets, B&M, home bargains, garden centres and many small businesses online).
- Buying or making insect houses/hotels which can be a home to ladybirds, bugs, butterflies and solitary bees.
- Getting involved in a charities petition or campaign (like Stop the Use of Pesticides and the Big Garden Bird Watch).
- Going more sustainable (using refillable bottles, reducing single-use plastics, bamboo toothbrushes/cotton buds/face pads/hairbrushes etc, diet).
- Bird boxes and feeders.
- Go litter picking (It’s not community service, you can do it whilst jogging or even paddleboarding!).
shop reusable bottles
Ditch plastic today and take a simple step towards supporting animal conservation. Treat yourself to a Pigments by Liv reusable bottle, able to keep your drink hot or nice and cool.
10% of every sale is donated towards animal conservation too!