I have worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for almost 10 years.
I'm an IT guy. I support the Fish and Wildlife Service mission by writing code and maintaining web pages day after day, while many of my colleagues are actually out in the field conserving habitat and endangered species.
I recently decided I needed to get a hands-on taste of wildlife conservation myself.
So, on my own time and my own dime, with my wife, I volunteered for 2 weeks at the Ultimate Lion Experience in South Africa.
Zzzzz. Baby white lions slumber peacfully. (Photo: Alan Negin/USFWS)
As volunteers, we helped raise lion cubs. We prepared food for them, and for black leopard cubs and meerkats. We did maintenance for the animals' nurseries and built stands for cheetahs, which in some cases walked freely beside us. We sold tourists food to feed giraffes, which also approached us. We interacted with these animals on a daily basis.
It's not exactly like what my Fish and Wildlife Service conservation colleagues do, because these animals are being raised in captivity, but it was very cool. And many of the young animals will be released into the South African wild once they mature.
After our volunteer stint, we went to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, where -- from a much greater distance -- we saw hippos, elephants, warthogs and white rhinos.
Please feel free to check out our photo gallery of the trip!
I hope you enjoy the photos and appreciate the wildlife species they represent.