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My first year at UmPhafa

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Francois-brookesUmPhafa Coordinator Francois Brooks tells of his experiences during his first year working on Colchester Zoo's UmPhafa Reserve.

I started my journey with UmPhafa just over a year ago. I can’t believe how fast this past year has gone, but I guess it’s true what they say, “time flies when you’re having fun”. I believe I am among a select group of people who are privileged to enjoy their job as much as I do.

This past year I have made many new memories and had some unforgettable times with some amazing people. When I first started I had no idea what to expect as it was my first year out of university. Luckily I had two of the best mentors (Jandrè and Sarah) to take me in and show me the ropes. They have always been kind to me and I know that I can count on them at any time if I need help of any sort. They really have made a difference to my life and they are one of the main reasons why I love my job so much. I look forward to our time together on the reserve and I am sure that there's still so much more I have to learn from them.

Another great part of my job is to help manage and assist the internship programme on UmPhafa. Often careers in nature conservation can be spent in very secluded places with very little company, but luckily I have had the chance to meet a lot of new people. Living in the house with the interns has given me the opportunity to get to know so many people and has resulted in many new friendships being formed. One of the best parts of my job is that I get to share my knowledge and expertise with people that are just as interested and passionate about conservation as I am. For me that is the ultimate level of satisfaction, to know that you have changed somebody’s life for the better and as an added bonus that knowledge might be put to good use to help save our beautiful planet. I’m a strong believer in the phrase; “a little bit can go a long way”. I have also learned so much from so many of the interns. Not all the interns that come to UmPhafa are going into a career in conservation and some have studied in all kinds of different fields. This has made for some very interesting conversations around the bonfire about politics, religion, business and all sorts of other topics. It really is a privilege to work with so many different people from so many different walks of life.

firepitDuring the day we spend our time out in the veld doing all kinds of work ranging from basic maintenance tasks, such as taking down old farm fences, to various kinds of monitoring which includes: animal behaviour studies, small mammal and reptile trapping, vegetation surveys, biodiversity studies, parasite load assessments and game counts, to name a few! One of our mottos here on UmPhafa is “work hard, play hard” and after a good long week working out in the veld, the interns are sometimes treated to a chilled weekend. This could include a bonfire and a braai at the house, a visit to the local pub in Colenso and trips out to surrounding areas such as the Drakensberg mountains and the Natal Midlands on a Sunday. During these times we have had a lot of fun and have made many memories that will stay with us for life.

I must be one of the luckiest and most privileged people to be able to start my career in such a magnificent place with so many amazing people and I look forward to many years to come at UmPhafa so that I can continue to learn and laugh, all while enjoying every second of it. 

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The area of UmPhafa has one of the highest ecological carrying capacities in the whole of South Africa

Number of species offically recorded on Umphafa

Mammals 48
Birds 143
Reptiles 18
Amphibians 11
Trees 54