Gap Years For Grown Ups
By: Mark Bottell
Huge organisations such as eBay and American Express have recently started to offer a fully paid year’s sabbatical into their staff contracts. However, they are not alone as statistics show that 11% of companies are now offering their staff paid gap years, whilst 29% of organisations are offering up to four months unpaid leave.
So, why not book yourself onto a mini gap year and give something back to the world. One of the most rewarding ways to spend your extended break is working with animals.
But with so many animals facing extinction, how do you pick a particular species to work with? The decision is an excruciating one, especially when you stop to consider not only which project will be the most exciting, but also which will be the most beneficial way to work with animals. With this in mind we present our selection of the best three gap years working with animals.
Elephant and Leopard Research in Sri Lanka
When choosing to work with animals, there are little as incredibly awe-inspiring as the magnificent Indian elephant and the tropical island of Sri Lanka is the best place to see them in the wild.
On a gap-year in Sri Lanka you can choose to assist the staff and other volunteers in their attempts to conserve and rehabilitate these beautiful creatures. You will also spend time working and educating the local community and dealing with irate farmers who are victims of crop raids by elephants.
The evasive leopard makes up the second part of your mini-sabbatical and you will largely be looking at the population with regards to Yala National Park. Gappers will spend their time conducting research and creating standardised protocols for monitoring the population of these elusive felines.
Game Ranger Training
Are you having a career crisis? Maybe you’ve always wanted to be a game ranger, but the lack of game reserves in boring Blighty meant that you didn’t know where to start. No fear, you can spend six weeks in sunny South Africa learning the ropes and training for your FGASA certificate. As well as giving you ample opportunity to work with animals, the course covers a diverse range of topics from astronomy through to wine tasting. It will teach you excellent life skills on how to survive in the African bush and students who complete the qualifying exam will receive a certificate of success.
However, your colleagues may well think you’ve gone crazy when you return from your sabbatical and mention that you’re actually a qualified game ranger in South Africa, who could teach them a fair few things about Merlot and Mars.
After working too many late nights in the office, you may feel like checking yourself into rehab. But instead why not go and work in one? No, No, No, not that type that Amy Winehouse harps on about but a rehab centre for the furred and feathered variety.
The Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre plays a crucial role in conserving many of Africa’s endangered species and the majority of your time here will be spent working with animals and rehabilitating those that have been poisoned or injured.
You will also have a hand in rearing and bottle feeding orphaned animals; an incredibly rewarding experience. Some of Moholoholo’s highlights include assisting in veterinary work with animals and capturing and relocating orphaned species.
Mark Bottell is the General Manager for Worldwide Experience, an online tour operator offering extended breaks working with animals , and gap years for grown-ups.
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