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Front Page News

October 21, 2015


Frostburg State University Student Interns In South African Wildlife Rehab Center

By Madie Wilson of The Bottom Line

Pittsfield Jen Xia.jpg

Cara introducing Jen to Xai, one of the center’s lions.

Photograph by Jen Tyrell


Pittsfield Jen Neeku.jpg

Jen and Neeku, a wildlife photographer.

Photograph by Jen Tyrell


Pittsfield Jen leopard.jpg

Jen observes a leopard named Tiger before he was darted and relocated to a better environment.

Photograph by Jen Tyrell


Jen Tyrell, a resident of Pittsfield and a senior at Frostburg State University studying Interpretative Biology, spent three weeks this summer at Gitta-Martula, a wildlife rehabilitation center located near Thabazimbi, South Africa.


From rehabilitating sick, orphaned, and injured animals to participating in the darting and relocation of many species including several waterbuck, two spotted hyenas, and a leopard, you could say this was the experience of a lifetime.


The volunteer program, offered by Gitta-Martula allowed Jen to learn about an African game reserve, including maintenance, game counts, bush utilization, and an “up-close and personal” experience with the center’s lions.


While her trip seems exciting in all shapes and forms, it also involved some hardships. One of the most difficult events of a rehabilitation center is not being able to save an animal, and being a rehabber means facing this reality every day, but choosing to do the job anyways.


Gitta-Martula was founded and built by owners Cara and Louis de Bruyn in 2010, after recognizing the area’s need for a rehabilitation facility. Designed and built specifically for this purpose, the center includes two cages, outside enclosures and bomas (enclosures used in parts of the African Great Lakes region and Southern Africa), as well as a rehab emergency clinic for emergency operations.


Situated 155 miles Northwest of Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa, this non-profit organization offers knowledge and experience one could only acquire in such an area.


When asked why Gitta-Martula could be a lifetime experience, Cara de Bruyn responded with enthusiasm, “Everything’s so unique and so hands-on. It’s a different learning environment that students and volunteers can’t acquire in a place like a classroom. All the animals you get to interact with here are incomparable to those you can interact with from areas like the States.”


De Bruyn and those at the organization love to get volunteers and interns, the majority coming from the U.S. and Germany. In fact, they receive roughly five interns a year, all of which the organization is extremely grateful, not only have extra hands working at the center, but also to share education on a subject all the workers are so fond of. The center even includes a lodge for volunteers, including a lounge, kitchen, bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, a swimming pool, campfire, BBQ, and an outside bar area.


FSU offers an internship program with several benefits in taking an internship for academic credit. There is the option of taking either nine or 15 credits, based on part-time or full-time commitment, which means up to 15 credits towards the 120 credits needed to graduate. Aside from knowledge and experience, internships also serve as a great addition to resumes.


Jen Tyrell majors in Interpretive Biology with minors in Animal Behavior, Biology, and Psychology. She first aspired to be a zookeeper, but after her experience in South Africa, she now wishes to pursue the career of an animal rehabber. As de Bruyn would say, “it gets under your skin.”


Tyrell will be presenting her capstone on her internship sometime in October and hopes to return to South Africa one day to help continue the work that the people at Gitta-Martula continue to do every day. 






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