Student Volunteers Flock to MARS
Seeking opportunity, west coast experience
Every day is different for student volunteers at the MARS Wildlife Centre on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, many of them from faraway homelands.
“I wanted to help wildlife and do something different,” said Magali Vanderveken, a 25-year-old graduate student from Belgium. “This is a special place and an opportunity for me to make a difference now.” Maggy worked alongside another Belgian graduate student, 23-year-old Tanguy van Aelst in 2016.
“I’m very interested in wildlife,” said Tanguy. “When I finished my degree – a Masters in financial markets — I worked at a French wildlife centre and then spent a month working in conservation research with large cats in South Africa. Now here at MARS every day is different. We don’t know if there will be a rescue or a release. We see and work in the full range of care for injured birds and animals. It is very rewarding.”
Winter tough on wildlife
This past winter has been particularly difficult for eagles, owls and trumpeter swans. Many, rescued by volunteers, were weak and emaciated. Food was more difficult to find under the thick layer of snow, making it particularly challenging for owls and swans.
Student volunteers might work 10 to 14 hours a day depending on the caseload. Feeding and monitoring occur many times throughout the day.
Ashlea Veldhoen, an Ontario university student, came to learn about wildlife rescue and found opportunities for teaching, too. Ashlea participated in education programs and fundraisers in northern Vancouver Island during her six-week internship. It was an opportunity to raise awareness and to share her educational experiences in ecosystem management and environmental science.
“Working with illusive native species like saw-whet owls, kingfishers and great horned owls, her experiences at the wildlife centre will be remembered as “rare and special.”
Tanguay van Aelst
“I worked at a French wildlife centre and then spent a month working in wildlife conservation research with large cats in South Africa.”
“I wanted to help wildlife and do something different. This is a special place and an opportunity for me to make a difference.”