First of all, I must apologise for the lack of blog posts recently – for the last eight weeks I have been backpacking up the East coast of Australia with little access to the Internet. As this has been such an interesting experience, and one in which I had the chance to experience the work of conservation volunteers Australia (CVA), I felt it worthy of a blog post.
So, this week I will take a break from talking about South African flora and fauna – albeit to compare the work of CVA with that of companies such as Worldwide Experience, whom I worked with in South Africa.
Working at the SERCUL site
My conservation volunteering in Australia began in August when I signed up to a volunteer group run by my exchange university. My first site was with SERCUL (South East Regional Centre for Urban Landcare) and the project here was to restore the landscape by planting new trees and adding more, richer, soil to what had essentially become a sand bank. Whilst this was an important task, the best part of this experience for me was the opportunity it gave me to make new friends in a country I’d just arrived in – always a good benefit of volunteering, I have found.
Making friends through volunteering
I then volunteered with CVA on two occasions during my trip along the East coast. My first CVA experience was in Melbourne, where the work took place at a conservation site belonging to La Trobe University, for the use of its students taking relating subjects such as Environmental Sciences. The work here included rubbish collection (a job I seldom had to do in South Africa due to the reserve being far from any residential areas and only allowing authorised guests and workers through its gates). La Trobe conservation site, on the other hand, is situated close to a housing area, therefore the outskirts of the premises are prone to littering.
The second job of the day was alien plant removal – aka weeding. The aim here is to remove any plant species that are not native to the area and/or country as they are in competition for light, water and soil minerals. This involved walking through much of the site with eager eyes, and during this time I was able to see kangaroos, emu and kookaburra.
This job of alien plant removal was how I spent most of my days at Shamwari – along with removing old wire fencing, creating organic dams to help stop land erosion and planting in areas damaged by humans. It was quite nostalgic to spend my day doing this.
Alien plant removal in South Africa
My second CVA experience was in Queensland, where I took on a slightly different task. Here we worked on a site that had been largely destroyed by the Queensland floods in January 2011. Our job was to replant around the river bank, where most of the foliage had be washed away. This of course has caused the habitats of local wildlife to be destroyed, affecting the whole eco-system there.
Planting along the river
Not only did we have to replant countless new trees, but during the hot Australian summer it was also our duty to water them – which was a hard slog, carrying bucket fulls up from the river.
On this project I was working with students studying Land Management, so we had to closely monitor and record the area of land we planted and watered and the types of plants used, which was new to me.
I was quite impressed with the organisation and running of CVA, and the training provided. Instantly I felt like I was part of an important team and worthwhile project – and may look to get involved in more CVA initiatives.