York in the World: Internships available at wildlife conservancy in Kenya

Rhinoceros traffic jams, ostriches wandering into her office and vervet monkeys waiting patiently for her to wake up so they can share in her breakfast. These are just a few of the realities Suzanne MacDonald, chair of York’s Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Health, experiences on her visits to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya.

Left: A rhinoceros creates a traffic jam in Kenya. Photo by Suzanne MacDonald.

MacDonald and York master in environmental studies student Marc Dupuis-Desormeaux sit on the board of Lewa Canada and are working with York International on developing new Discovery Internships for students. “We piloted the project last year with one student, Kate O’Connor, who did a fantastic job as a marketing communications intern for the conservancy,” says MacDonald. “It was a wonderful experience and we have opened it up for more placements this summer.”

Right: A vervet monkey waits for York Professor Suzanne MacDonald to wake up so he can share in her breakfast. Photo by Suzanne MacDonald.

Larissa Strong, York International’s project manager of strategic international initiatives, notes, “Internships are a practical way for students to gain international experience while working with our partners and the local communities to achieve their goals.” York International has developed five new internships with Lewa for this summer and is taking applications for community officer assistant, energy audit assistant, marketing and fundraising intern, research and monitoring intern, and vegetation research and monitoring intern.

“Interns will spend about three months at Lewa and will get to work with local communities like the Maasai to help monitor, promote and protect the communities and ecosystems of the conservancy, as well as help with food production and schooling local children,” says MacDonald. “Students will absolutely make a difference. They will learn new skills, push their own boundaries and contribute to communities with a goal of sustainable conservation.”

Left: Ostriches don’t understand the etiquette of knocking before entering. Photo by Suzanne MacDonald.

The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a 62,000-acre private, not-for-profit wildlife conservancy located in northern Kenya on the Laikipia-Samburu ecosystem and northern foothills of Mount Kenya. It is home to white rhinos, endangered black rhinos, Grévy’s zebras, elephants and over 60 mammal and 400 bird species. “It’s a wonderful place,” says MacDonald. “You hear lions roaring in the distance at night. You get to work with lovely people every day. And you get to help with important work that goes toward protecting a way of life.”

Prospective Lewa internship applicants have until Wednesday, Feb. 10 to get their applications in to York International. “It is a competitive process,” says Strong. “We are looking for interested students, from a number of areas. There is an interesting twist with these internships, and successful applicants may be interviewed on camera.” This is because students may be filmed during their internship for a possible television documentary, a first for a York International internship program.

Right: Elephants in Kenya take a much needed drink. Photo by Suzanne MacDonald.

“The Discovery Channel is interested in doing a television show,” says MacDonald. “We are negotiating with them now and hope to have an answer soon. If it gets a green light the show would likely appear as a documentary series in the fall of 2010. It would add a wonderful dimension to the internships and provide a wide audience for Lewa and the great work they do there – TV or no TV.”

For more information on the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy internships, visit the York International Discovery Internship Program Web site.

For more information about the conservancy, visit the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy Web site.

To make a donation to support the conservancy, visit the Lewa Canada Web site. The all-volunteer efforts of Lewa Canada’s Board and Advisory Council have enabled the transfer of 97 per cent of all funds that were received from 2005 to 2009 to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya.

Submitted by Edward Fenner, York International