Today we speak to future volunteer Rachael Lappage who later this year will be heading off to the ever popular Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates and Turtle Conservation project. We asked Rachael a few questions about her upcoming trip, finding out what she’s excited about, what she’s going to pack and a few other bits and pieces.
Into the Wild: Why did you choose the Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates and Turtle Conservation project?
Rachael: This project really appealed to me because it seems quite scientific and it involves doing what I love best-surveying wildlife! It also appeals because you know that what you are doing over there will really help to contribute towards shaping the country’s conservation efforts and policies in the future.
Into the Wild: What do you hope to gain or achieve during your time abroad on the project?
Rachael: I hope to gain a greater understanding of tropical habitats and the pressures upon them. I can’t wait to learn about the different animals and plants that can be found there. I’m also hoping that I will be learning new surveying skills and using methods I haven’t used before.
Into the Wild: What are you looking forward to the most about your trip?
Rachael: That’s an easy question...seeing lots of wildlife and meeting new people!
Into the Wild: What first sparked your interest in conservation and why do you think conservation is so important in today’s world?
Rachael: I’ve always been interested in animals-what child isn’t?!-and this stems from my family being keen on wildlife. But my real interest in conservation and the environment was sparked by my A level Geography teacher. He was really passionate about his subject and I guess it just rubbed off! Conservation is so important today because our whole lives depend on it. People don’t realise that the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat are all dependent on the health of our natural environment. Every animal has its part to play no matter how big or small. But for me personally I think conservation is important because I wouldn’t want to live in a world without animals and I think, actually, you’d find it hard to find someone that would!
Into the Wild: You work as a countryside ranger and ecologist, do you think the time you’ll spend working in conservation on the Costa Rica project will be beneficial for your career path and if so how?
Rachael: I’m hoping that the project in Costa Rica will further improve my ecological surveying skills and that I will be able to put into practice some of the skills that I learn back into my job as a countryside ranger. But to be honest this is a very small part of why I want to go to Costa Rica. I want to feel like I’ve made a difference in a country with huge environmental pressures and probably few resources to do anything about it.
Into the Wild: You’ve volunteered for several conservation projects in the UK, how do you think conservation work in Costa Rica will differ from your previous experiences?
Rachael: I’m not really sure, but I don’t expect that chocolate biscuits will feature highly in a morning break!
Into the Wild: What appeals to you most about volunteering and do you think that it is something that everyone should try no matter how big or small?
Rachael: Volunteering produces a ‘feel good factor’ and can give you a real buzz. It’s nice to think that those trees you’ve just planted will be there for generations to come or the bat roost visit you’ve just carried out has helped to protect a roost of a hundred Pipistrelle bats. If you can do something in your local area you will see the benefits for years to come. Volunteering is also a great way of meeting like minded people and visiting new places. If it involves doing some practical work it can also help you to get fit! I think one day of volunteering in your life should be as compulsory as attending school, but then seeing as I am always trying to recruit volunteers at work I guess I would say that!
Into the Wild: Have you travelled much before?
Rachael: We mainly tend to travel around the UK for our holidays and our locations are normally determined by what wildlife we would like to see or what mountains we want to climb. However, we were lucky enough to be able to go to Africa on our honeymoon. We spent most of our time in Botswana but also visited South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mauritius. Africa is a fantastic continent and the people were amazing-especially the rangers! Not to mention all of the wonderful wildlife we saw! I’ve also been to Central America once before, to Mexico for our friends wedding.
Into the Wild: What’s your favourite holiday memory?
Rachael: When we were on honeymoon in Botswana we spent a night camping in the middle of Chobe National Park-there was nothing between us and the lions or elephants that roamed the park! During the night I heard a clattering of pans and I woke up excited at the prospect of seeing what animal was causing all of the ruckus. As I was about to stick my head out of the tent the rangers shooed the animal away. When we woke the following morning the rangers informed us it was a honey badger trying to get at our food stores. I was gutted I didn’t see it. However an hour later on our (very) early morning safari, what was the first animal we saw? Yep a honey badger! I was thrilled!
Into the Wild: Besides Costa Rica where else in the world would you like to travel in the future?
Rachael: I’d love to go to Canada or Alaska-mainly because of the mountains and the chance of seeing bears in the wild
Into the Wild: What do you think will be the most important item in your backpack?
Rachael: My binoculars and field guides!
Into the Wild: Will you be taking any music or good books along with you to while away the journey time?
Rachael: I will have my iPod by my side...mainly full of pop music! And thankfully I now have a Kindle so I won’t have to carry lots of books with me, but I’m sure I will have something by James Patterson to read on there.
Into the Wild: Will you be doing any fundraising activities to fund your trip and if so what have you got planned?
Rachael: The trip to Costa Rica is an ideal holiday for me-immersed in wildlife and surrounded by like minded people. As I work full time I feel a bit cheeky fundraising for my trip of a lifetime so I will be using my savings to fund my trip.
Interviewed by Hannah Jones