A chat with Sabrina Colombo
Sabrina Colombo is a young Italian woman who decided to dedicate her life to wildlife conservation, environmental management and anti-poaching activities.
Sabrina started in 2013 with a small organization called LEO AFRICA where LEO stands for “Limpopo Eco Operations” as a volunteer for a very brief period. She was expected to stay in South Africa for about two months. Today, she is still there. She works in an area of South Africa that we prefer not to disclose in this article but if you are interested you can contact the organization directly.
Let’s get to know Sabrina and her work better through this interview:
Can you tell us something about your background and how it relates to LEO?
Yes, this is of the questions I most enjoy answering because it tells something about me and lets people discover the best part of me.
In 2013 I was 26 years old and I had just finished my university studies. I was also an agonist tennis player but felt like if my future did not depend on the sport. I knew I wanted to do something different but didn’t know what. One day something happened, I came across a strange webpage on the internet talking about a course to become touristic guides in South Africa. In the beginning I was quite skeptical and had to gather some information to decide where to apply. After some reflection I decided that LEO was my path and since then I did not leave it. I remember that at the beginning of my experience my English was not so good and that I was very confused with the word “game”, it seemed like if the rangers passed some of their time playing. Soon I go to know that here there is no time to think about games and that this place was my path and in some way, my life. My passion for animals and in particular for lions is what convinced me to stay!
Which are the main activities volunteers can perform on the field?
Our volunteers who come to Leo Africa are involved in a variety of activities that range between monitoring and wildlife conservation techniques. They do not need a background on the field since they are always guided by very expert rangers. We also try to teach them to lie sustainably by using wisely the resources and by producing less trash. The African bush can be a very hostile place, we accept everyone in our courses as long as they comply to some basic physical requisites and the will to learn a lot a ile place, we accept everyone in our courses as long as they comply to some basic physical requisites and the will to learn a lot about the difficult field we work in.
The most important aspect that a good volunteer should have is the attitude to work and the respect of nature: all the rest comes with training, experience and commitment.
Among the many activities we perform in our organization there are several possibilities for the volunteers such as taking part in daily monitoring drives. During the monitoring drives, people can learn about and directly contribute towards wildlife monitoring and conservation activities. Our experienced guides love to share interesting facts, their knowledge and passion for the bush. We also monitor predator numbers and assist in the creation of ID Kits for lions, cheetahs, leopards and hyenas.
Monitor the feeding behaviour, prey selection, kill frequencies, interactions, spatial movements and the ecological impact of lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyenas.
Volunteers may also be of great help with conservation work: erosion control, road maintenance, bush clearing, alien plant removal, game capture (when requested by the park manager), animal darting and relocation (when help is requested by the vet).
They can assist with the processing of camera trap footage and data entry, live and work with like-minded people from all over the world while taking part into bush walks to service camera traps and discover new areas of the park on foot.
Do you have a plan for the future? Which are your next steps?
In a delicate moment like the one we are living now it’s not really easy to plan our future but we can try to do so anyway. Since all of our volunteers from the world had to go back to their home countries I would say that one of our priorities is to re-organize the movements and the operations with them. The COVID-19 situation has “paused” our lives in some way but it cannot put our commitment in stand-by, we have to react and this is what we are doing.
The situation has not changed so much inside the reserves after the virus but when we go out we can really feel the pressure. The main issue that organizations like this one are facing at the moment is the lack of funding.
For sure founding new resources and energies is one of our main tasks now. It’s not easy but we like to think that we are those kinds of people that survive and learn through experience: this is what a real game changer does.