I met Helene Margel on my first morning at Antelope Park at my lion conservation volunteer induction where I was going to be learning all about the lion conservation efforts being put forth by the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT). We completely hit it off after I started making mention about how I thought kudu (a type of African antelope and at Antelope Park- potential lion food) was delicious. Since I was a good five years older than the other new volunteers that day, I went on to refer to them as my Baby Bears for he rest of my time volunteering- Helene was fortunate enough to be one of them. We spent most of our activity time together, and thus got to really get to know each other. I look forward to one day getting to visit Norway and having Helene show me all of it’s beauty. When I think of my time at Antelope Park as a lion conservation volunteer, I often think back at the fun jokes and memories – of which Helene was always a part of. So without further ado, let’s hear from the girl I call one of my Baby Bears.
Meet Lion Conservation Volunteer: Helene Margel
Helene Margel is 20 years old and from Norway. She has spent most of her life traveling around in Europe on holidays and to the United States to visit family. She has a passion for traveling and seeing new places, and has had two years studying abroad. One in the United States and one in England. Last year she took a gap year trying to figure out the next step after High School. She spent this year working at a kindergarden to save up money so she could go to the one place she had always wanted to go, Africa. Summer 2012 she realized that dream.
1. How did you find out about ALERT & Antelope Park?
Me and my best friend Karin had decided that we wanted to do something different with our leap year. While other friends travelled around to big cities we decided that it would be cool to do some volunteer work. Thus, google! We searched the internet for volunteer work in Africa and came across African Impact. They have a lot of options when it comes to volunteer work, however the one that caught our eyes was ” Hands on Lion Conservation Volunteering – Antelope Park”
2. Why did you choose to be a lion conservation volunteer as a way to spend your vacation time?
I definitely knew i wanted more than a big city vacation or a beach vacation. To be able to go to Africa on safari is probably amazing in itself, however to go to africa and maybe, just maybe, make a small difference and help is more than amazing, it would be rewarding and an experience for life.
3. What is your favourite memory of your time at Antelope Park?
It is impossible to choose just one favorite memory when everyday is a favorite memory. One worth mentioning would probably be a wonderful long walk with the L’s (Lewa and Laili). It was Mamma bear (Melissa) and her three baby bears, Me, Karin and Gill. We were being filmed for our AP dvd so the Lion Handlers were helping to get some good shots of us and the lions. They got Lewa and Laili to climb a tree. While there were up on the branch we go to stand under it for a camera shot. As I turn to look up at these beautiful deadly creatures I see Laili staring me straight in the eyes. Giving me the ‘Naughty look!’ I turn my head and laugh a little, pretending I’m not scared, but when I turn back she is still staring at me. I could almost see her thinking ” How do I get down from here so that I can get to her.” Moving a little bit on her paws I am sure she is debating wether to jump or not – we decided it would only be smart to move away. Lucky for us, lions are not known for being good climbers and not very happy about heights. Though you are safe with lion handlers and in complete awe of these creatures never forget that you are in the presence of LIONS! I will always remember Laili’s naughty look for as long as I live.
We were so lucky to be at AP when they stated a new option for the volunteers, horse safari. A full day out riding in the african bush and a night under the african sky! I remember waking up that morning, my eyes look up at the sky and I saw stars. However as I panned my view down, I could see the sun coming up. Slowly the sun light started to hide one star after the other. Night and day at the same time. The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
4. What was your favourite activity and why?
Lion walks were always amazing because every walk was different. However meat prep takes the cake! Actually cutting up a full grown bull with a blunt blade! Crazy. I will never forget that smell. And then of course the perk of having to cut up the meat was to see the lion feeds! Or actually getting to hand feed the cubs. That was one of my favorite activities.
5. Were there any aspects of the volunteer program at Antelope Park that you felt could be improved?
I can’t imagine it being any better than it was.
6. What did your time at AP teach you that you didn’t already know?
Most important lessons learned at AP “Never trust a lion” and “If you run you die”. However apart from these life saving lessons I learned to not spend time complaining about a problem when you can spend time sorting the problem instead. To make plans, and if they don’t work, make new ones. To much time is spent by people complaining and whining about their problems. But after a wonderful month at AP I truly believe that every obstacle can be fixed with a positive attitude. Don’t spend time complaining. Make a plan and get it sorted.
7. Going forward, in what ways will you continue to support and advocate for the plight of the lion?
I always wear my ALERT bracelet, so that if anyone asks I have some wonderful stories to tell and some facts about the lions to share. I am also on the verge of adopting a lion through ALERT. I truly believe in their work and will continue to be an ambassador for the African Lion as long as I live.
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Check out some other wonderful lion conservation volunteers: