Texas Tech students travel to South Africa as part of study abroad program
By: Norman Martin
A special group of Texas Tech Department of Animal & Food Sciences students had an especially eventful summer academic adventure, spending two weeks (Jun. 3-17) in Bela Bela, South Africa studying animal behavior and veterinary medicine.
Anastasia Stellato, undergraduate section leader and an assistant professor within the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, explained that the nine undergraduates and four graduate students participated in a variety of activities from observing and participating in the handling of wild animals through daily husbandry, interacting with socialized cheetahs, clicker training hyenas, and providing scent enrichment to leopards. In addition, they successfully completed positive reinforcement training on elephants to get them used to blood draws.
With the support of the graduate section leader, Nichole Anderson, an assistant professor of behavior and welfare within Texas Tech's School of Veterinary Medicine, student were taught how to assess animal behavior and welfare across various settings and how to formally assess animal behavior using novel approach tests.
Students were given the opportunity to work with the largest private elephant herd in South Africa at 'Adventure with Elephants.' During this training, the students received support from an expert in elephant behavior and training, Andrea Bouwer.
The goal of the positive reinforcement training was to get the elephants more comfortable with veterinary procedures essential for their welfare. As a result of this uniquely enriching experience, students gained valuable skills on how to respond to animal behavioral cues and modify their approach to accommodate the animal, which they can take can with them and apply in their future careers.
“Witnessing my students, who hailed from diverse backgrounds and entered with differing levels of knowledge of animal welfare assessment, grasp the concepts of measuring behavior was truly gratifying,” said Stellato. “Their connection with Africa's raw beauty and unique charm was a deeply touching and unforgettable experience.”
Emily Webberson, a master's student from Richmond, Virginia, agreed it was a phenomenal experience. “I was able to apply my knowledge of cooperative care and husbandry to new animals, which encouraged me to expand my understanding of different human-animal conflicts,” she said.
Alissa Cisneros, a master's student from Lubbock, added, “The hands-on experience with big cats, hyenas, and elephants, while experiencing a new culture, allowed me to expand my knowledge and opened my eyes to different perspectives in the animal science field,” she said.
CONTACT: Anastasia Stellato, Assistant Professor, Companion Animal Science, Department of Animal & Food Sciences, Texas Tech University at (806) 834-8426 or email@example.com
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Editor: Norman Martin
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