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Student learns vet skills helping cheetahs in South Africa

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    Conyers, GA (Rockdale Newton Citizen) — Emily Kimpling, a senior at Georgia College and State University majoring in biology/pre-vet, spent two weeks this past summer in South Africa helping animals and learning hands-on what it’s like to be a veterinarian. Kimpling, 20, of Conyers traveled with study-abroad organization Loop Abroad as part of a small team that volunteered at Feracare Wildlife Centre caring for cheetahs and other African animals.

The Veterinary Service program brings students to South Africa to volunteer alongside South African animal experts and veterinarians from the U.S. Kimpling and her team took a course in the anatomy, behavior and conservation of big cats such as cheetahs so that they could be better equipped to study and help support the animals at Feracare.

“The knowledge and experience I gained is something I will carry with me the rest of my life,” said Kimpling of her work abroad. “Words don’t describe how thankful I am to Feracare for everything, especially all they do for the conservation of cheetahs.”

Cheetahs are endangered and their lack of genetic diversity makes them a very vulnerable species. Because of this, organizations like Feracare work toward breeding cheetahs to increase the genetic diversity of the world cheetah population and to educate the public about cheetah conservation. The center is also home to animals including bat-eared foxes, horses, African wild dogs, porcupines, and other animals in need of care.

The student group also helped to fund a South African cheetah vet’s visit to perform required genetic testing and routine medical examinations on the cheetahs. The students were able to assist the vet and learn about cheetah medical care.

Kimpling and her team provided care for the animals at the wildlife centre, including feeding the cheetahs and helping to provide enrichment for them. She was also able to travel to Kruger National Park to observe African wildlife, where she was able to see zebras, African elephants, giraffes, and many other types of African mammals and other wildlife.

Loop Abroad has animal science and veterinary programs for students and young adults age 14 to 30, and offers financial aid and fundraising help. Programs range from two weeks in summer to a full semester abroad, and college credit is available. Interested participants can inquire or apply at

Admission to veterinary programs is selective, and Kimpling, a graduate of Heritage High School, was selected based on her transcript, admissions essay and professional references.

By following a study abroad model instead of a voluntourism model, Loop focuses on educating its students so that they can contribute and serve in meaningful ways. It also works with locally run animal welfare and conservation organizations so that students contribute to long-term improvement on the ground in the countries they visit. With programs in Thailand, South Africa, Australia, and the Amazon and Galapagos, Loop Abroad is able to support animal welfare and conservation around the world because of its students and their dedication to helping animals in need.

The program’s Managing Director Jane Stine says, “This is our 10th summer of providing engaging field courses around the globe, and we continue to be so impressed by our students and their eagerness to learn about the world around them and have a lasting, positive impact. By partnering with locally-run, leading conservation organizations, we help our students to learn from the experts and to understand the connection of conservation and culture, and we’re always so proud to see what they go on to do after their study abroad experience.”

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