Reports from the Field: Escapades with the Echos
This Story is dedicated to Jack (Jacky). My fellow Durrell PG Dip-er, Jack stayed on in Mauritius after most of us had said our tearful goodbyes, to volunteer on the Echo Parakeet team. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind answering a few questions on his experiences so far for me to share with you. Jack was ‘new’ to conservation, like me, when we arrived to Mauritius. He has a huge heart, a sunny spirit and a propensity to merry escapades that would provide us with no end of amusement during our six months. Anyway, I’ll let him tell you a little more…
Where are you from originally?
Brighton and Hove, UK, born and raised. I miss it a lot!
Tell me your story, in under 50 words.
23 years old, graduated in History in 2014 then decided for a change in career path and so have spent the last 9 months living in Mauritius first studying on the Endangered Species Recovery postgraduate Diploma, then working in the conservation sector with the prominent bio-diversity conservation NGO in the country: Mauritian Wildlife Foundation. Basically I spend my days climbing trees and playing with parrots. Mauritius Echo Parakeets to be specific, you can read about them more here and help support the great work MWF do.
What's your weekly schedule like now?
The work has constantly evolved over the season, as the parakeets go through the breeding period. Initially the work centred on checking for eggs and maintaining artificial nest boxes. This shifted towards hatch checks and morphometric data collection and we have recently just finished the banding of 13 day old chicks. The work now consists of accessing nests to collect blood samples and other data on the now approximately 45 day old chicks. So the work constantly changes, which keeps it fresh and allows for constant development.
So what does your average day currently look like?
Up at 4.45 AM to fill bird feeders either at Camp or in the nearby forest followed by an hour of hopper watch. Then breakfast and out in the field by around 7am normally. The rest of my day will consist of hiking round the national park accessing artificial nest boxes in various trees and generally back at around 6-6.30pm.
How do meal times work?
We have dinner communally and people take it in turns to cook, we eat pretty fancy at Camp (for a field station!) and there are some great cooks, we recently had sushi which was amazing.
What's your favourite field station meal so far?
There’s been a few but pumpkin gratin has got to be my favourite.
What's the hardest part of the work?
For sure the horrendously early mornings, apart from that it’s incredibly enjoyable.
And your favourite part?
Hiking in the forest, climbing trees, working with beautiful endangered birds.
What's up next for you?
At the moment I’m not sure I’ll be heading back to the UK in March and cannot wait to catch up with friends and family, I think it’s changed quite a lot since I’ve been away. For now I’m just enjoying the opportunity and the lifestyle in Mauritius.
And long term plans?
I’m just going to see where the wave takes me (that sounds really corny doesn’t it!)
Finally, tell me something cool that I haven't asked about. I have (or had) a massive, massive fear of heights, something which I’m sure Salina can attest to, having learnt to climb trees with me. For a job that relies on spending the majority of your time attached 10ft in the air it’s actually been surprisingly easy. I guess you do really have to face your fears to conquer them (there goes the corniness again!)