It always seems that when I set out on a new adventure, I suddenly become very popular on social media. Everyone wants to know if that Cheetah is real and alive or if that tree is really 500 years old.
People don’t seem to be able to conceive the idea of a 20 year old girl going alone to country after country, exploring new places and reaching new heights, all for the love of travel and knowledge. However, that is exactly how I strive to live.
I can only travel once a year, maybe even every other year. Let’s face it, anyone who strives to work with animals or in any type of conservation field is going to have a hard time bringing in the big money. But when you work hard and have a goal that is reachable, but difficult to achieve, every day is worth pushing forward a little bit more.
Currently I work for the Sacramento Wildlife Care Association, a non-profit organization that is committed to the protection and rehabilitation of local wildlife.
I spend my days doing any number of tasks including: feeding orphaned birds and small mammals, cleaning out over 100 enclosures holding any number of unique species, documenting feeding and behavioral changes for each individual, diagnosing, medicating and correcting medical problems that individuals may suffer from due to natural or human causes, and many other hands-on and hands-off animal interactions.
In my current position at work, volunteers look to me to be experienced and comfortable enough to answer any question they may have and to have the confidence to answer with certainty. I am not there to cuddle the animals, I am there to ensure they are not habituated and they can mature wild and healthy, so they may one day be released back into their natural environment.
Though this job is a truly fulfilling position, I did not always know what I wanted out of a career.
Like many children, I always wanted to play with any animal I came across. I wanted to keep the turtles I found and rescue the squirrels that ran from the raptors.
It wasn’t until I did a report on animal conservation in 7th grade that I decided I needed to do it for a living. I wanted to know how the rest of the world lived, how their animals were treated and how I could become a part of it. I became fascinated with exotic organisms and the infinite amount of human cultures the world has to offer.
So, at 16 I bought a ticket to Botswana and spent a month in the African Bush, working in an observational role with the habituated Cheetah brothers on the Mokolodi Nature Reserve. I spent every day learning to track and identify different animals and recognize behavioral changes in individuals. I was enthralled by the dedication of the people working at the small reserve, and I wanted to know how the people themselves lived every day.
From this experience, I moved forward and decided to focus my schooling on obtaining a Zoology degree, so I could rehabilitate animals, rather than caring for the already habituated ones.
At 20, I went to South Africa and spent time with the C.A.R.E Baboon rehabilitation center. Since then I have started work in California with local wildlife. It may seem strange to bounce between so many species, but understanding all of nature and how each organism matters to the natural world is an important concept to grasp.
Though they are my main focus, animals are not my only passion.
I was also very intrigued by how the people in different cultures lived. So, I found ways to spend school breaks traveling to as many countries as I could.
At 22, I have traveled to 18 countries, 5 continents and 49 U.S States. I have jumped off waterfalls, climbed mountains and gave hundreds of farewell hugs.
But most importantly, I volunteered my time and energy to several important causes around the world. I believe traveling this beautiful world helps human beings grow as individuals, but helping others, be it human or animal, helps us develop as a person.
Finding your niche isn’t always as easy as getting inspired by a report, but being open to new roads help make the journey more enjoyable.
Dina recently moved to California to begin working with the Sacramento Wildlife Care Association. She is a world traveler and animal lover, and continues to grow in her field with every adventure. If you would like to make a donation and help Dina and all the animals at SWCA, you can find more info on their website.