Marlins of Mercy: Sydney Puda

“I will be spending my Christmas break in South Africa on an animal mission trip with my mom. We are going to be helping mainly rhinos, but also other animals that are native to South Africa like monkeys, hippos, and different breeds of birds and dogs.

My mom actually went on a mission trip to Haiti for people, so I was wondering if there was a mission trip to help animals. I was researching about it and this one really caught my interest because I believe very strongly in animal rights.

In South Africa, poaching of rhinos is a really big epidemic because there is a demand for the ivory in their horns. I think it will be an amazing experience to help and care for the rhinos when they are traumatized [by] situations like this.

I am going with the African Conservation Experience, which is an organization that focuses on caring for wildlife in Africa. For the two weeks we are there, we are going to do things like building enclosures for animals. We’re also going to be hands-on with the animals, so we will actually get to bottle feed baby rhinos. Also, if there are any traumatized animals that come into the clinic we get to treat them medically. The veterinarians are going to show us how to treat the injured animals by doing stuff like wrapping wounds and giving them medication.

There are also going to be adult rhinos on this mission trip, but they want to make sure that no one comes in contact with the adult rhinos because they are trying to specialize them to to go back into the wild. So with the adult rhinos, we will just be monitoring how they socialize, how they interact, and determine when they are ready to be sent back into the wild.

I’m really excited for this trip because I get to make a difference and help animals. Ever since I was little I’ve always had a passion for animals. I actually work at the Hidden Spring Veterinary Clinic and volunteer at the Maybury Farm, which has really fueled my desire to help animals.

I work at the vet on Mondays and Thursdays. I started volunteering there my freshman year, and I was actually one of the youngest people they have allowed to help out at the clinic. After a couple years, they hired me and I now do all sorts of work at the clinic.

After school on Tuesdays and Fridays, I volunteer at Maybury Farm. I usually prepare the food for the animals, feed them, catch chickens, make sure all the animals are safe in their pen, and then I close up the barn. At the farm, I’ve learned how to do cool things like give vaccinations to the animals and learn how to flip a sheep. I have gotten really close with some of the animals on the farm. They all have different personalities, so it’s really cool to get to know each of them.

Since I am planning on going to vet school, I thought it would be a good idea to start volunteering and working around animals so I can get experience with a wide variety of animals. In my free time, I also like to volunteer at different places like at the zoo or anywhere I can get experience with animals. I am planning on majoring in animal science and I’ve even been looking at some study abroad programs.”

Sydney Puda feeds and cares for Scotty the Horse at Maybury Farm in Northville where she volunteers after school on Tuesdays and Fridays. (Photo credit: Sabrina Yono)