Walther senior helps with endangered animals
Amy Walsh (left) spent two weeks in South Africa as a volunteer to help and feed endangered animals, including cheetahs, antelopes and lions.
Updated: November 26, 2012 6:12AM
FRANKLIN PARK — Amy Walsh is like any other Walther Lutheran High School senior, with perhaps one exception: her passion for animals.
This passion led the 17-year-old Franklin Park resident to South Africa as a volunteer to help and feed endangered animals, including cheetahs, antelopes and lions.
Leaving in July and returning in August, Walsh spent two weeks in South Africa. Her love for animals began when she started volunteering at Brookfield Zoo, where she discovered she wanted to work with and help save animals.
“I want to be an animal researcher, and I knew this program looked good on college applications,” she said. “It was the step in the right direction for my future.”
Walsh discovered the organization African Conservation Experience, based in England.
“They had at least 20 different volunteer programs ranging from saving dolphins to cheetahs,” Walsh said. “I really wanted to make a difference.”
The program set up near the town of Alldays, which is in Limpopo. There were 10 other young adults in her volunteer group, all sleeping in tents on a reservation.
“We tracked all different animals,” she said. “We would track the cheetahs, hyenas and rhinos to make sure they were doing okay. We wanted to make sure that hunters hadn’t gotten to them.”
Walsh also worked on electric fences to guarantee the animals wouldn’t roam to where they could be hunted. At one point, Walsh fed antelopes and spotted elephants and lions up close.
Walsh admits the cheetahs were a little frightening.
“The cheetahs weren’t used to people yet, so they charged at us,” she said. “I thought I was going to die. But, a ranger had a tranquilizer gun. It was really scary.”
Walsh said the weather was beautiful, but freezing in the mornings and at sundown.
As for attire and cuisine, Walsh could not wear bright colors because it would scare the animals. Instead, she had to wear khakis, blacks and greens, and always wear boots. It was not uncommon for people to eat zebra, but since Walsh is a vegetarian, she opted to stick with vegetables and pasta.
Walsh wants to continue traveling and helping animals. She has plans to major in zoology and minor in conservation biology, and hopes to attend the University of Florida.
And next summer, Walsh plans to go to South America and work with animals in the Amazon.
“I feel I really made a difference,” she said. “I want to travel the world.”