Merle Santema’s Experience in Bolivia

Merle Santema
Volunteer Name:Merle Santema
Project Attended:Veterinary Internship
Country Attended:Bolivia
What was your greatest achievement? The zoo trusted me enough to let me run a day with other volunteers doing what we would do with Emerson, the guy we were with normally. He had a day off and gave me the responsibility to be the boss of the other volunteers.
What advice would you give future participants? Try to interact with the zoo employees because they will start to trust you more and let you do stuff on your own. This also counts if you are interested in being with the vets and you do not have a degree. From this, they knew me a little bit better and they let me be with the vets after two months.
What was your most memorable moment? I have had so many memorable moments including being with the toucan of the zoo to check it's beak, having monkeys climbing on my shoulders, injecting fluids into turtles and many more. I would not be able to choose a most memorable one since the whole experience was amazing.
Please tell others why you think they should sign up for a program with Kaya It is good that they help you so much with everything and that I will get a certificate now for an internship, since I need that for applying for veterinary medicine.


“What I have learned during my time in Bolivia is how to handle animals and how to read their behaviour.

I worked with a guy called Emerson who worked at the zoo. He took me with him into different enclosures of animals and always explained to me what kind of animal it was, what they did. During my internship, I learned a lot about the hierarchy of animals. At the fox, badger and monkey enclosures, he explained to me who was the alpha and why.

Emerson started to give me more responsibilities too, so I learned to work by myself with animals and how to read and predict their behaviour better. Alongside this, I learned to work with different tools. This was a big part of the work.

Also, I took a few seminars that were for the employers in the zoo. Here, I learned about flamingos and how to take care of them. Besides that, I learned about how to train animals and how this is linked to zoo work.

In the last month I got to work with the vets for a bit too. A Canadian vet had arrived and he worked with the vets all of the time. Whenever I was with the vets I was with him too. On the first day we had to clean some turtles and tortoises. Here I learned the difference between turtles and tortoises, as we call them the same in Dutch, and the difference between the females and the males.”

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