As Agents of Discovery’s Operations and Marketing Assistant, Rhianna Paquette wears many hats – but she’s always prepared for a challenge. Her extensive travels before arriving in our office may have helped her learn to be ready for anything that comes her way. We caught up to her to ask her five questions about her time at a wildlife reserve in Zimbabwe.
1. Before you arrived at Agents of Discovery, you had some fantastic travel experiences. Tell us about your time in Zimbabwe.
I applied to participate in an internship position at a wildlife reserve in Zimbabwe on a whim, and with some luck and creative writing, I was accepted. I had traveled quite a bit, but this would be my first trip to Africa.
When I arrived in Zimbabwe, my backpack was lost in South Africa and I had only my small carry-on backpack. But I couldn’t have been happier. I was in the most beautiful place in the world. ( My backpack amazingly showed up three days later, even though I was told I would never see it again.)
My first day consisted of learning about my role as conservation intern, and a quick safety briefing. Then it was off to do my first game count of the animals on the reserve. I quickly learned that I was out of my element when a Black Rhino and her calf got a little too close for comfort and I found myself scrambling up a tree.
For the next six weeks, I learned how to track animals, identify and remove invasive plant species, identify insects and birds, and not to panic when hearing a lion roar or a hyena cackle from just outside camp. I was involved in road maintenance, patrols with the International Anti-Poaching Federation, building and maintaining compost at a local village, building fences at a village school, and drafting reports on the status of the reserve. By the end of my internship, I was feeling at home in Zimbabwe and I didn’t want to leave.
2. What inspired you to travel to Africa?
As a kid, I wanted to be Jane Goodall and travel the world to study animals and teach others about animal welfare. Africa has always been on my bucket list, so it was a dream come true to have the opportunity to see at least a small portion of the continent.
3. What was your biggest lesson?
The biggest lesson that I learned is that is important to hear both sides of any situation to come up with the best possible solution. Conservation of any kind is a team effort and requires the experiences and commitment of everyone involved to be successful.
4. What was your most embarrassing moment?
My most embarrassing moment is when I accidentally unearthed a termite mound while digging out an invasive plant species. I was showing a few volunteers how to properly remove Lantana in a way that would not harm the rest of the natural vegetation. The termites crawled into my hiking boots and I don’t think I have ever jumped so high in my life.
5. Has your conservation work affected your work at Agents of Discovery?
I think that my brief time working in conservation has helped me in my position at Agents of Discovery because it helped create my passion for getting kids outside, moving to play and learn, and helping the company become more sustainable. Educating the next generation about nature is the most effective tool we have for future conservation and environmental awareness. I love that I work with a company that is actively educating and connecting youth to the environment around them. I also love that Agents of Discovery is passionate about the environment. We are participating in #NoStrawNovember and I am working on a sustainability policy to assist our office with becoming even more environmentally responsible.