Eastern Michigan University student gains valuable experience in conservation while volunteering in Nepal
A day spent trekking through dense mountain jungles and towering gorges either sounds incredible, or miserable. For 29-year-old Anthony Sloan from Ann Arbor, it sounded like the perfect opportunity. “One of the main reasons I wanted to sign up for the Conservation Project in Nepal is because I want to work in the national parks in the US in the future.”
Far more than just a volunteering experience, the month Anthony spent in Nepal with Projects Abroad provided an indispensable skill set for his future. As Anthony said, “all of the trekking, setting camera traps, wildlife identification, and other experiences are things I could never get in an entry level job.”
As a conservation volunteer, Anthony lived in Ghandruk, a small mountainous village in Northern Nepal. To get there, one must travel three hours by jeep up narrow cliffside roads, followed by an hour-long hike past clouded mountain peaks. While many Kathmandu volunteers participate in care or teaching activities in the urban heart of Nepal, Projects Abroad volunteers of Ghandruk take to the wilderness on a daily basis.
“While I was there, we did anything from bird-watching to butterfly-catching to setting camera traps for different animals,” Anthony explained. Sprinting after an Indian Red Admiral butterfly in the cool fog of a Himalayan hilltop is certainly an experience worth remembering.
In Ghandruk, there was no shortage of aweinspiring views or memorable adventures. For Anthony, a three-day hike west was unparalleled in its dramatic happenings. He relayed that the group “hiked for five hours straight, slashing through bamboo forests and absent trails, until we got to our first stop. We came up over this ridge and you could see Annapurna South, Annapurna I, and the whole Dhaulagiri range. It was incredible.”
Even Hotel Namaste, the lodging of all volunteers in Ghandruk, faces the northern face of Machapuchre, or “fish tail” in English, a 7000 meter behemoth that rises far above the clouds.
If it is images of snow-capped summits and adrenaline-filled treks that bring volunteers to Ghandruk, it is not the only thing they leave with. In Anthony’s case, it was the environmental knowledge and lasting impact his work would hopefully have on the community. “I didn’t realize just how endangered a lot of the animals being researched truly are. The last time a Red Panda was seen was six years ago.”
Through interviewing locals, recording data on sightings, and clearing trails, volunteers such as Anthony are fighting to preserve this area steeped in tradition. “We hope that by being in the community we will increase awareness of these endangered species,” Anthony said. “And hopefully in the process, we can do our best to protect them.”
Projects Abroad hopes great stories like these inspire others to help Projects Abroad continue to make a difference, and by doing so, learn something themselves along the way.