No images - due to the fact pictures were not permitted, or were to be owned by insync at the time.
Location: Wylie, Texas, United States
Project: Wildlife Rescue and Education
Duration: 3 month Internship or long term local commitment
Programs: Internship & Local Volunteer
What’s included: Accommodation for interns only.
Project details: Assist with animal husbandry tasks – cleaning, enrichment, food prep, maintaining enclosures and grounds, night watch, and research papers.
After spending some time working with Tigers in Thailand, I knew I wanted to learn a more western way of caring for exotic cats. Since Canada is not home to many exotic animal sanctuaries (thankfully) I set my sites on the US which (unfortunately) has more tigers in captivity than in the wild. Texas and Miami have the most sanctuaries, so I did my research and applied at a few. Big Cat Rescue in Miami had a huge draw for me, but I should have seen a few red flags when they asked me for a $50 application fee. At the time I was so keen and paid it, only to find out that I would have to fly out and go in for an interview, this did not even guarantee I would get the internship. So, I decided on In Sync Exotics in Texas instead. Unfortunately my 3 month internship ended up being a month and a half, due to an opportunity in Ecuador and my unhappiness of the program.
Now it’s not to say In Sync is a bad sanctuary, they actually treated the animals really well. I just wish they treated the volunteers and staff better during my time. I won’t get into the numerous complaints or drama that occurred; I will just base my opinion in regards to the internship program. Unfortunately, the promises of enrichment, animal training and animal behavior observations were not there due to the overwhelming workload the interns had. I’m not sure if this was due to the fact there was just 2 interns at the time, but the hours where very long (7am to sometimes 11pm) the work was physically demanding (hauling out frozen horse thighs and neatly stacking them in freezers), tedious (pulling out every single lion or tiger hair from the enclosure fence) and sometimes unnecessary (food had to be cut or carved in a certain way or the animal would not eat it). There was a 31 page manual and the list of rules and don’ts surpassed any project (or even job) I’ve had and might be acceptable for some people, but for me it was not an enjoyable experience.
Facility: In Sync Exotics is a large facility full of average size cages and decent outdoor enclosures with swimming pools that are used on a rotating basis. There is a clinic, kitchen, storage, and laundry for the animals.
Tourist Trap: Yes and no. It is open to the public, but it is not gimmicky and is more educational focused. The visitors do not go near the animals and I believe the tours are important to help fund the sanctuary.
Hands on: Not at all. After a few weeks you may learn how to feed an animal safely and supervised through the fence. I actually enjoyed the fact it was not hands on, but unfortunately they discouraged you (or the lack of down time) to be able to sit back and enjoy them.
Volunteer duties: The days are extremely long and you break very quickly for a snack or pee break. The work load is best suited for someone with physical strength, stamina and patience. All aspects of indoor and outdoor enclosure cleaning, food preparation, record keeping, research paper, laundry and whatever else that may come up.
Enrichment: They do provide tons of great enrichment, but during my time there they had only local volunteers doing all the enrichment, training and companionship time. I was only allowed to observe if time permitted.
Overall: Unfortunately, my experience was not the greatest (During my time there was staff drama, change over and a few animal medical emergencies) so I cannot say if this is a bad program, but it was definitely not one I would do again. I’m hoping they have loosened up and have more than 2 interns, because it is a good facility and the animals are treated very, very well.
Daily Duties: The day begins between 6 and 7 and can go all the way up to 11pm if you are on night shift. You will be cleaning enclosures meticulously-changing hay in dens, water tubs, scrubbing and pulling out every hair strand stuck in wire, scooping and recording poop out of pools, indoor and outdoor enclosures, food prep and stock supplies (which has about 10 different tasks), laundry, kitchen cleaning, garbage dumps, night feeding (best part of the program) and heaps of other jobs.
Accommodation: There is accommodation on site, which was quite cool as the windows looked into the cougar enclosure. The house had 3 bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, living room and laundry.
Transportation: I was picked up from the airport, but wish I had rented a car on occasion as the stores were quite far to purchase my food supplies.
Food: You will be cooking all your own meals, stores and restaurants are quite far.
Days off: I had one day off a week and without a car, it was nice to just relax at the sanctuary.
What to pack: Depends on the season – it can get quite hot or cold. Good water proof boots are highly recommended for all seasons.
For more information on the internship project
For more information on local volunteering only