Rhiannon works in Penguin A&E

Rhiannon Gill, IWB graduate, Penguin A&E.jpeg

Rhiannon graduated from the BSc (Hons) International Wildlife Biology and now works for the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) as a Bird Rehabilitator. She recently appeared on Channel 5’s Penguin A&E with Lorraine Kelly. She tells us about her time on the course and what a typical day involves for her nowadays…

Why did you decide to study BSc (Hons) International Wildlife Biology?

"My interest in the natural world and biology began during my primary school years. My teacher had such enthusiasm and passion for wildlife, which resonated with me and inspired my own interests. She kept jars in her classroom of animals that had passed away or were stillborn – these fascinated me. She took us on many field trips and hikes during which her vast knowledge about the outdoors was filtered down to us, and certainly sparked something in me.

"The course content of the BSc (Hons) International Wildlife Biology at USW, in particular the broad spectrum of topics covered and the field trips on offer, enticed me to apply. When I had my interview and met Dr Peter Roy Wiles (then Course Leader), I knew I had made the right decision, his down to earth nature reminded me of my primary school teacher!

"Apart from the course offering multiple field trips, great content and fantastic lecturers, the campus itself was one I fell in love with. The Alfred Russell Wallace building on the face of a mountain offered a tranquil study setting."

What is your favourite memory of your time at University?

"I thoroughly enjoyed the element of field work and field courses on offer. The lecturers were wonderful too, each with their own unique teaching style, but all with an element of enthusiasm for what they were teaching.

"We had the opportunity to take part in trips within Wales and abroad. The local trips involved field work in the local area, one down at Sully (on the coast) and an expedition to the National Botanical Gardens.

"The field trips abroad involved a month in South Africa and two weeks in Borneo. All of these excursions were incredibly valuable, the memories and knowledge gained will stay with me forever." 

What inspired you to move to South Africa and begin working at the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB)?

"I was born and raised in South Africa and I always knew one day I would move back, hopefully equipped with a degree and skills!

"Following graduation, I watched a documentary by Michaela Strachan about SANCCOB, and decided to look into what they offered. They run a number of internship and volunteer programs, and they need the support of volunteers to keep doing what they do best.

"I applied to take part in their three-month Seabird Rehabilitation Internship, with the idea of using it to gain valuable experience and to give me the chance to meet people, as well as look for other opportunities while in the country.

"Towards the end of my internship, a position became vacant within their Bird Rehab team, so I decided to apply. My application was successful and here I am today; a Bird Rehabilitator for SANCCOB."

What is a typical day like for you at work?

"A typical day for me starts around 6:30am, and will involve opening up the centre and checking on the birds, ensuring they are all still present and alive. My responsibilities include feeding the birds, preparing and administering medication and fluids for those birds that need specific treatments.

"As a bird rehabber, it is my responsibility to ensure our volunteers and interns receive training on how to handle the wide variety of seabirds which are admitted to the centre. Currently, we have African penguins, cormorants, Cape gannets, Kelp and Hartlaubs gulls as well as the odd Pelican and pelagic birds (petrels, shearwaters and albatross)."

How were you involved with the filming of Penguin A&E for Channel 5?

"I was lucky enough to be filmed a number of times for the programme. It was a great experience, but it’s not as glamorous as one might think. My prime goal is to stay on time with caring for the birds, but at the same time being available for the film crew with answers to any of their questions. It takes a lot of practise saying everything right for them first time. When you have birds that require medication at specific times you cannot afford to do multiple retakes. The bird is your priority. Highly enjoyable though!"

Any advice for current USW students who may have an interest in following your career path?

"The job involves a lot more than that described and I would highly recommend to anyone who would like a career in rehabilitation of animals, to come to SANCCOB and see the hard work required when you are part of an organisation fighting to save a specie or species."


Find out more

If you’ve been inspired by Rhiannon’s story, why not explore your own options for after graduation? You can find out about internship opportunities at SANCCOB and how to get involved on their website.

To get started on a path towards a career in conservation, find out more about our BSc (Hons) International Wildlife Biology course.