Lauren cares for an owl

Zambia's lion queen is a 22-year-old from Winslow

"I was determined to live in Africa since the age of nine," says animal lover Lauren

Thursday, 6th May 2021, 4:07 pm

A 22-year-old Winslow woman is following her childhood dream to help build a wildlife hospital in Africa.

Lauren Macneil left Winslow in March, to fly to Zambia to work for ANGWA Conservation, a non-profit organisation that runs an African wildlife rescue centre near Lusaka. It is in the process of building the country’s first wildlife hospital and rehabilitation centre, which it hopes will become a flagship for wildlife care in Southern Africa.

Lauren, who attended the Royal Latin School, said: "I suppose I’ve always been a weird child in the sense I was determined to live in Africa since the age of nine. I don’t know why, I only ever saw it on the TV, but for some reason it felt like that was going to be my home, and my old classmates will attest to my unnatural obsession with David Attenborough!

"When I finished my A-levels, I got an email back from a National Park in Zambia that I’d asked to volunteer with. They said yes, so I accepted the position before I knew my results, as I was convinced I wouldn’t get into university.

"But results day came and I got in, so I deferred for a year, went to work for seven months in the bush in northern Zambia and had the experience of a lifetime - not all pleasant. It was definitely a growing-up moment and I caught malaria quite seriously while there."

On returning to the UK, Lauren studied Zoology at the University of Exeter's Cornwall campuses, but says she "had the African bug and was desperate to return".

She told the Advertiser: "I was constantly emailing people for jobs, even during the pandemic just before I graduated, and got given the name Bruce Woods."

Bruce, who was single-handedly running the sanctuary he’d set up, was more than happy to accept help and told Lauren about his plans.

Once lockdown restrictions eased and Lauren had worked and saved enough money, she flew out to Zambia on March 28 2021.

She told the Advertiser: "I’ve now taken over all the fundraising and organisational stuff while doing all the hands-on wildlife care too. We’re just waiting for our final meeting with the government directors that are in charge of the land we want to build on and we'll have the green light.

"We want to build this hospital to be a hub for animal care. We currently receive animals of all species from all over Zambia - some even being flown to us on private planes.

"Once it’s up and running, we can receive visitors and veterinary consults from around the world and slowly expand our operations into fighting animal trafficking here in Zambia.

"My dream has always been to work with big cats, particularly lions, and this is something I still plan to do. We will be taking control of four young lions as part of the project, which I’m very excited about."

Lauren added: "I have worked with horses and livestock growing up, but never the species we get here. So it’s all been 'a learn on the job' experience, which I love. I can now confidently pick up birds of prey and hand feed them and handle the 4m python we have that required regular vet visits."

Find out more about A Different Wild Rehabilitation Sanctuary here.

To support the wildlife hospital plan see Lauren's fundraising page here

On Instagram, follow angwa_conservation or follow Lauren at offonwalkabout

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