A CORK woman in South Africa helping with the rescue of wild animals like hippos has revealed she is now stranded there after having three flights cancelled due to Covid-19.
Fairhill native and veterinary nurse Vanessa Goggin is currently on lockdown at the Umoya Khulula Wildlife Centre where she is caring for exotic animals. She had wanted to come home amid fears that Cork would go into lockdown which inevitably happened last Friday.
The 27-year-old had planned to fly home to self-isolate and support her family during this difficult time. Nonetheless, her hopes were dashed after three cancelled flights.
Through it all, and despite worries for friends and family back home, she continues to help care for the animals who benefit from refuge at the centre following unspeakable abuse, injury or abandonment.
Vanessa’s mum Valerie went to great lengths to get her home, even contacting the embassy in the process.
“Mum would have gotten a helicopter out to me if she could,” Vanessa joked. “My friends were ringing asking 'when are you going to come home? When we first came out here there were no cases of coronavirus. I don’t think anyone realised how bad this was going to get.” The Cork woman, however, reassured that she is okay and in the best place possible. She has now booked a flight for April 22 in the hope of being reunited with her family.
“Ever since I was small I said I wanted to go to Africa to care for exotic animals. When that became a reality I cried every time I thought about it. You see it on TV a lot but in reality it’s even more amazing."
Vanessa said that seeing the type of injuries some of these animals have sustained firsthand can be very difficult.
“At the moment there are three hippos here,” she explained. “One of them is is Hope, who was taken in after being found in a canal. People had been stoning her. Sometimes hippos are still killed for food and this may have been what they were trying to do.”
The Fairhill woman is currently trying to make the best of what might have been a very worrying situation.
“If I was at home right now I would just be sitting in my bedroom,” she said. “This is something that I had dreamt of for such a long time. At least where I am there is still room to walk around and see all the animals. The people here are very nice and we're being taken good care of.
In the course of her day Vanessa cares for all manner of animals from jackals to antelopes. The centre where she works cares for the animals before they are strong enough to find their way into the outside world again.
Returning to her old life will be challenging for Vanessa when she finally makes it home.
“When I get home I’ll probably be going into isolation for two weeks. I hope that by that time get back I’ll be able to hug my family but if not will just have to settle for air hugs.”
South Africa has experienced more than 1,100 cases of Covid-19, a significant rise in recent days. To date, only one death has been recorded that can be attributed to the virus.
South African authorities have now ordered everyone bar essential workers to stay at home and are only allowing trips to buy groceries or medical appointments. All restaurants, fast-food outlets, pubs, bars and taverns have been shut and transportation of alcohol banned.