Its been a year in the planning but primate keeper Jade Reddalls dream to work with baboons in the wild is about to become a reality.
Until now the furthest the 25-year-old DZG keeper, pictured above, has been is Spain on holiday.
But today she embarks on a four-week mission to South Africa to help feed and care for the countrys indigenous chacma baboons.
And DZG is right behind her. The zoo has given Jade paid leave to carry out the vital and rewarding work and donated hand tools and stationery, including pen knives, pliers, pens and pads, which she will take out with her.
Jade, from Willenhall, is crazy about baboons, especially Billie Dudley Zoos first Gelada baby in its 78-year history.
She was the first keeper to discover Billie, shown below, when he was born in July 2014.
During her trip, Jade will be based at C.A.R.E Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education where she will live and work with volunteers from around the world.
The specialist rehabilitation centre is within a Big 5 Nature Reserve and was established in 1989 by Rita Miljo, who tragically died in a fire at the centre in July 2012. It now has a dedicated director and progress is being made to rebuild the facilities.
At any time an average of 450 baboons of varying ages are housed at the centre in large enclosures and most are released back into the wild after rehabilitation.
Most of the animals that arrive at C.A.R.E. are babies, orphaned after their mothers were shot, trapped, poisoned, or otherwise killed, usually by humans.
Jade, who will be out there in the rainy season when temperatures soar to 40 degrees, said: I did lots of research as Id always wanted to go to South Africa and when I found this centre and read about the work it did with baboons it caught me eye.
Hopefully, being a primate keeper, I will get chance to be a bit more hands-on and help their staff look after the larger baboons as well as the babies and juveniles.
When I get back I hope to raise awareness and money for the C.A.R.E. which, because of the fire, needs support more than ever.
It would be great to share what I learn with my colleagues at DZG through a presentation and Id also like to go to a zoo conference to talk about the work I experience.
On her days off Jade hopes to visit the nearby Kruger National Park, the chimpanzee rehabilitation centre and the vervet monkey rescue centre.
She added: Its always been a dream to do this and I’m really excited. Ive saved up the money to go over several years but its brilliant DZG is supporting me to get involved in this vital conservation work.
Jade has been a keeper at Dudley Zoo for just over two years after working at West Midland Safari Park and training at Rodbaston College in Staffordshire.
Have an amazing trip Jade – Can’t wait to hear how you get on!