With his trunk packed, teen’s off to save the elephants
AN URGE to help sick and injured animals has been a life-long passion for veterinary science student Lauchlan Patterson.
However, the Toowoomba teenager will take that passion a step further when he leaves for Laos today to spend three weeks helping to rehabilitate injured and orphaned elephants.
The 19-year-old has just completed his second year of studies at the University of Queensland's Gatton campus where he was offered the opportunity to join university students from around the world and volunteer at the elephant conservation centre in Sayaboury in Laos.
"I've never worked with elephants before so this will be a first," Mr Patterson explained.
"But I've always wanted to work with at-risk wildlife, this will be very fulfilling.
"At this rehabilitation centre they treat injured and orphaned elephants in the hope of releasing them back into the wild.
"They also take elephants from circuses which may have been mistreated.
"Those elephants which can't be released back into the wild are put into a breeding program with the hope their off-spring can be released into the wild."
The former Toowoomba Christian Outreach College student said the trip would be a great experience and help him in his chosen profession.
He said, at this point, he intended to frame his veterinary career more to wildlife conservation rather than going into private practice when he eventually graduated.
"The elephant population is declining so it will be good to help out," Mr Patterson said.
"I've always wanted to travel to places but I would like to be doing something when I get there.
"I'd like to try and work with Australian wildlife but at the moment there doesn't appear to be a career in that."
Mr Patterson said the elephants of south Asia were not as at risk as their counterparts in Africa which were slaughtered simply for their tusks.
"There were about 30,000 elephants killed in Africa last year," he frowned.
"And for what? The only thing you are likely to get from consuming elephant tusk is some disease.
"In a way, I can understand the local people who shoot the elephants in Africa... they are just trying to feed their families.
"It's the people who use the tusk as some sort of medicine - who create the demand - who should be targeted."