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Annika Karlsen ‘09 - Cheetah Conservatory Internship


It was with a simple Google search that Annika Karlsen ‘09 realized her passion and came across an opportunity of a lifetime. “When I first applied, I remember looking at the mission statement, “Conservation at our core.” Knowing I wanted to work with cheetahs in South Africa, I had typed in “cheetah sanctuary” and numerous projects popped up. While I carefully looked through each project, I saw smiling faces of people hugging and lying next to cheetahs. These cheetahs are happy, right? They sure look happy! Still, something didn’t feel right. After sifting through pages of projects, I finally came across Ashia and, more specifically, the Release Program.”

After graduating from Grammar, Annika attended Vancouver Film School for acting. She had continued to pursue many acting and modelling opportunities and made the decision to move to Toronto. Annika returned to school to pursue her Animal Care Worker Diploma at Durham College, where she completed a co-op at the Toronto Zoo. Annika then spent two incredible months interning at the Ashia Cheetah Conservatory in South Africa. During her time there, her main focus was to research the Cheetah Run and its importance for captive cats. Her time at the conservatory gave her insight into cheetah conservation and the work involved across different parties.

With this experience, she finally understood what “conservation at our core” actually meant and where she realized her true passion for wildlife rehabilitation and conservatory.


Annika is grateful to Ashia for the opportunity given to her, “Thank you for teaching me the importance of making a real difference to this species, along with other wildlife, and doing our part to keep them wild. This internship has astronomically increased my interest in pursuing a life in conservation. Thank you for teaching me something I didn’t even know I was looking for.”

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