CCF Staff Q&A – Emma Alfonso

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CCF Blog
08.28.2016

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Emma Alfonso, is CCF’s research veterinarian, working under CCF’s registered Veterinarian, Dr. Simone Herzog, is involved in caring for CCF’s livestock guarding dogs, goats and sheep, and cheetahs. Emma aspired to be a veterinarian since she was young. She achieved her ambitions by earning her undergraduate degree in Veterinary Bioscience by first attending the University of Melbourne in Australia in 2011, and then graduating in 2014 with her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine. Her post-graduate internship in South Africa inspired her to pursue a more wildlife-oriented career, thus Alfonso joined the team of scientists and veterinarians at the CCF in February of 2016. She is the current research veterinarian, and was previously CCF’s veterinary technician.

Alfonso’s contributions to CCF are evident in her daily involvement with the animals and other staff members in Namibia. Alfonso’s intense academic and post-graduate commitments to the well-being of wildlife stemmed from her youth where she passionately spent much of her time with animals and in nature. A series of questions were asked, via email, to get a better understanding of how Alfonso’s upbringing contributed to her aspirations as a veterinarian and what her daily involvement with animals are like in Namibia.


Aurora Johnston
Where were you born? Did your upbringing inspire your ambition to work with animals?

Emma Alfonso
I was born in Melbourne, Australia. I’m an only child so my parents encouraged me to interact with animals at a young age – all my life I’ve had a zoo at home, I’ve had birds, fish, rabbits, a mouse, dogs and cats … sometimes all at the same time. I’d bring back injured birds, collect snails and woodlice… I think once I brought home a small mouse that had injured its leg. We would always go for trips overseas, interstate or go camping – I’m grateful that I have been able to experience nature and different environments throughout my childhood.

A.J.
What inspired you to work with animals? Was there any particular animal you wanted to work with when you decided on your undergraduate or graduate path?

E.A.
I’ve always been so fascinated by animals – their biological and social complexities. Mum took me to the zoo a lot and I watched a lot of David Attenborough with Dad, so I think that really influenced me to want to work with wildlife. At university I didn’t particularly have a preference for a particular animal, although knew I definitely did not want to work with domesticated species, except horses perhaps. I love horses.

A.J.
What made you decide to work with wild animals rather than domesticated animals?

E.A.
I like the challenge or the idea that wildlife work is challenging. There tends to be a routine with domestic animal work (although all work has it’s routines) that just didn’t fit me. Plus I could never have a job that kept me indoors.

A.J.
Did you have any role models in your career field growing up?

E.A.
Not really a veterinarian, but I basically wanted to be David Attenborough.

A.J.
How long have you been at CCF in Namibia and what do you like most about living in Namibia?

E.A.
Since February 2016. I love that when I run in the morning I can watch the sun rise over the Waterberg and that spotting oryx, kudu and jackal is the norm.

A.J.
What type of work and interactions do you perform daily to help achieve your career goals?

E.A.
I love to travel. I never pictured myself working back home. Being overseas exposes you to so many new experiences and situations that really test you and your adaptability I guess… I really like that.

A.J.
Did you take on any research activities or internships during your undergraduate or graduate studies?

E.A.
I took a conservation medicine elective in my final year of vet school that allowed me to do some field work and visit various institutions dedicated to rehabilitation and monitoring of wildlife species, as well as zoos and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). I also did an equine internship in the UK at the Royal Veterinary College London.

Emma Alfonso (center) with Dr. Laurie Marker, wildlife photographers Angela and Jonathan Scott, and veterinary interns.

Emma Alfonso (center) with Dr. Laurie Marker, wildlife photographers Angela and Jonathan Scott, and veterinary interns.

A.J.
What contributions do you aspire to achieve during your time at CCF? What are your ultimate career goals?

E.A.
I would love to re-wild or release. Ultimate career goals… I guess use my profession to travel as much as I can and gain experience with various species/organizations.

A.J.
What advice would you give to undergraduate students aspiring to study vet medicine?

E.A.
Don’t let anyone convince you it is impossible. (My high school career advisor told me to reconsider, although I was a pretty lousy student). If you really want it, it’s attainable.

A.J.
Do you run into any challenges or hardships while working with wild animals?

E.A.
Sometimes trying to make the right decision as to what is best for the animal can be difficult. Making a call as to when to push and persevere or call it quits for an individual or group is tough.

A.J.
Have you had any rewarding experiences working with the animals or people during your time at CCF?

E.A.
Always. It is so rewarding to see patients get better and see that your hard work is worth the time and effort, like Mendel and managing his chronic renal failure or Queen Mary the goat who was attacked by a caracal and had a broken collar bone but is now fighting fit. I also enjoy teaching vet students, especially help them improve their veterinary clinical skills, its nice to see them so happy and appreciative when you take the time for them.

A.J.
Do you have a favorite resident cheetah at CCF?

E.J.
My favorite was Rosy.

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