Eve Mansfield | Laos Conservation Trust for Wildlife

Sometimes Eve can’t quite believe where she has ended up in life. She’s the director of the Laos Conservation Trust for Wildlife set deep in the heart of rural Laos and she’s not even 30 years old. I’ve known her for years and will sometimes catch up with her online. Our conversation will go something like this: “How’s it all going Eve?”“All good thanks, we are just in the car on our way to rescue two bear cubs. How’s things with you?” Whatever you’re doing in life you can’t really frame a reply to equal that.

Meet Eve Mansfield, formally a zoo keeper in the UK and now director of the Laos Conservation Trust for Wildlife. Eve and her partner George decided to go travelling around the world and eventually ended up in Laos where they took over the management of the sanctuary. They had their work cut out to attempt to turn it into the place it is today but thanks to their help it stands proud as an astounding and important centre for rehabilitation, release, conservation, education and welfare.

Laos Conservation Trust for Wildlife

The centre (and Eve’s house) is located about 60km from the capital city, hidden away in a rural village location surrounded by forests, lakes, open fields and the calls of their various charges. Eve wakes up to gibbons welcoming in the morning with their songs and she goes to sleep at night to the chattering mischief of jackals.

Her job role as a Director is very varied. “Flexibility is key” she tells me. “At any one time I could be tasked with implementing a rescue, planning the future of the centre, designing and updating websites and social media, assisting with veterinary care or even looking into finance and human resources. Since being there I have had to utilise all my animal management knowledge but also had to teach myself about all the other aspects associated with building and running a non profit organisation.”

Whenever I manage to speak to Eve she is usually exhausted and in the middle of doing ten other tasks. But she still manages to summon up enough energy to tell me about exciting new projects she has lined up and generally delight in the joys of the job.

Wildlife in Loas

One such joyful aspect is a successful rescue and release she tells me about: “Recently we had a confiscation of over 100 native birds which we worked with the Laos government to confiscate from the illegal wildlife trade. Then within a week we had managed to release all but 5 of those birds back out into species specific safe areas. It was a great but exhausting week!”

However it is still an incredibly tough gig. Aside from the challenging climate and being so far from home, working with animals, particularly rescues, inevitably leads to some individuals which don’t make it.

“One death that hit me particularly hard was an infant red-shanked douc langur rescued by us from the illegal wildlife trade. He was not in good health due to his previous situation. However after three days of dedicated work he was eating and drinking extremely well and there was a flicker of hope for him. Then on the 4th night he passed away. There was nothing our veterinary team could do. These animals are so fragile, we just want to do everything we can to help them.”

In order to get to this stage in her career, Eve’s journey has incorporated gaining valuable (and sometimes voluntary) experiences in as many facilities as she can. “It’s been useful to be able to see how all of these facilities are run and being able to compare and learn from the good and the bad. The whole of my career has built up to this journey to Laos”

Careers Advice for Conservationists

Her advice for anyone wanting to get into this industry is to be open minded about the opportunities that present themselves and make sure to mentally remove any preconceptions. “Undergoing a bad experience can be just as valuable a learning tool as the good experiences. The bad ones can guide you into how to be better at what you’re doing and cement what it is you know is right.” She also echoes something that I wrote about in a previous article and that is to never give up.

“Opportunities can and will present themselves to you and who knows where you might end up.” Eve expresses her own surprise at where she has landed in the world but she believes in chasing the opportunity to make a positive impact and that’s exactly what she has done to end up in Laos surrounded by the chaos, the vision of the future and hundreds of animals in need.

If you want to go out to Laos and be a part of the action, check out https://lctwildlife.org for volunteer opportunities.

Footnote: The hands on aspect to this role depicted in the photographs is only out of necessity and not through a desire to humanise any of the animals. It is important to be as hands off as possible, particularly for animals that are due to be released.

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