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Above and Beyond: Chloe Breakwell

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As children, many of us would have dreamed of being a carer 
for exotic animals, travelling the world to explore some of our rarest fauna.

But one woman who held on to these dreams and then made them a reality is Chloe Breakwell.

After completing her schooling in Canberra, Chloe studied Veterinary Science at the University of Melbourne before taking off across the world. But it all started with a humble house cat.

“As the story commonly goes for people within my profession, I have wanted to be a vet for as long as
I remember,” says Chloe. “Funnily enough, initially I think it was my cat Pep who motivated me. Being an only child who moved around a lot, I never felt lonely with him.”

Chloe explains that Pep’s role 
in her family showed her the extraordinary bond between animals and humans. At age 
12, Chloe moved with her family to Lord Howe Island, a tiny but diverse ecosystem in the Pacific, which is where her passion for the exotic began.

Chloe and Pep

“I fell in love with the beauty of
our natural environment, and the magnificent creatures within it. I think it was from here that I started to look at the bigger picture and my role within it, and I begun to be driven by a desire to ‘do my part’ in the world.”

As soon as Chloe finished her veterinary studies, she set
about this with gusto, working towards what she describes as her overall goal—working in the field of species conservation and environmental health.

Chloe says that, with this in mind, it’s no surprise that she ended up in Africa, learning to work with some of the rarest and most dangerous animals in the world.

“Africa is a continent that is so diverse and unlike anywhere else on this planet,” she says. “Amongst such beauty of the plains, jungles, savannas, mountains, beaches and wildlife you have the horror of poverty, desperation and conflict.

“Species are being driven to extinction at the hands of poachers in a situation that has seen rhino horn become the most valuable commodity on the face of the earth.”

As a result of this, Chloe describes Africa as a hotbed of conservation innovation, with people from
all around the world coming together in an attempt to halt the depressing statistics of extinction and poaching that plague the continent.

Translocating giraffes.

For her, it was the perfect place to learn unique skills for handling these animals, such as darting animals with sedatives from a helicopter and translocating elephants and giraffes.

“A memorable experience would have to be the time I was chased by an angry rhino. She had recently been woken from an anaesthetic in the field, and she had wandered back off into the bush.

“The team and I were walking back to the trucks with our equipment and I was talking with a good friend of mine when we heard hooves and grunting behind us…before I knew it everyone was either up a tree or behind one, and my friend with whom I was talking had taken off at a speed Usain Bolt would be jealous of.

Chloe darting animals from a helicopter.

“As I’m not much of a runner nor an agile tree climber, the rhino was quickly gaining ground 
on me when out of nowhere I remembered an obscure piece of advice I’d once received—‘if a rhino is ever chasing you, take a 90 degree turn either left or right as they are fast but no good at turning’. Very helpful and couldn’t have come at a more perfect time—I quickly managed to get out of her way!”

From that adrenaline-inducing experience to learning to translocate a fully grown male giraffe (you sit on its neck, apparently), it’s no surprise that Chloe has some great stories from over the years, though they’re not all necessarily hair-raising.

“A sea lion I once worked with in a zoo became famous after chewing the lock off his enclosure one night so he could have a swim around in the big pool,” she laughs.

“He didn’t stop there, though, he methodically went around to all the other cages and removed all the locks from them so that all the sea lions were free to have a bit of a party until the keepers found them the next morning!”

While Chloe’s recent travels have included visiting the Charles Darwin research facility in the Galapagos Islands, where she saw giant albatross and met some of the oldest tortoises in
the world, she’s currently doing “nothing vet-related” in Germany, where she’s living for the next
few months in preparation for her wedding there in July. What she is doing is learning German, which she says is “MUCH harder than vet school!”

As for her next adventure? You’ll just have to wait and see.

You can follow Chloe and her travels on her Instagram at @jungle_doctor.

This article originally appeared as part of our Above and Beyond article in Magazine: Taste for Winter 2018, available for free while stocks last. Find out more about Magazine here. 

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