Danielo is riding for the animals

Danielo Fernandes about to set off on a cycling tour of New Zealand in 2012, after finishing his studies at Stellenbosch, and prior to starting training as a veterinarian at Onderstepoort.

A passion for animals from his earliest years has led Somerset West resident Danielo Fernandes to ardently pursue his dream of helping animals, and becoming a voice for animals of, as he puts it, “all shapes and sizes” all over the world.

Midway through his final year of a sciences degree in biodiversity and ecology at Stellenbosch University, Danielo realised that whereas he originally thought “needles and medicine” were not for him, volunteering at the Animal Welfare Society Helderberg (AWSH) while studying, changed his mind. “I began volunteering in my first year of studies, and gradually I came to understand that I could have an immediate and direct impact on animals’ lives, if I did become a veterinarian,” he says.

Although not quite switching horses in mid-stream, it was nonetheless a significant decision to move to the faculty of veterinary medicine at the University of Pretoria, housed at Onderstepoort, and pretty much start from scratch, but he bit the bullet and made the move.

“I’m about to enter into my fifth year of studies, and once I’m done, I’d like to combine my love for working with dogs, my interest in community work, and my passion for conserving our natural environment and the wild animals that call it home, into a career in veterinary medicine and conservation,” Danielo told Bolander.

But with two years of studying to go, and being up in Pretoria most of each year, it means he can’t volunteer at AWSH or Overberg -based Rescue Animal Drive (RAD).

Impatient to start making a difference, he came up with an idea that will allow him to contribute materially to these two organisations that do an enormous amount of good in the Helderberg and the Overberg.

He is embarking on a 1 000km cycle odyssey during his summer vacation, in an attempt to raise awareness of the plight of abandoned animals, and to raise funds to support these two community organisations that do so much to save them from euthanasia.

Danielo explains: “My main goal is to encourage the adoption of shelter animals, and to hopefully place a welfare organisation as the go-to place for people looking to bring an animal into their family.

“I hope to promote the fact that despite perhaps having a tougher start to their lives, the animals that find themselves in such places are no less loving and loyal, and will bring no less joy to a family or person’s life than any other animal, if only given the chance.”

Starting at the AWSH kennels in Gordon’s Bay on Saturday morning, November 26, Danielo will cycle up Sir Lowry’s Pass to Villiersdorp, along Route 62 through Robertson, Montagu, Barrydale, Ladismith, Calitzdorp, and Oudtshoorn, then back down to Van Wyksdorp, Riversdale, De Hoop Nature Reserve, Bredasdorp, Agulhas National Park, Gansbaai, and Hermanus, finishing up back at AWSH kennels in Gordon’s Bay, some time on Saturday December 10.

This is a truly solo endeavour, as Danielo explains: “I will be carrying everything I need on the bicycle. Some volunteers from the organisations I’m supporting might join me on one or two legs as company and for updates, but my aim for this fundraiser is a completely solo cycle for the 1 000km, with no support or vehicles.”

Along the way, Danielo plans to engage with communities and organisations to spread the word about abandoned animals. “I’ll be talking to primary school pupils on my route. I hope to give a short talk about basic animal care and ownership to the children in Grade 1, emphasising the responsibility that comes with having an animal.

“My goal is to encourage the kids to embrace this responsibility, and hopefully foster a love for animals at a young age.”

His intention in engaging with animal welfare organisations en route, is twofold. “I want to understand their challenges with regard to finance, the intake of animals, and finding homes for animals. I also want to give them some exposure, and more recognition for the work they do, both on social media, and when I write about my experiences after the journey.”

But the main goal of his epic ride, is to raise funds for AWHS and RAD. “My plea is therefore to any business, large or small, individual, community organisation, or even a Sunday knitting club, to make a donation to these worthy causes,” he says.

“Many of the donors who give, will feature on my cycling shirts during my ride, and they will also get mention in my writing afterwards.”

Danielo’s trip is entirely self-funded: “I won’t be using any of the money raised, to fund my trip. I’d rather the money goes to the organisations I want to help. Fortunately, I’ve managed to get all the gear I’ll need from generous friends and family.”

Follow Danielo’s incredible journey by visiting his Facebook page, ADOPT, on which he will post updates and pictures during the ride.

If you would like to support Danielo’s drive to raise funds for AWSH or RAD, contact him on 082 840 7036 or dandog711@gmail.com, or Nicola Ramos on 084 803 8873 or nixrsa@gmail.com for more information.