Devizes couple Steve and Catherine Drage were not comfortable when their 17-year-old daughter Gabriela decided she was going to South Africa to work on a lion reserve.

But when she rang up and said: “Hello, Mum, I’m sitting here with 13 lion cubs around me”, they very nearly told her to come home.

But for Gabriela it was the trip of a lifetime and the chance to head off to an exotic destination to do something remarkable.

Mrs Drage said: “With most of these working trips abroad you have to be at least 18 but Gabriela went online and found a company that took people younger than that.

“She chose to go to this reserve that specialises in bringing up white lions but they have all kinds of other animals there, including tigers, giraffes and elephants.
“She worked at Morrisons to raise enough money for the trip and paid for it all herself.”

Gabriela had a long working day, starting at 7am and sometimes working until 6pm, though it hardly seemed like work when she was getting up close and personal with animals she would only have seen at the zoo or on TV.

Gabriela, who is currently studying for A-levels at St Augustine’s RC College in Trowbridge, intends to go to university to read ecology and sustainable development.