Volunteering a minimum of two weeks at the Priority Species Monitoring Program is unique because it actively helps save priority species by personally implementing and managing monitoring projects on reserves which do not have the capacity to run such projects themselves. The program is responsible for some of most important wildlife research monitoring projects in Southern Africa. The priority species worked with are endangered species like Cheetah, Wild dog and Black Rhino, as well as animals with a high ecological impact like Lions and Elephants – They need YOU to be a part of the exciting conservation done.
Wildlife monitoring is essential for keeping track of animal movement patterns, habitat utilization, population demographics, snaring and poaching incidents and breakouts. This valuable information (which our volunteers help gather), has numerous management applications including the planning of successful introduction and removal strategies of priority wildlife species. Experience hands-on what it is like to be a ranger.
Your role as Volunteer
1. Elephant and Rhino monitoring
At the start of August 2008, seven bulls were successfully vasectomised. PGR is the first place that information is being collected on the healing process of this complicated procedure. All the information you will be helping to collect will contribute to the future management of elephants all over the world. You will mostly be concentrating on the bulls and their behavior towards females and other bulls to determine if the vasectomies have any effect on their social behavior.
PGR was the third location for the WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP) in 2006. The projects aim is to give the rhino more space to encourage them to breed, thus increasing the population of this critically endangered species. Data such as GPS locations, associations, condition, birth and mating occurrences and behavior are all recorded.
As with the elephant each rhino’s ID cards must be updated on a regular basis, as the rhinos often tear their ears and change their notch patterns. Admin tasks such as data entry of sightings must be completed, and monthly reports get sent to WWF on the progress of these animals.
2. Other Activities
You will help check in on the hyena at their den sites and create ID kits; as well as occasionally putting meat out for the growing vulture population nesting on the property so we them to encourage them to remain in the area. You will also keep track of the herd of buffalo: checking their numbers and looking for any injuries etc. From time to time volunteers may be included in darting various key species to fit new radio collars or to fix any injuries as well as being present at re-introductions of various species.
3. Monitoring Endangered and Priority Species
As a volunteer, you will act as the monitor’s direct assistant. You will work closely with the monitor, aiding them with the day to day activities of the project. Daily activities will include the tracking and locating of the following focal species: wild dog, lion, cheetah and hyena. Incidental monitoring of elephant, buffalo and white rhino will also take place as they are seen.
This involves firstly locating the animal by means of radio telemetry, by tracking, or opportunistically. Then various important data is recorded, such as the GPS location, group composition, associations, behaviour and then photographic recordings of the animal for the development of an accurate identikit for identifying individuals. These activities are conducted from a game drive vehicle, driven by the Wildlife monitor. Most of these activities will entail early mornings and late evenings, with a midday break taken in between monitoring sessions.
You will be tracking and locating animals in vehicles and on foot around the 40,000 hectare reserve. You will be taught how to use tracking equipment such as radio telemetry, and be taught other methods of tracking. Information such as behaviour and location will be recorded on each sighting. You will also be responsible for assisting with the camp maintenance.
4. Other Activities
Depending on the time of year, you may also be involved in other activities such as:
• Game counts
• Radio collaring various species
• Leopard tracking
• Community and conservation work
• Relocation, re-introduction of game
• Alien plant control
• Bird ringing
The project takes place in several different game reserves in the Kwa Zulu Natal province in South Africa. Depending on your length of stay will you get the opportunity to visit and work on all three of the reserves.
Pongola Game Reserve
Surrounded by the magnificent lake Jozini and Lebombo Mountains, it’s hard to imagine a more beautiful setting. Two of the key species here at PGR are the 60 elephants and 10 Black rhino which you will be helping to monitor on a daily basis. These projects are in collaboration with well known conservation authorities such as the WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project and the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund who recently undertook the huge operation of performing vasectomies on seven of the elephant bulls.
Thanda Game Reserve
This reserve is situated in an area exceptionally rich in fauna and flora, boasting not only the big five but over 400 bird species. Over the past few years a number of indigenous keystone species, including wild dog, cheetah, lion, elephant, buffalo and white rhino have been reintroduced to the reserve. The endangered species monitoring programme was initiated to assess the progress of these reintroduced species along with getting a handle on the resident leopard and hyena population’s demographics. Eeach volunteer will have the opportunity to make a significant contribution to this project while gaining invaluable experience in the field.
Mkhuze Game Reserve
Mkhuze Game Reserve is one of the oldest game reserves in South Africa.
It is situated in the northern part of Zululand and is part of a World Heritage Site, The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park. The reserve offers an abundance of wildlife including endangered species such as black rhino, cheetah, wild dog, elephant and buffalo. The Wildlife Endangered Species Monitoring Programme was initiated to monitor the progress of the reintroduced endangered and priority species, along with black and white rhino populations.
On your first days will you be introduced to the project coordinator, the project facilities and the game reserve. Your days will be spent working alongside a highly qualified and experiences wildlife monitor, giving you the opportunity to learn not only about these focal species but about many other aspects of the African Bushveld, and gain exclusive hands on experience.
A typical week at the project
- You’ll rise with the sun and head out for an adventure on the back of our open 4×4 vehicles.
- You’ll join one of our wildlife monitors and a maximum of five other wildlife conservation volunteers to locate the animals which the monitor has earmarked for the morning. This is done by using radio telemetry equipment. You will be properly trained to use the telemetry equipment and after just a few days you’ll be doing the telemetry tracking yourself. Once you’ve located the animal you will map the sighting using a handheld GPS device, and update identity kits if necessary, as well as documenting behavioural notes used in our research. The species we monitor include critically endangered species such as the African Wild Dog (Painted Dog), Cheetah, Black Rhino and Vulture. We also do incidental monitoring of focal species such as Elephant, White Rhino, Hyaena and Leopard.
- We’re usually back by late morning to fix lunch and have some time to relax, read, write in your journal, have a nap or watch the abundant bird and animal life which occurs around the camp.
- We head out again around 15h00 to follow up on the animals we didn’t locate in the morning. We’re normally back in camp shortly after sunset to start preparing supper. Most meals are enjoyed siting around the fire, listening to the sounds of the bush and discussing the days activities. After a long day, we’re usually in bed early, excited for the day ahead!
- At least once a week we have a day set aside to input the information we’ve gathered into the computer and make an analysis of the data. Conservation volunteers prepare their own meals, and are responsible for camp cleaning and maintenance.
Costs & Inclusive / Exclusive
First Two Weeks: ZAR 10,900.-
For every subsequent two weeks: ZAR 8,700,-
- All accommodation throughout the programme
- All meals (groceries provided, volunteers needs to prepare)
- Orientation upon arrival
- Full support and daily guidance from the project coordinator / ranger
- Project equipment/materials
- Back up support for Share Africa’s head office and administrative staff
- Transfer from Richards Bay airport to the project (ZAR 1,200.-)
- Personal travel insurance for the duration of the placement
- All flights
- All items of a personal nature, such as curios, gifts, clothing (work and other)
- Personal activities
- Any excursions over and above the planned itinerary
Arrival Dates 2013
- 7th or 21th January
- 4th or 18th February
- 4th or 18th March
- 1st, 15th or 29th April
- 13th or 17th May
- 10th or 24th June
- 8th or 22th July
- 5th or 19th August
- 2nd, 16th or 30th September
- 14th or 28th October
- 11th or 25th November
- 9th December
Please read our terms and conditions to inform yourself about our booking procedures.
Kindly note that the prices and accommodation are subject to change based on date, availability and special requests.