Volunteer work in South Africa

Zululand is considered by many as the heartbeat of Africa and the birthplace of conservation in Africa. The African bush is such a dynamic and ever-changing environment in which to work and our movements and activities are entirely regulated by the animals that we monitor.

A typical day as a conservation volunteer:

  • You’ll get up early in the morning and bundle onto the back of our open 4×4 vehicles and head out on a monitoring session along with your wildlife monitor and the other wildlife conservation volunteers (max 5).
  • Your wildlife monitor will have specific animals he or she needs to monitor. A radio telemetry is used to locate the animals with tracking collars. You will be properly trained to use the telemetry equipment and after 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. You’ll also need to document 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 when there will be 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 in the late afternoon and we’re normally back in camp shortly after sunset to start preparing supper. Most meals are enjoyed sitting around the campfire, listening to the sounds of the bush and discussing the day’s 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.
  • Wildlife ACT’s conservation volunteers prepare their own meals, and are responsible for general cleaning and maintenance in the camp.

Please note:

Depending on how long you join the team for and the time of year, you may also be part of darting or trapping and radio collaring of various animal species, the relocation and re-introduction of game, identity tagging of animal, setting and checking of camera traps, game counts, bird ringing and alien plant control. (Please note that these activities occur strictly when the need arises and cannot be guaranteed).

‘This is Zululand, Not Disneyland’

We have a saying here: ‘This is Zululand, Not Disneyland’. It’s not always easy and there are many challenges along the way, including long hours and tough work, but it’s one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences you’ll ever have. Due to the nature of our work, we often have to track one animal for an entire day, covering large distances without success – but it’s important that we do it. This is not a safari operation and we don’t want to romanticize the work we do. Our projects enable you to experience what life is like as a real conservationist or wildlife researcher – it’s not always fun or easy. This is real Africa and you’ll contribute to conservation as a real natural resource conservation volunteer.

Training and skills:

All training will be via practical tuition in the field. The skills you will gain are:

  • The proper use of telemetry tracking equipment;
  • The use of hand-held GPS devices;
  • How to produce animal identification kits;
  • How to set up and use camera traps to monitor certain endangered species;
  • How to track animals using traditional methods like the identification and following of animal spoor;
  • How to collect animal behavior data and how this data is extrapolated and used to inform and enhance management objectives on these reserves, as well as other reserves across Africa; and
  • A firm understanding of conservation issues facing endangered species across Africa.