Wildlife Volunteering for Retirees and the Young-at-Heart
Wildlife ACT offers wildlife volunteering for retirees in Africa that is honestly suitable for anyone aged 60 and up. I have volunteered with Wildlife ACT 5 times (for a total of 12 weeks) and the experiences have been life-changing for me. I already had a passion for African wildlife having traveled all over southern Africa since 2003 when I decided to try volunteering in wildlife conservation and found Wildlife ACT. After the first two weeks at Tembe Elephant Park, I was hooked! Staying at a research camp in the heart of the African bush, hearing animals calling though the night, and spending days tracking Lions, African Wild Dogs and Elephants, is both relaxing and exhilarating.
What Tasks are Involved in Wildlife Volunteering for Retirees?
A typical day volunteering with Wildlife ACT involves heading out before sunrise with the priority and endangered species monitor on the back of an open ‘bakkie’ to track and find the animals we were tasked with monitoring. The volunteer teams use telemetry and spoor tracks to search the reserve – seeing many other animals along the way. The main task of a wildlife volunteer is recording animal sightings and behaviour and checking for injuries and snaring incidents. Other wildlife volunteering work involves setting up and checking camera traps which are used to record animal movements when they aren’t sighted.
After one early morning and one late afternoon or sunset wildlife monitoring session, everyone returns to camp to cook supper and chat about the day – before an early night in preparation for another early start.
Locations for Wildlife Volunteering for Retirees
Those who join the wildlife volunteer projects for more than two weeks have the opportunity to move to different reserves for two week periods, which is a great way to experience different environments and meet more volunteers – many who have come to experience wildlife volunteering in Africa for the young-at-heart.
Depending on the needs of the reserve, wildlife volunteers are sometimes able to take part in ‘call ups’. For example, if he reserves needs to fit tracking collars to lions, cheetah or wild dogs – or even dehorn a rhino – the volunteers may be invited along to witness the vet and reserve staff at work. This is a fantastic experience which very few safari tourists would ever get the chance to do.
What would you say to those seeking a Wildlife Volunteering for Retirees Program?
One of the joys of wildlife volunteering is meeting like-minded people, from around the world, of all ages, from different backgrounds, and learning so much about wildlife and conservation, from the monitors, conservationists, and other reserve staff you come into contact with. People of all ages volunteer with Wildlife ACT and no experience is necessary. All that is needed is a passion for African wildlife, a willingness to join in with whatever needs doing, and to not mind getting up at 3am! It truly is a life-changing experience that any age can enjoy.
After 5 years of volunteering (with more to come) I have retired from accountancy and now do fundraising to help protect and provide for orphaned rhinos whose mothers have been killed by poachers. I will continue to volunteer in Africa for many years yet and I hope my story might inspire other ‘oldies’ to go for it.
Written by Jan Kelway (aged 63)