Drakensberg Conservation Project

Maloti-Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site and Surrounds

Everything you need to know

The Southern Drakensberg Conservation Project takes place both in and around the Maloti-Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site in South Africa, a crucial stronghold for several threatened and endangered species. During their time at the Project, volunteers live in an authentic farmhouse situated in the buffer-zone surrounding the World Heritage Site, surrounded by breathtaking scenery.

Project type

Volunteer

Duration

1 - 2 Weeks

Price

R18,975.00 For 2 weeks

Requirements

Relatively fit. Ages: 18 - 65+
Overview
Project Detail
What Will I Do?
Where Will I Stay?
Dates & Costs

Overview

WE ALSO OFFER THE OPTION TO JOIN THIS PROJECT FOR 1 WEEK, AT A RATE OF R9,100 FOR 1 WEEK

The Southern Drakensberg Conservation Project is Wildlife ACT’s most recent conservation project focusing on the monitoring of endangered and critically endangered vultures, and various other priority species and protected area boundary conservation work. The vulture conservation work involves nest monitoring and vulture-safe feeding site management and monitoring, management of a long-term camera trap survey and various protected area boundary support, such as alien plant control and emergency response for issues related to vultures and other priority species. A significant focus of the project is placed on implementing conservation efforts for the vulnerable Cape Vulture and the critically endangered Bearded Vulture.

The Maloti-Drakensberg Park is a World Heritage Site in KwaZulu-Natal and is one of the five largest protected areas in South Africa – providing one of the last strongholds for several threatened and endangered species. The Southern Drakensberg Conservation Project heavily focused on vulture conservation, helping to conserve South Africa’s two cliff nesting species of vulture found in the area, namely the Bearded Vulture and Cape Vulture.

The Drakensberg region is a breeding stronghold for these endangered birds. The team monitors and manages vulture-safe feeding sites and nests through active surveys, camera traps and ground-based hide monitoring. Vultures are a keystone species providing several fundamental ecosystem services, including reducing disease outbreaks, and this project and its aims align with and helps to support the national and provincial vulture conservation strategy of developing vulture-safe zones across the region.

LOCATION

The Maloti-Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site is renowned for its spectacular natural landscape, importance as a haven for many threatened and endemic species, and for its wealth of rock paintings made by the San people over a period of 4,000 years. The Heritage Site covers an area of 249,313 ha making it the largest Protected Area complex along the Great Escarpment of Southern Africa. Extending along most of KwaZulu-Natal’s south-western border with Lesotho, the property provides a vital refuge for more than 250 endemic plant species and their associated fauna. It also holds almost all of the remaining subalpine and alpine vegetation in the KwaZulu-Natal province, including extensive high altitude wetlands. The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park has been identified as an Important Bird Area, and forms a critical part of the Lesotho Highlands Endemic Bird Area. The Southern Drakensberg Conservation Project also includes focused conservation work in the buffer-zone surrounding the Heritage Site, calling on local communities’ support. As a result, a number of the project’s activities take place on local farms, offering exclusive access to Wildlife ACT.

Project Detail

The Southern Drakensberg Conservation Project is made possible through a collaboration between Wildlife ACT, the Drakensberg Conservation Initiative and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. This project is actively increasing wildlife conservation efforts in the Southern Drakensberg, with a large focus on vulture conservation, as well as priority species monitoring and protected area boundary conservation support.

The project’s work involves the monitoring of nesting sites in the World Heritage Site and surrounds, managing and maintaining safe vulture feeding sites in the buffer zones surrounding the site, and conducting a long-term remote camera trapping survey in the Maloti-Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site. Working closely with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), the Southern Drakensberg Conservation Project will provide useful information for use in management and policy making within the World Heritage Site and surrounding areas. Other work done by the project involves alien plant control and emergency response for issues related to vultures and other priority species.

A second aspect involves conducting a long-term camera trap survey to allow for robust predictions regarding the status and abundance of the various species present. This survey will provide the necessary long-term insights into the ecosystem health and current species status within this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Get in touch with us via the form below if you are interested in joining

Examples: Current studies/profession, hobbies, other volunteer or travel experiences. Let us know if you have any questions about conservation volunteering in Africa.
PLEASE NOTE: The more information you supply, the better equipped we will be to co-ordinate placements and participants. Please bear in mind that living and working closely as a team may also be mentally/emotionally demanding. You know yourself and any limitations you may have, best. Your honesty in response to this question affects your safety (and the safety of your fellow participants) while participating in the monitoring work. Failure to disclose any potentially important information could result in hazardous situations in this wild and unpredictable environment in which we work. Extreme cases, in which the program is compromised through failure to divulge this information, could result in participants being asked to leave without a refund.

What Will I Do?

At the Southern Drakensberg Conservation Project, volunteers can expect to get involved with on-the-ground conservation work for endangered species in the area. Due to the nature of the project, activities can be quite physical with many hiking opportunities into beautiful and scenic mountainous areas. Primary responsibilities include:

Vulture Nest Monitoring: Volunteers will be required to monitor the various nest sites in the area, which often means hiking into mountainous areas, and often involves long hours identifying and monitoring activity at the nesting sites. This only takes place during the active breeding months, from May to November.

Vulture Safe Feeding Sites: Volunteers will be required to assist with the transport of carcasses to vulture safe feeding sites. This can happen at any time and volunteers must be prepared to move at a moment’s notice. The site needs to be managed, and old carcasses then need to be moved off to the side when a new carcass is brought to the site. On occasion, vulture hide monitoring sessions will be required to monitor activity at the sites. The camera traps at the feeding sites also need to be maintained, which involves batteries and memory cards being changed. Once back at the house, the camera footage needs to be downloaded with photos of tagged vultures being catalogued for long-term species monitoring.

Long-term Camera Trap Survey: Volunteers will be required to assist with the management of the long-term camera trap survey we are conducting in the area. This survey involves long days hiking in the remote mountainous areas scouting for, setting up and maintaining camera trap stations. Management of this survey includes battery and memory card will then be changed, clearing of vegetation around the camera trap to provide a clear image of the animals passing by and prevent false triggers and, back at camp downloading and cataloguing of the camera trap footage.

Protected Area Boundary Support: On occasion, we are required to respond to emergencies, these include vulture and other priority species concerns such as injuries, poisonings and human wildlife conflict. These situations vary but we provide support by responding rapidly and ultimately helping both the species of concern, and in the case of human wildlife conflict support by providing solutions to the problem. In some areas alien plants are encroaching into the World Heritage Site and our team works at controlling this problem in specific pre-identified vulnerable spaces.

Southern Drakensberg Conservation Project

Southern Drakensberg Conservation Project

Get in touch with us via the form below if you are interested in joining

Examples: Current studies/profession, hobbies, other volunteer or travel experiences. Let us know if you have any questions about conservation volunteering in Africa.
PLEASE NOTE: The more information you supply, the better equipped we will be to co-ordinate placements and participants. Please bear in mind that living and working closely as a team may also be mentally/emotionally demanding. You know yourself and any limitations you may have, best. Your honesty in response to this question affects your safety (and the safety of your fellow participants) while participating in the monitoring work. Failure to disclose any potentially important information could result in hazardous situations in this wild and unpredictable environment in which we work. Extreme cases, in which the program is compromised through failure to divulge this information, could result in participants being asked to leave without a refund.

Where Will I Stay?

The Southern Drakensberg Conservation Project team is based in a charming farm farmhouse affectionately known as the ‘Gate House’. The house is situated in the buffer-zone surrounding the Maloti-Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site. This location is perfectly appointed to allow for easy access to the World Heritage Site, vulture-safe feeding sites and allows for swift response to emergency call-outs. The house is fairly rustic, but homely and equipped with a fireplace for cold weather. It offers twin rooms, an indoor bathroom, a cozy lounge and stocked kitchen, and a lovely outdoors verandah. The volunteers are responsible for preparing their own meals, as well as cleaning and maintaining the research house during their stay.

Get in touch with us via the form below if you are interested in joining

Examples: Current studies/profession, hobbies, other volunteer or travel experiences. Let us know if you have any questions about conservation volunteering in Africa.
PLEASE NOTE: The more information you supply, the better equipped we will be to co-ordinate placements and participants. Please bear in mind that living and working closely as a team may also be mentally/emotionally demanding. You know yourself and any limitations you may have, best. Your honesty in response to this question affects your safety (and the safety of your fellow participants) while participating in the monitoring work. Failure to disclose any potentially important information could result in hazardous situations in this wild and unpredictable environment in which we work. Extreme cases, in which the program is compromised through failure to divulge this information, could result in participants being asked to leave without a refund.

Dates & Costs

ZAR USD EUR GBP
2 Weeks 18975.00 1332.05 1146.09 1009.47

Starting Dates

2024

04 March
18 March
01 April
15 April
29 April
13 May
27 May
10 June
24 June
08 July
22 July
05 August
19 August
02 September
16 September
30 September
14 October
28 October
11 November
25 November
09 December
23 December

2025