BLOG December 28, 2018

African Conservation Experience 2018: Top 5 Highlights

2018 has been an incredible year for us and for you, our volunteers, in a number of ways. Here’s a breakdown of our favourite highlights and biggest stories for the year!

Great Strides to Protect Our Lions

In August this year, the South African Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs hosted a symposium on captive lion breeding for hunting and the lion bone trade to urgently address the controversial increase in the quota in the number of lions being exported to the far East in the form of lion bone and whole carcasses. This series of panels and presentations brought together some of the country’s leading lion conservation experts and NGOs, including our own long-time partners and collaborators Linda Turner and Jason Tucker of the Global White Lion Protection Trust.

Linda and Jason have been involved in lion conservation and activism for decades now, and are partnered with us in our Lion Conservation Experience, where volunteers are able to immerse themselves in the day-to-day activities of South Africa’s most prominent lion conservation project.

Linda’s presentation – alongside many others – advocated far stricter regulation of the lion breeding industry and a ban on canned hunting, cub-petting and the lion bone trade. The Draft Report by the Portfolio Committee, which emerged from the proceedings of the symposium, and which has since been adopted by Parliament, reflects these sentiments very strongly. This marks an amazing turning point in South Africa’s approach to lion conservation and has already resulted in a reduction of 47% of the proposed 2019 lion bone quota, which we celebrate wholeheartedly.

2 lionesses looking out past the camera

Our partners at the Global White Lion Protection Trust have been a part of major progress this year in the struggle to protect and conserve Southern Africa’s Lions.

An Elephant In Need

An incredible event played out at our project in the Greater Kruger National Park earlier this year following an unusual sighting by a group from the International School of Amsterdam who were travelling with us on a CAS trip. The students’ bush vehicle was parked at one of the waterholes in the project area one afternoon as they carried out a wildlife count. As they sat observing the wild animals that came down to drink they noticed a large bull striding down to the water.

At first all seemed as it should be – he drank, splashed himself and behaved normally. But then he did something unexpected: he grabbed a trunk-full of mud and rubbed it onto his ankle repeatedly. He also raised the same leg and swung it back and forth slowly. Something was clearly bothering him, and the group and their guide observed him carefully for any indication of what it might be. It was then that the group noticed that it was quite swollen, and on closer inspection it was just possible to make out an indentation around his ankle where something was biting into his flesh. It was now clear that the elephant was the victim of snaring.

News of the elephant’s plight spread quickly and resources were mobilized to intervene and attempt to help the elephant bull who otherwise would most likely have suffered a slow and painful death. A fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter were brought in to find him, and our very own Dr Rogers from our Shimongwe Wildlife Veterinary Experience was called in to dart and treat the animal. A combined team of pilots and observers, anti-poaching units and ground teams then embarked on an effort to find the elephant bull, which is no easy thing to do in an area as vast as the Kruger.

As it turned out in the end, it was the very same group of our volunteers that spotted him again from their vehicle. The veterinary team rushed to the scene and the bull was immobilized and examined. He had a snare made of exceptionally thick wire that was embedded in his leg. Once the snare was removed and the wound was treated, the bull was given the antidote drugs (to wake him up) and then left in peace to recover from his ordeal. What an amazing story and positive outcome!

Elephant Snare: Elephant sightings rank among the most profound animal sightings visitors to Africa can enjoy; being able to help an elephant in trouble is even more special!

A Great Year For Our Okavango Wilderness Project

2018 was a very productive and successful year for our Okavango Wilderness Project. During the 2018 field season, an astonishing 2,543 km of transects were covered (these are predetermined monitoring drives, during which we record wildlife sightings and predator tracks). Below are the results of this monitoring work:

  • A total of 3,117 wild animals were sighted
  • Species recorded included elephant, hippo, giraffe, buffalo, lion, leopard, african wild dog, and numerous species of antelope and primates
  • 462 individual predator tracks (spoor), which greatly contributes to a better understanding of predator densities and movements

One of our key partners on this project is published predator researcher Christiaan Winterbach, who has amongst other achievements published a ground-breaking study on predator movements and densities in the poorly researched Western Ngamiland. This published study and the results from the transect monitoring are being shared with the Botswana government who use the information to help manage the country’s wildlife.


Volunteers on our Okavango Wilderness Project enjoy the opportunity to spend time in one of Africa’s wildest places with real conservation experts. What a privilege!


Chipangali’s 45th Anniversary

Chipangali turned an impressive 45 years old in 2018 making it one of Africa’s oldest and most successful wildlife orphanages and rehabilitation facilities.

From the humble beginnings of the orphanage in the early 1970s through to the amazing work they’re doing today, Chipangali’s reach includes much more than just rescue and rehabilitation.  They also run a very successful conservation education program that reaches thousands of Zimbabwean school children and an extensive satellite monitoring program, which monitors the movements of brown hyena and leopard across the iconic Matobo Hills region giving vital insights into possible areas of human-wildlife conflict.

To read more about the history of Chipangali and reaching this amazing milestone take a look at our blog here.

Brown Hyena Treatment – A female brown hyena is treated and fitted with a satellite collar as part of Chipangali’s pioneering study in yet another first for one of Africa’s oldest wildlife orphanages.

Arthur the Orphaned Rhino Rescued

This story began tragically with the poaching of a rhino cow within South Africa’s world famous Kruger National Park. She had a young calf at the time, and the poachers that took her life also badly injured him as he tried to defend his mortally wounded mother. Arthur, as this orphaned calf would be named, was rescued by park officials and taken to safety at Care for Wild Rhino Orphanage and Sanctuary, the largest rhino orphanage in the world.

At Care for Wild his wounds were treated and he was cared for by a dedicated team including many of our volunteers. He is thriving and has formed a close bond with another orphaned rhino calf called Summer. You can read Arthur’s full story here and can follow his progress on our social channels.

This story is a bittersweet one, because while it has ended well for Arthur, and while he is now firmly on the road to rehabilitation and eventual release, the sad truth is that the underlying cause of all this is still a massive problem. A Department of Environmental Affairs press release in September this year listed the numbers of rhinos poached in the first eight months of the year at a staggering 508 animals.

These numbers highlight the need to continue the fight against rhino poaching and the vital importance of a project such as Care For Wild Africa in the rescue and care of casualties such as Arthur.

Arthur’s treatment at Care for Wild was extraordinary for several reasons, not least of which is that several of the techniques used had never been tried before!

If you’d like to be a part of the African Conservation Experience story, click here for more details. You can also follow us on our social media platforms for more regular updates from the field.


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