ACE volunteers riding on the Hanchi Conservation Experience

Living the dream!

Past volunteers tell us about their new colleagues in the bush and how volunteering at Hanchi and Zingela has landed them their dream job!

Hanchi means “horse” in Shangaan, one of South Africa’s main dialects, indicative of the use of horses to track wildlife at the Hanchi Conservation Project. From horseback, volunteers monitor roan and sable antelope populations and patrol the reserve. Horses are a very useful form of transport around the reserve, as African wildlife do not view horses as a threat. Other activities include tracking cheetah on foot, studying predator movements, caring for the horses and helping with reserve management.

Research at Zingela Predator Conservation Project focuses on reducing the hunting of Africa’s most persecuted predators. In the wild bushland of the Limpopo Province of South Africa, volunteers are involved in tracking and monitoring cheetah, leopard and brown hyena populations. Tasks include using telemetry equipment to establish location of cheetah, monitoring and recording hunting behaviour of leopards, and recording GPS positions to determine home ranges and movement patterns of both brown hyena and leopards.

Franziska Belz

If there is one thing I know, it’s that I’ve always wanted to work with animals. After I finished school, my first attempts to become a zookeeper failed, so I took what I thought would be a break of one year after school, and travelled to South Africa to volunteer at Zingela Predator Conservation Project. I chose this project because, for me, it’s not important to be close to animals and touch them. I prefer watching them and their behaviour in a natural environment. Originally planning on staying for six weeks, I extended my stay for another two weeks. My eight weeks were full of unique experiences like hyaena capture, leopard sightings during night drives, and loads of unforgettable moments shared with Rebecca, the radio-collared cheetah. Back in Germany, I started working at a veterinary clinic as an intern because my job decision was yet to be made. After working at a zoo for a couple of weeks some years before, I wanted to try out some more animal-related jobs. Whilst working there, I saved up all of my money for another volunteering trip to Zingela. However, beore I could make my booking, just a couple of months after returning home, I got a job offer from Zingela! I immediately quit my job and went back to South Africa as soon as possible. That was in March 2010, and I’m still working here and enjoy every day of it. When I get up, I know that I’m going to see and do something amazing during the day. Not only the game viewing and the brilliant brown hyaena sightings make this job so food, but also the relaxed atmosphere amongst everyone. What I’m doing to do after this, I don’t know yet – I might study in South Africa or go back to Germany and see if I can find my place in a lunx-relocation project. But until then, I’m not going to worry too much and enjoy the time I spend here, so close to these beautiful predators.

Franziska now works with the volunteers at Zingela, and helps guide the day-to-day routine.

Adam Bryan

I am 24 years old and have been working on the Hanchi project since it started on this reserve. Before this project I was the Assistant Coordinator for the Zingela Predator Conservation Project, and I still am from time to time when necessary. I have worked with horses for many years. I am originally from London, England, where I studied and worked as a veterinary nurse before working with lions, tigers and wolves at a well-known safari park in the UK. I enjoy travelling and was a student with African Conservation Experience in 2008. I also backpacked many countries, before returning to South Africa to work. I am very interested in conservation and research which both the Zingela and Hanchi project offer, with a real perspective of what Africa is really like within game reserves. I have completed training courses in both South Africa and Botswana, including trailing, track and sign which I enjoy very much. South Africa is a very unique country which so much to offer, and I enjoy working here every day.

Adam Bryan is now the Assistant Coordinator for Hanchi Conservation Project.