Caring for an injured, sick or abandoned animal is a powerful experience, no matter where you are. But in an African rehabilitation sanctuary, surrounded by some of the continent’s most iconic wildlife, it can be truly life changing. Whether you’re bottle-feeding an orphaned rhino calf or helping veterinary nurses treat a wounded zebra, you’ll get the chance to work up close and personally with Africa’s amazing creatures – making friendships and memories that last a lifetime.
If you’re passionate about saving African wildlife, you’ve always dreamed of working hands-on with animals, or you’re taking the next step on your wildlife rehabilitation career, this is the right choice for you. Among other skills, you’ll gain experience of animal care and husbandry, wildlife rehabilitation methods and assist dedicated and experienced staff in caring for animals.
Help care for injured and endangered wildlife in a dedicated rehabilitation centre
Help save the rhino at the largest specialist rhino care centre in Africa
On my first day at Moholoholo I was involved in a rhino walk, which is as incredible as it sounds. We chaperoned a young rhino on a walk through the bush, providing him with exercise, mental stimulation and a bit of fun. This is just one of many unbelievable things that I was able to take part in.
You won’t quickly forget a bushbaby landing on your shoulder on your way back from dinner, a fearsome honey badger lying on its back without a care in the world or falling asleep at night to the sound of lions roaring and hyenas laughing outside your window.
Work hard and you maybe given more responsibility with special cases – teaching vultures to fly to the glove, looking after the baby bush pig and assisting with the cheetahs were some of the extra cases I had. I have so many amazing memories from being at Moholoholo.
The people and animals I met while I was there will always have a special place in my heart and I’ve done things I never thought I would like; help raise a baby squirrel, hold a baboon spider to get over my arachnophobia and see a white rhino in the wild.
As older travelers who have been to many countries around the world, we wanted to give something back while having a great experience. The intangibles, like seeing so many stars at night, and socializing with local people, made this part of our trip truly memorable.
My time at Care for Wild Africa Rhino Sanctuary can best be described as life changing! It is a magical place.
Being able to work so closely with rhinos was incredible at Care For Wild Africa, whilst Phinda was one of the best experiences of my life.
I will never EVER forget the rhinos. The sounds they make, the look in their eyes, the way their skin feels, the way the babies sleep next to each other, the way they walk over to you for their milk. I’ll never forget the people I met there either.
What an experience that was! Bottle-feeding baby rhinos was simply amazing. Looking into their eyes, I saw their beautiful souls each and every time I fed them. “And I get to do this every day for two weeks”, I thought to myself.
Life changing, inspirational and heart-warming are just 3 words to describe Care for Wild, but in all honesty, words cannot describe this experience, it’s phenomenal! Waking up to the sound of the resident lions and hippos helps with the early morning starts and the views from site are sensational.
I am a qualified veterinary nurse who decided to go to Africa to volunteer because I wanted to make a difference. I worked at Care for Wild for 2 months and Chipangali for 1 month. Whilst you are there it is important to remember to take a moment and appreciate where you are and how lucky you are to be there.
Chipangali is an amazing family run organisation, run by Kevin & Nicky and their children and I am now best friends with the family. The centre has a great family feel and you quickly bond with all of the other volunteers and I still keep in touch with many of the other volunteers.
My experiences at Chipangali and Phinda were absolutely insane. It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life. The people there topped off the experience and I have so many good memories, I'd recommend it to anyone and everyone - just thinking about my trip makes me want to go back!
Animals end up in wildlife sanctuaries and rehabilitation centres for all kinds of reasons. In South Africa and Zimbabwe, where our three sanctuaries are based, many are sadly injured or orphaned due to the actions of humans.
Rhinos, pangolin and vultures may have been the victims of illegal poaching. Others arrive at animal rehabilitation centres after being poisoned by local farmers who use lethal and untargeted methods to stop animals attacking their crops and livestock.
The ongoing destruction of wildlife habitats and poorly thought-out building projects can also lead animals to be injured accidentally. For example, when a busy new road cuts directly through the natural habitat of a wildlife population, it becomes inevitable that animals will be hurt, injured or worse by automobiles.
While conservationists would love all rehabilitated animals to be released back into the wild, sadly the instances where this is possible are the exception rather than the rule.
This is because, just like people, animals are often wary of outsiders. Especially when they provide competition for scarce resources or mates. So even when an animal has recovered to full health, releasing it back into wild isn’t always possible.
Leopards, for example, are extremely territorial and males will not tolerate any competition for females in their territory. If a leopard that has been in a rehabilitation centre is released into an area where there are already resident leopards, the interloper will either be killed or chased out of the area.
As a consequence, many animals that are taken in at a wildlife sanctuary go on to become permanent residents. So the work of a rehabilitation centre, after they have helped an animal regain full health, is to provide a rich and fulfilling life for their residents.
For species that can be safely released back into the wild – including small carnivores and antelope, tortoises, chameleons, and birds other than birds of prey – it is still very important to select a location for release where the new arrival won’t upset the balance of established wildlife populations.
As a wildlife rehabilitation volunteer, you can have a very immediate and obvious impact on the wellbeing of an individual animal. But the effects of wildlife rehabilitation centres in South Africa and Zimbabwe stretch far beyond the fences of our sanctuaries.
Some species such as the serval (a wild cat that resembles a leopard) are now bred in rehabilitation centres in South Africa then released into the wild. This strategy doesn’t work for all species – lions and hyenas are both notoriously difficult to release back into the wild – but for species like the serval it’s an effective way to repopulate areas where they had previously been wiped out.
The animal rehabilitation centres in South Africa and Zimbabwe that we work with have exceptionally high success rates for rerelease of certain species, including small carnivores, reptiles, antelope and many birds.
By working with local communities across South Africa and Zimbabwe, animal sanctuaries also act as important centres for learning.
Educating communities about human threats to animals and ways to safely live alongside them is a vital aspect of wildlife conservation. You can care for quite a few animals during your time as a conservation volunteer. But educating a local farmer about the suffering and damage caused by using poison could save hundreds of animals’ lives.
As always, there are deep-rooted cultural challenges involved with education programmes. In South Africa and Zimbabwe, witchdoctors still trade in animal parts for their believed medicinal properties. There are also ancient superstitions which lead local people to persecute certain animal species believed to be connected to witchcraft. Species commonly affected include reptiles, owls and hyena.
Through education programmes at our wildlife rehabilitation centres, we have successfully dispelled many of these myths and helped nurture a more positive view of wildlife in general.
Learn from conservationists and field researchers, helping to protect wild animals and ecosystems
Join some of Africa’s most experienced wildlife vets and help treat wild animals
Work with the world’s largest land animal by joining a team of experts
Help save the rhino by working closely with these incredible prehistoric creatures