Walking in the footprints of elephants, learning to humanely relocate rhino, then getting to grips with wildlife monitoring cameras… As a volunteer field researcher, you’ll spend your days exploring Africa’s untamed wilderness and your evenings sharing stories around the fire.
Whether you’re looking for a behind-the-scenes experience of Africa’s wildlife, taking the next step in your career or want to gain work experience in an African game reserve, these are the experiences for you. You’ll learn about habitat improvement, tracking animal movement, poaching prevention and more.
Go behind the scenes on a ‘Big 5’ reserve and join one of the biggest conservation success stories
Explore a variety of animals in the Okavango Delta, home to the largest elephant population on Earth
Help protect Namibia’s wildlife by helping to reduce human-wildlife conflict
Experience for yourself the adrenaline-fueled world of wildlife capture and relocation
Join Hanchi, patrolling the South African bush on horseback
Help injured and orphaned animals through wildlife care, husbandry and nursing
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
I highly recommend the Shimongwe Wildlife Veterinary Experience to anyone considering applying. You will not only gain useful veterinary knowledge and skills, you will also create amazing and unique memories in an astonishingly beautiful country.
Southern Africa’s wildlife populations are currently under threat from all sides. The region’s growing human population is placing ever more pressure on limited resources such as water and habitat, forcing wildlife to live on ever-shrinking ‘islands’ of land. Meanwhile, climate change is exacerbating the situation. Summers are getting hotter and lasting longer, affecting the flow of rivers that provide a vital supply of water for wildlife.
All of which is happening against a backdrop of poaching and big-game hunting, which is still legal throughout much of Africa.
Wildlife research and management underpin the region’s whole conservation movement. Every ecosystem is a delicate balance of species that hunt one another and consume natural resources such as vegetation and water. So to create a self-sustaining balance of species, conservationists need to constantly monitor the population dynamics of each animal, including ratios of male to female and age categorisations, how predator and prey species interact with each other and the available natural resources.
Meanwhile, carefully managed breeding programmes and the game-capture industry can help to re-establish lost wildlife populations.
At African Conservation Experience, we believe volunteering and conservation travel provide a viable financial model to replace trophy hunting.
In the meantime, while trophy hunting is still legally practiced, we think the conservation community needs to continue its work identifying sustainable quotas for hunting. This is a vital task as trophy hunters predominantly focus on adult males, which raises serious questions about the impact on populations that are regularly exposed to hunting.
During your time in Africa, chances are you will meet people who strongly support or oppose hunting. From an outsider’s perspective, it is difficult to understand how anybody could defend a pastime which legitimises the killing of animals such as lions, elephants and rhino. But this is highly complex and controversial subject and the jury is still out on how best to manage trophy hunting in Africa.
As animal lovers and conservationists, it is important that we do not let our moral objection to trophy hunting cloud our scientific judgement. However, looking at all the facts, we believe that conservation travel represents a genuinely viable alternative to hunting – replacing the money provided by hunting licences with financial support from travellers who would rather help animals than hunt them.
When you arrive in Africa, you’ll quickly discover one of the key issues affecting wildlife conservation is the expanding human population. This is resulting in more human-wildlife conflicts, leading to injuries and deaths on both sides.
The most common causes of human-wildlife conflict are animals damaging crops and livestock. When you consider that a fully grown elephant can eat up to 450kg of food a day, it’s easy to understand the farmer’s point of view. Similarly, if a pride of wild lions killed the herd of cattle you relied on for your livelihood, you might be tempted to use some pretty extreme methods to prevent a similar incident happening again in future.
But there are ways to solve these issues that do not involve attacking or poisoning animals. Wildlife conservationists in Africa employ many different strategies to avoid human-animal conflict – and even find ways that people and wildlife can benefit each other. These include working with local communities to create physical barriers and deterrents as well as identifying ‘flashpoints’ such as a new electric fence which might cause animals to come closer to a town than normal.
The Phinda reserve in South Africa has succeeded not just in reducing conflict, but creating a positive working relationship between wildlife and humans. Once a private game reserve, Phinda is now owned by the local tribal community, providing a valuable source of income and employment. The knock-on effect is that the human population has become more appreciative of wildlife and the benefits that ecotourism brings.
Many people ask why national governments aren’t doing more to protect threatened wildlife in their countries. Especially as ecotourism is such an important source of income for many of Africa’s poorest rural areas.
The most obvious answer is that governments in many developing economies simply don’t have enough money to invest in conservation. Even where governments have the desire to help, diverting funds away from programmes that target human poverty isn’t a politically viable option. Some governments in the region have introduced hunting bans, but these have caused as many problems as they’ve solved.
This is why the conservation projects we support are vital to preserve Africa’s wildlife and ecosystems. They bring targeted financial support to the conservation community and place a highly motivated workforce on the ground. Namely, you.