Whether you’re bouncing across the bush in the back of an old jeep in pursuit of a darted giraffe or monitoring the vital signs of an immobilised buffalo – volunteering alongside an African wildlife vet isn’t just work experience, it’s the experience of a lifetime.
As a veterinary volunteer, you’ll shadow some of Africa’s most experienced wildlife vets into the field, assisting them with immobilising and moving many different species, testing for diseases, performing necropsies and more. Your involvement will depend on your skill level. So whether you’re a seasoned veterinarian or vet nurse looking for a fresh challenge, a veterinary undergraduate seeking an adventurous internship, or you’re interested in studying veterinary science in future, this is the experience for you.
Help injured and orphaned animals through wildlife care, husbandry and nursing
Learn from conservationists and field researchers, helping to protect wild animals and ecosystems
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.
In South Africa, wildlife vets and nurses don’t just treat injured and sick animals. They also play a key role in the conservation and management of the region’s wildlife populations. Much of South Africa’s wildlife is privately owned by large game reserves and breeding centres. This includes rare species of great ecological and financial value. Whether the estate owners are conservationists or business minded, they all want to make sure animals enjoy a high standard of welfare and breed healthily. Game reserve staff rarely carry veterinary qualifications, which means they rely heavily on vets to carry out important wildlife management tasks, including the capture and relocation of animals. When volunteering with a vet in Africa, you’ll likely split your time between managing wildlife on game reserves and treating injured wildlife in rehabilitation centres, veterinary clinics and in the field. This combination of wildlife management and emergency care gives you the best possible introduction to real veterinary practice in South Africa – and the chance to pick up a wide variety of new career skills.
One of the common challenges you’ll experience as a wildlife vet volunteer in Africa is the need to sedate wild animals before working on them. Anybody who’s tried to approach a 2,000kg rhino in a state of distress will tell you it’s not a very good idea! As a volunteer vet, you’ll find out how to safely dart wild animals as well as learning about the sedative drugs used for the task. In South Africa, only veterinarians have the training and licence to handle these drugs and the dart guns that deliver the correct dosage. This means darting is a core skill for the wildlife vets we work with and they’re world leaders in the capture and relocation of animals. If you’re interested in learning more about this part of wildlife veterinary practice, you couldn’t find a better set of tutors.
Rhino in South Africa are under constant threat from poachers who remove their horns to sell, seriously injuring and usually killing the animal in the process. In an attempt to prevent poaching, many rhino populations now have to be humanely dehorned by a qualified wildlife veterinarian. As there is with any form of surgery, there’s an inherent risk with these operations. But combined with anti-poaching security, dehorning has been proven to have a positive impact on rhino populations. This means South Africa’s wildlife vets are currently at the forefront of the international conservation movement to save the rhino.
Wildlife vets in South Africa also monitor and prevent infectious diseases that can be passed from wildlife to domestic animals and, in extreme cases, even humans. In a country where fatal diseases such as rabies and tuberculosis are still prevalent, it’s vitally important that wildlife vets respond quickly to outbreaks and report any new instances to the state. While dangerous animal-borne diseases haven’t been wiped out, South Africa’s veterinary community has successfully controlled infection levels. This has prevented the need for any culls or euthanasia programmes.
The work of wildlife vets in South Africa, while vital in managing animal populations and preventing the spread of infectious diseases, is not funded by the government. Due to the high prices of drugs and other medical equipment, wildlife reserve owners can also be reluctant to fund veterinary work. In fact, access to sufficient quantities of the drugs used in the darting and immobilisation of animals is a constant challenge for veterinarians. As a result, outside funding is vital to the wellbeing of Africa’s wildlife. Veterinary volunteers are an important source of this financial support and, if you choose to travel with us, a large part of your placement fee will provide much-needed aid to Africa’s veterinary community.