Wildlife volunteer projects are commonplace in South Africa, given its abundant game. Work through responsible voluntourism agents and you’ll be rewarded with highly gratifying programmes that include monitoring and tracking the Big 5, feeding and caring for abandoned animals, and working with endangered species such as cheetahs and wild dogs.

Did you know?

The endangered cheetah is the only member of its genus - all other species have become extinct.

Wildlife volunteer projects cover a range of experiences working with wild animals either in their natural habitat or in captivity. While there are numerous wildlife volutourism programmes available in the country, volunteers are strongly advised to work through accredited operators in order to be placed in legitimate projects.

Wildlife conservation is a major focus of these volunteer programmes and often includes the opportunity to assist in the research of endangered species. One such programme is the Endangered Wildlife Monitoring project from operator Aviva.

This Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal programme actively works to save threatened species by initiating, implementing and managing wildlife monitoring projects around cheetahs, wild dogs, Black Rhinos and vultures. Volunteers get involved in the tracking and locating of these animals; GPS mapping of sightings; animal behavioural research; game counts; and the creation and updating of animal identikits.

There are also opportunities to help with the radio collaring of animals; bird ringing; vulture counts and nest surveys; and the relocation and re-introduction of game.

In a similar vein, you can work exclusively in cheetah conservation at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, in Limpopo. This acclaimed programme comprises caring for the cheetahs (cleaning, feeding and assisting/ observing veterinary activities); attending lectures on all major conservation aspects; and putting this theory into practice either in the field or at other centres specialising in endangered species research. A visit to the nearby Kruger National Park and an elephant-back safari at Camp Jabulani are included in the programme.

Voluntours offers a Big 5-oriented volunteer programme on a game reserve in the Greater Addo Elephant area of the Eastern Cape. The programme includes game conservation management and game reserve management. It has a strong community focus, with volunteers interacting with children from a local orphanage for vulnerable children and those affected by HIV/Aids. Perhaps most exciting is the work you'll get to do with lions, which includes monitoring the integration of these cats into the reserve, by tracking and recording their behaviour.

Wildlife volunteer projects also include working with orphaned animals at rehabilitation sanctuaries across the country. All Africa Volunteers offers a programme along these lines, assisting the Animal Rehabilitation Centre in the Eastern Cape with feeding and caring for abandoned and injured wild animals. 

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Tel: +27 (0) 21 557 4312
Fax: +27 (0) 86 634 2063
Email: info@aviva-sa.com
Web: www.aviva-sa.com

Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre:
Tel: +27 (0) 15 793 1633
Fax: +27 (0) 15 793 1646
Email: students@cheetahcentre.co.za
Web: www.wildlifecentre.co.za

Tel: +27 (0) 11 315 4049
Fax: +27 (0) 11 315 4050
Email: info@voluntours.co.za
Web: www.voluntours.co.za

All Africa Volunteers:
Tel: +27 (0) 42 296 0594
Fax: +27 (0) 866 228 159
Email: allafricavolunteers@gmail.com
Web: www.allafricavolunteers.com

What will it cost

Endangered Wildlife Monitoring Project: Starting at approx. R10 600 for 2 weeks.

Cheetah Conservation Programme: approx. R18 000 for the 3 weeks.

Big 5 experience: from R7 990 per person sharing for 1 week.

Animal Rehabilitation Centre: R4 250 for 1 week only; or R3 950 a week for the first 4 weeks.

Length of stay

Endangered Wildlife Monitoring Project: Minimum 2 weeks; can be extended in 2 week increments up to a maximum of 12 weeks.

Cheetah Conservation Programme: 3 weeks.

Big 5 experience: Minimum 1 week; maximum 12 weeks.

Animal Rehabilitation Centre: Minimum 1 week; can be extended in 1 week increments.

What to pack

Sun hat, sunblock, insect repellent, a torch, sleeping bag, binoculars and walking boots. Malaria tablets (consult your GP beforehand) are essential if participating in the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre cheetah programme

Where to stay

Endangered Wildlife Monitoring Project: At a bush camp in the reserve.

Cheetah Conservation Programme: 2-bed thatched huts in the Big 5 Kapama Private Game Reserve.

Big 5 experience: Renovated old railway station (7 rooms).

Animal Rehabilitation Centre: A bush lodge at the centre.

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