Lend a hand on the wild side
Experience South Africa’s wildlife diversity from the frontlines, through a responsible wildlife volunteer project.
There are dozens of opportunities to interact with wildlife on a volunteer basis in South Africa, including Big 5, endangered species and orphaned animal projects.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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
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.
Wildlife volunteer experience
Volunteers on Voluntours’ wildlife volunteer programme.
The endangered cheetah is the only member of its genus - all other species have become extinct.
Wildlife volunteer projects in South Africa
Wildlife volunteer projects are varied in South Africa, extending from game tracking and monitoring to working with orphaned animals and even endangered species