Desert Elephants in Namibia
Start Dates are every other Monday of each month.
This award-winning project exists with the sole purpose of protecting the Namibian population of desert elephants and ensuring safety and security for the communities who live alongside them.
Namibia's desert-dwelling elephants are facing serious threats, both nationally and internationally. They are one of only two populations of elephants in Africa living in a desert environment and threats to their livelihood include human-elephant conflict, mainly as a result of decreasing elephant living space due to the large numbers of humans and livestock settling in their vast range-areas.
Although desert elephants used to roam throughout most of western Namibia, their numbers were reduced to fewer than 300 by the early 1990s due to rampant poaching. Since then, protected under new Namibian law and merging conservation organizations, they have expanded their range from the north as far south as the Erongo Region, as well as east onto commercial farmland. Many of the Damara and Herero people who moved into the arid homelands of northwest Namibia are not familiar with desert elephants and so often do not know how to react to them.
Volunteers on this project will join the staff in the vast, beautiful Namibian wilderness and help with elephant conservation activities including tracking and monitoring, constructing walls to protect valuable water sources, as well as taking part in the education of locals as to the value of elephant conservation within the area.
Early in the morning, you will transfer to the base camp (4-hour drive). In the evening there is a full safety briefing and explanation of the project to be undertaken.
Early in the morning, the group pack and leave for the build-site (1-hour drive), set up camp for the week and carry out the various construction tasks required.
On Saturday morning, the group returns to base camp and the rest of the weekend is for free-time. The area around camp is beautiful and wonderful for adventurous volunteers to explore.
The group can join staff on a trip to the local town of Uis, where there is a supermarket, a lodge with internet, a pool and restaurant. In the evening there is a briefing specific to the upcoming week’s elephant conservation patrol.
The group leaves for elephant conservation patrol duties and spend the week tracking the local herds and recording the data they collect.
You will transfer back to Swakopmund to commence your independent travel plans or spend a final night.
The project works in two-week blocks and volunteers are able to stay for a minimum of two or a maximum of 12 weeks.
This week involves construction tasks, taking place on the build-site. These include the building of protection walls around water sources and alternative water-points for the desert elephants and the area’s newly-released black rhinos. Understandably, this week is fairly exerting and involves mainly physical labour, but the aim is for volunteers to work together as a team. This week is very satisfying and groups tend to bond and adapt to bush life very quickly, taking turns to cook over the fire and deliver the first cup of coffee to everyone in bed.
This week is spent tracking the resident herds of desert elephants in the area, to record movement patterns and information such as new births, deaths and mating. The elephant's movements are recorded through their GPS positions which are then plotted onto online maps on a collective database. This information shows which farms the desert elephants tend to visit to drink, and therefore where the project needs to build protection walls. The data collected by this project on elephant numbers is incredibly important as it is the only organization providing the government with accurate figures on the behaviour of the desert elephants in the area.
On each patrol there is a different aim, and the current focus is two-fold, one is to have a presence in the area where elephants are under threat and check that all herds are together and without injuries, and secondly to start compiling identification files of ‘new’ herds of elephants in the northern reaches of the area, as these elephants are causing a lot of damage to farms. On each patrol you will also spend a lot of time speaking to farmers and communities and chance will be given to the group to interact with local people. On Patrol, you can expect to see other wildlife besides elephants, such as the critically endangered black rhino (which are rare but there is a small population in the area), springbok, oryx, kudu, giraffe, zebra!
The project has assisted the school in renovations over the last seven years and we are very proud to have been able to help. The school has over 280 children from the local area, all farms affected by the presence of elephants, and around 80% of these children board at the school. It is a colourful and happy place and the group will definitely enjoy the visit. If you want to bring educational items to donate to the school that would be much appreciated! Things like footballs are also always a favourite!
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