Lion & Black Rhino Monitoring
Early in 2016 the programme relocated to a Big 5 Nature Reserve. This volunteer wildlife research programme provides a fantastic opportunity to work alongside professional researchers, assisting with the long term studies of lion ecology and behaviour. Additionally, you will also have the pleasure of monitoring and recording data on other species such as leopard, cheetah, elephant, black rhino, hyaenas and other special species. You will receive training on all aspects of conservation research. Here volunteers will learn necessary field research skills and techniques, use specific equipment (especially radio telemetry, GPS and map reading) and also learn about flora/fauna identification and issues relating to conservation in the area. The data collected plays a vital role in the conservation and management of, not only this reserve but for management of conservation areas throughout South Africa. Data is analysed weekly and monthly and annual reports are sent to the reserve management, in order to make the right decisions in terms of maintaining the ecological balance in the ecosystems of the area. The research base is located on a 30,000hectare private game reserve which is full of an array of Southern Africa’s most spectacular wildlife.
As part of the reserves new black rhino project initiative, volunteers will have the opportunity to accompany and aide a staff member for a full day out on the reserve, with the primary objective of tracking, locating, gathering and logging information on black rhinos, including data on their body condition and overall health. Remember, rhinos are secretive and often difficult to spot - which means ensuring their well-being is all the more important! By keeping an active eye on the rhinos, their behaviour, and their health, you help increase their protection while contributing to the knowledge of the reserve's overall rhino population
The reserve is typical of the savannah grassland biome with six different veld types offering a great diversity of habitats that support 26 species of large mammal.
In addition to the lion pride, wildlife you are likely to encounter while volunteering in South Africa includes leopard, elephant, white rhino, cheetah, spotted hyena, sable, eland, reedbuck, kudu, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, nyala, black-backed jackal, and several smaller antelope. Birdlife in the reserve is prolific and the region has endemic cycads (Encephalartos dyerianus) and an impressive range of beautiful savannah trees.
Long terms volunteers might also want to consider studying for a FGASA qualification (minimum 8 week stay required).
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More information about this gap year opportunity...
You will receive training on all aspects of conservation research. Your volunteer work will have a significant positive impact on the conservation policies and practices in South Africa. The data that volunteers and staff collects provides reserve wardens and ecologists with detailed information about wildlife within the reserve and goes towards valuable wildlife management reports and well respected academic institutions databases. Conservation areas will be able to make decisions that affect the balance of ecosystems and help them to restore farmland to wilderness in a sustainable way.
While the main focus of our monitoring and data collection is on a single pride of lions in the reserve, our volunteer wildlife research programme records and monitors the movements, behaviour, numbers, kills, and habituation of leopards, cheetah, elephant, hyena, and white rhino. This research will play a vital role in the management of reserves and conservancies throughout South Africa.
Broadly speaking, volunteers help on the two daily game drives which are sent out to monitor the animal populations on the reserve, and may also help with reserve management work such as bush clearing or road repair. When on drives, volunteers help track and identify animals, and observe and record data about targetted animals. Volunteers can also take part in excursions to local attractions such as the Kruger National Park and the Panorama Route, and activities on the reserve such as sleeping out in the bush!
Determine and monitor predator numbers in the including lions, leopards, cheetahs and spotted hyaena.
•Monitor the feeding behaviour, prey selection, kill frequencies, and the ecological impact of lion and other predators in the reserve
•Monitor the social dynamics of the reserves resident lion population
•Habituate elephants and develop their identification kits
•Track, observe and record the behaviour of predators and large herbivores
•Collar and habituate resident leopards
•Leopard habituation projects
•Rhino condition evaluation
Volunteers live in a comfortable farmhouse in a secluded location inside the reserve. The view from the boma is of the magnificent hills and plains of this nature reserve in Limpopo Province: no roads, no pylons, no factories and no other people – just you and the African wilderness. The house contains communal same sex bedrooms. There is also a private room with a double bed, for couples, without additional charges, or for single person with a little additional charge. There is also a communal lapa and braai area. Hot water is supplied by a wood-fired boiler and the house is equipped with solar electricity and paraffin lanterns. Volunteers are provided with ingredients but are expected to prepare meals for the group and complete house duties on a daily rotary basis. Town trips are every Tuesday and according to the space on the vehicle, to the departures and arrivals, volunteers can join in the town trip.
The house gets frequent visits from elephants and nocturnal wildlife – the lion’s roar or the hyenas whoop is often your sunrise wake-up call.