Volunteers main role is to assist in the research that is being conducted on Kruger National Park. You will be involved in collecting data which will be used to ensure the future of Leopards and other predators in the the area. The project collects data which is used to create conservation plans for leopards both in the area and around the world.
This research is primarily done through camera traps; as each leopard has a completely unique pattern on their coat (a bit like the human fingerprint), the photographs allow researchers at the project to learn about the number of different individuals in the reserve, in addition to the age and sex structure of the population. This data also tells us about leopard habitat preferences and helps to identify areas where the leopard population may be particularly low.
There are a number of other research projects on the reserve for which data is collected for management and best practice policies. These include conservation research and biodiversity monitoring. The biodiversity monitoring surveys conducted by the project enable park management teams to monitor the effects of fire management practices, elephant damage, alien plants and climate change on the various animal species within the reserve.
You will generally volunteer 6 days per week between 6am and 6pm (depending on the season these times may vary); however volunteers must also be available to work over the weekend depending on the research requirements, data collection times and work load or nature of activities.
You will be assisting field staff in a variety of research activities which may vary according to the research focus at the time of your placement. As well as setting up and checking cacmara traps, this may include researching herbivore movement and behaviour, tracking and studying lions, assessing the effects of elephant populations and developing rhino identikits in order to help monitor populations. You will experience photographic opportunities that the average tourist on safari can only dream of!
Volunteers all complete a Bush Craft training course at the start of their stay. This will prepare you to safely work in a big game environment. The course provides a foundation of knowledge on animal identification, tracking and behaviour. During this week you will also go out on educational walks to get you used to being in the bush.
How will I make a difference?
By volunteering with us, you will be contributing to the knowledge base within wildlife conservation research. Your hard work enables the project to study important conservation questions. Whilst the Kruger Conservation project employs a team of local staff, they are often over-stretched, particularly due to the fact that many of the research activities involve extensive data collection over many hectares of land.
Limpopo is home to over one third of South Africa’s suitable leopard habitat, however there is still very little know about its population. Despite this lack of information on population and a high level of illegal poaching in the area, the government continues to issue increasing numbers of leopard hunting permits. Without vital conservation research in this area, the population could be seriously threatened in the future.