Why volunteer on this project?
Get involved in ending the human-wildlife conflict, and support the long term conservation of Namibia’s remote, free-ranging carnivores, through research into cheetah, hyena and leopard. Experience Namibia’s vast wilderness and support the conservation of big cats in a responsible and ethical way.
What will I be doing?
Volunteers get experience in field research, including monitoring wild leopard and hyena, helping with game counts, setting and monitoring wildlife cameras and site exploration. This all contributes to the long-term wildlife management of the two research areas.
Capture mark release
For secretive and nocturnal species such as a leopard and hyena, GPS satellite tracking is vital to understand how wildlife utilise their area and to follow their day to day movements. Volunteers help researchers identify areas of regular carnivore activity (e.g. dens, riverbeds, trees), for the placement and checking of cage traps.
Animal tracking and camera trap monitoring
Satellite tracking does not give information about breeding, prey selection or animal health, so direct observations are necessary. Volunteers will go into the field to track collared individuals and make assessments. Animals can be found by radio telemetry (when the batteries have not died!), using an antenna and receiver. The rewards of finding animals in the bush and collecting information are unrivalled.
During the early stages of evaluating an area, researchers rely on the additional eyes of motion-sensitive camera traps, to observe wildlife which humans overlook. Volunteers will help set camera traps in the field, maintain them and go through the images recorded. For carnivores the cameras are used to assess the spot patterns of leopards, to document the number of individuals, breeding success and territories.
Herbivores are an integral part of African ecosystems, and the importance of these animals cannot be over-estimated. In the Namib Desert it is critical to understand the local antelope population numbers, dynamics and movements to ensure sufficient water supply. Populations also need to be assessed to avoid damage to the ecosystem through over-grazing. Volunteers participate in regular game counts to observe desert adapted animals such as zebra, kudu, oryx, springbok, steenbok and ostrich.
The basis for any professional management of a wildlife area is a detailed, accurate map – necessary to evaluate plant and animal population data and guide future decisions. Volunteers work alongside the researchers and use a GPS unit to monitor anything from wildlife observations (e.g. animals seen, number and location), habitat features (waterholes, spoor, middens), and infrastructure such as roads, fences and trails. This information is continually processed into reserve maps, used by management and for scientific publication.
Mapping means spending quality time in this amazing environment while collecting information on features and resources. Most of the mapping is undertaken on foot, and close encounters with different wildlife species are guaranteed.
Where will I stay?
There are two research sites. The first is a tented camp with six tents and shared bathrooms. The camp has a swimming pool and braai (bbq) facility and has a homely atmosphere.
At the second research site volunteers stay in a renovated farmhouse with shared rooms and bathroom. The house can accommodate seven volunteers in two large rooms, and there are three campsites with tented accommodation for busier times. There will be a maximum of 12 volunteers at each site at any one time, guaranteeing a lot of hands-on field experience.
Volunteers receive three home cooked meals per day. A standard breakfast of cereal, fruit and toast; lunch could be sandwiches, burgers, quiche or salad and will either be served at base, or will be a packed lunch in the field; and dinner is a hot meal of meat and vegetables, with pasta, rice, potato or salad. Vegetarians and vegans can be catered for but due to the remote nature of the projects, some produce is only available seasonally.
“I went to both desert sites for a week each. Both are located in southern Namibia and I loved them so much! They were definitely a highlight of my stay in Namibia. At the sites we did a lot of research on the human-carnivore conflict: we set camera traps, fed the cheetahs that are at the research sites, and even put out a cage trap and caught a leopard that was killing a farmer’s sheep. The leopard was relocated and released – it was amazing to be an active participant in mediating the human-wildlife conflict.
The research sites each had so much to offer, and I would recommend this program to anyone who is dedicated to helping animals, but is also ready to work hard and get their hands dirty!”
Abbey, USA, July 2017
“I fell in love with the Desert Retreat over two years ago and every time I leave I wish I could turn around and go back. I love the solitude and the vast landscape that stretches as far as your eye can see in every direction; I love the early morning light as the sun rises above the hills and the colour of the sand when it sets again in the evening; I love the wildlife, being dots in the distance or less than a meter in front of you during hikes in the field; I love the wonderful people here, who each time I return make this place feel like a second home.”
Sarah, USA, March 2017