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Naankuse Big Cat, Wild Dog And Elephant Conservation Project

Work at the world renowned Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary

Naankuse Big Cat, Wild Dog And Elephant Conservation Project
From £765 - 2225
Duration 14 - 84 Days
From £765 - 2225
Duration 14 - 84 Days
Volunteers have the unique opportunity to not only work at the world renowned Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary but also track and monitor Big Cats and Elephants at their research sites

Volunteers have the unique opportunity to not only work at the world renowned Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary but also visit their research sites in Southern and North East Namibia and monitor the big cats, wild dogs, hyena and elephants in these areas of outstanding beauty, while contributing to invaluable research that helps to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.  The three sites are:  Neuras Wildlife Estate, Kanaan Desert Retreat and Mangetti in north of Namibia
As well as helping on these research sites volunteers also help care of big cats and wildlife that have found a safe home at the world renowned Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary.  Volunteers can join from 2 weeks and can choose how to split their time between the research sites and Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary.

Neuras Wine and Wildlife Estate

Background

Neuras is a truly unique and beautiful research site and one of only three wineries in Namibia.  In the local Koikoi language Neuras means “place of abandoned water” and developed initially due to the presence of several crystal clear cold-water springs.  It is known as the “driest vineyard in the world” due to its desert location and the first wines were produced in 2001.  The income from the wine production supports the conservation work and volunteers will record information from game counts, from wildlife cameras, site exploration and GPS data from the big cats, many of which were rescued and rehabilitated at the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary before being released in the area.  The estate is located in the Pro-Namib ecosystem, the northern section encompassing the majestic Naukluft Mountain range whilst the southern part is part of an extensive canyon complex with an underground cavy system.  Together with the five springs these environments provide very specialised ecosystems that are home to the wildlife that the Neuras team strive to protect and study.

Activities

Capture Mark Release
To better understand how wildlife live in such a challenging and demanding environment, monitoring techniques such as GPS satellite tracking are used, espeically for very secretive species such as the leopard.  GPS collars are an excellent way to gather information and volunteers will help researchers to identify areas of big cat activity such as cheetah marking trees for example.  When wildlife of interest is captured, they are immobilised on-site and fitted with GPS collars or VHF trackers for continuous monitoring.  Once they are released work continues via the computer, following information from the satellite to better study these magnificent big cats.
Radio Telemetry Tracking
Fitting the leopards and cheetah with GPS trackers enables researchers to follow their day-to-day movements but does not tell much about their breeding success, prey selection or health status.  Direct observation is required to study these successfully and the team will go into the field regularly to track the collared big cats and assess them directly.  They are located using radio telemetry and days in the field can be long and warm, with sometimes a lot of walking involved.  However the rewards of finding wildlife in the bush and collecting important information are unrivalled.
Game Counts
It is essential also to monitor the wildlife population density to assess the overall health of the ecosystem.  Volunteers will take part in regular game counts to assist with this monitoring.  Commonly observed animals include the Mountin Zebra, Kudu, Oryx, Springbox, Steenbok and Ostrich.
Camera Trapping
In order to assist in the identification stage motion-triggered camera traps are used.  These record data 24/7 every day of the year and as they are non-selective they capture information on all wildife that passes in front of them – carnivores, herbivores and birds.  This shows what is present and the level of activity, and is especially useful for animals that are entirely nocturnal.  The cameras are non-invasive and often record very interesting behaviour!  Volunteers will help to set up the cameras in the field – perhaps at water points, cheetah-marking trees, caves etc – maintain the with new batteries and memory cards as necessary and also go through the images to assess and record the data captured in this way.
Sossusvlei Day Trip
Neuras is situated just over an hour away from the iconic red Sossusvlei Dunes.  There is an optional day trip for the volunteers at a nominal fee which gives a great opportunity to experience this stunning landscape. Sossusvlei is an absolute must-see in Namibia.
Volunteers are also able to assist with many of the tasks in wine production, such as harvesting, bottling and labelling, all of which are done by hand.  This is extremely rewarding – even for non-wine drinkers – and is an example of how conversation can be supported through different approaches.

Kanaan Desert Retreat

Background

Kanaan is a newer research site and a true desert gem.  It was previously used as a film, photography and holiday destination but it is now aimed to establish an unfenced wildlife reserve which will provide refuge for many endangered species, based on scientific and sustainable management practices.  Kanaan is part of the Namib Sand Sea – with fantastic photographic opportuities including the iconic red sand dunes, vast open grass plains dotted with camel thorn trees as well as many antelope and towering mountain ranges.  Volunteers who want to become actively involved are who want to experience the desert first hand are particularly welcome and they will help to record wildlife information which will in turn contribute to the long-term management of the area.  The main species to be found are cheetah, brown hyena, spotted hyena, leopard as well as many other desert-adapted species.  As this is a brand new project, volunteers can really make an impact.
Kanaan borders the famous Namib-Naukluft Park and has also been home to the San Bushmen in the past.  It is hoped that it will again in the future be home to a traditional San settlement which volunteers may have the chance to visit to learn more about Namibia’s rich cultural history.

Activities

Mapping
Good, accurate maps are essential for any activity and volunteers will join researchers and use a GPS unit to map anything from important wildlife observations to habitat features as well as roads, water holes, fences etc.  This information will then be made into up-to-date reserve maps which will aid future research activities.  This activity will involve spending quality time in this wonderful environment and a lot of the work will be done on foot to better understand the relevance of the data to the landscape scale.  Encounters with many different types of wildife are guaranteed!
Ancient San Skills
Nobody knows and understands this vast, dry, southern African landscape better than the San people.  Researchers have made good use of these skills in recent years and it is hoped that Kanaan will in the future be home to a traditional San settlement where volunteers will have the chance to experience their unique culture and see something of their lifestyle and skills.
Capture Mark Release
To better understand how wildlife live in such a challenging and demanding environment, monitoring techniques such as GPS satellite tracking are used, espeically for very secretive species such as the leopard.  GPS collars are an excellent way to gather information and volunteers will help researchers to identify areas of big cat activity such as cheetah marking trees for example.  When wildlife of interest is captured, they are immobilised on-site and fitted with GPS collars or VHF trackers for continuous monitoring.  Once they are released work continues via the computer, following information from the satellite to better study these magnificent big cats.
Radio Telemetry Tracking
Fitting the leopards and cheetah with GPS trackers enables researchers to follow their day-to-day movements but does not tell much about their breeding success, prey selection or health status.  Direct observation is required to study these successfully and the team will go into the field regularly to track the collared big cats and assess them directly.  They are located using radio telemetry and days in the field can be long and warm, with sometimes a lot of walking involved.  However the rewards of finding wildlife in the bush and collecting important information are unrivalled.
Game Counts
It is essential also to monitor the wildlife population density to assess the overall health of the ecosystem.  Volunteers will take part in regular game counts to assist with this monitoring.  Commonly observed animals include the Mountin Zebra, Kudu, Oryx, Springbox, Steenbok and Ostrich.
Camera Trapping
In order to assist in the identification stage motion-triggered camera traps are used.  These record data 24/7 every day of the year and as they are non-selective they capture information on all wildife that passes in front of them – carnivores, herbivores and birds.  This shows what is present and the level of activity, and is especially useful for animals that are entirely nocturnal.  The cameras are non-invasive and often record very interesting behaviour!  Volunteers will help to set up the cameras in the field – perhaps at water points, cheetah-marking trees, caves etc – maintain the with new batteries and memory cards as necessary and also go through the images to assess and record the data captured in this way.
Cheetah Feed
Kanaan Desert Retreat is home to five rescued cheetahs from the Wildlife Sanctuary who are now the lucky residents of a 7 hectare enclosure on the red sand dunes of Kanaan.  Volunteers will be involved in food preparation, feeding and care of these cheetahs as well as enclosure cleaning on a regular basis.  Seeing these cheetahs up close in this stunning desert scenery is an opportunity not to be missed!
Maintenance and Security
In order for this ecosystem to function properly there are several maintenance activities that are necessary, especially in dry areas such as Kanaan.  As the project deals with endangered species, regular anti-poaching patrols are necessary as well as other security implementations.  Water holes need regular maintenance and need inspection for damage.  Volunteers will take part in all operational aspects of the farm and will get dirty from time to time.  It is hoped that everyone will contribute to the maintenance as their capabilities permit.
Other Activities
One of the must-do activities for any volunteer is the sun-downer drive to enjoy the tranquillity and scenery of the Namib when the sun sets and the desert is painted in unimaginable colours.  There will also be night drives and sleep outs as part of the security protocol, but these give chance to observe some of the nocturnal desert wildlife.  Volunteers may also be involved in water hole observations and because wildlife in the Namib is forced to drink regularly, the water holes are particularly good viewpoints.  On rest days volunteers can sit back and relax – and perhaps view the Namib night sky with its ever prominent Milky Way – another highlight not to be missed.

Mangetti – Elephant and Wild Dog Conservation

Background

Since 2008 the sanctuary has worked tirelessly to engage Namibian landowners and livestock farmers on the topic which provides the greatest challenge to the conservation of endangered species:Human-Wildlife Conflict.
Theimpact of humana ctivities on native wildlife has never been more apparent than it is in
respect to two of Africa’s iconic species;the African Painted Dog (or wild dog) and the African Elephant both of which have endured decades of suffering through habitat fragmentation, hunting and persecution.
In a bid to alter this state of affairs,researchers have been working in the Mangetti Complex,northern Namibia, in an effort to understand better the levels,and causes,of conflict between these two species and the local population.
Volunteers will assist our researchers in documenting the movements andactivities of elephant and wilddog. Using GPS and VHF monitoring technology, motion-sensitive trail cameras and traditional spoor (footprint) tracking techniques, come and delve into the lives of the World’s largest land animal and one of Africa’s most endangered carnivore species.

Environment

The Mangetti Complex comprises two main areas; the Kavango Cattle Ranch, a government farm conglomerate in the Kavango region of northern Namibia, and the nearby Mangetti National Park. In total the study area comprises more than 2,000 km2 of north-eastern Kalahari woodlands and mixed acacia savannah.The vegetation is thick and dense allowing even the largest species of wildlife to simply vanish before your very eyes.

Activities

Camera Trapping
The use of motion-sensitive trail cameras is an essential part of ecological wildlife monitoring. Non-invasive in nature, they capture and record vital images of the many and varied species inhabiting the environment. Working 24 hours a day,365 days a year,they are particularly useful for recording the presence, and densities, of difficult to observe  species such as the African wild dog allowing us to identify individuals from unique coat patterns, there by providing more accurate data for population estimates and levels of breeding success.
GPS Monitoring
Currently we are monitoring two adult elephant cows which were fitted with GPS satellite tracking collars in 2014. Every morning the information relayed by the collars via satellite must be downloaded in order to monitor the movements of the herd and identify any possible conflict and/or damage to infrastructure,which may have occurred.
We are also planning the next phase of African wild dog monitoring which will involve the capture of high-ranking pack members in order to fit GPS tracking collars for intense monitoring which will allow us to map rangesize, habitat use and potential conflict with surrounding landowners.
VHF Telemetry Tracking
Periodic tracking via the VHF transmitter beacon fitted in the GPS collars on the elephants will allow us to make detailed first-hand observations on exact herd structure and composition and build up a photographic ID guide to the individual animals.
Spoor (footprint) Tracking
Wildlife is just that; WILD! As such they rarely stand a round waiting to be observed and photographed. It is therefore important to perform detailed ground searches of areas in order to locate and identify the spoor(footprints/tracks) left behind by their passing. This is the first, and often most important, step in monitoring the activity and movements of focal study species in order to determine where further work must be carried out.
Conflict Assessment
Making detailed records of all occurrences of conflict, whether ‘perceived’ or actual’, is important in making clear plans for the conservation of endangered wildlife species such as elephant and African wild dog. It is only by understanding the underlying causes of persecution in response to conflict that a coherent and detailed plan can be created which will produce positive and measurable results in conservation.
This may take the form of recording and photographing specific conflict incidents such as damage to infrastructure by elephants or the predation of livestock by wilddogs.
Outreach
Understanding the attitudes of local farmers and landowners towards species such as elephant and African wild dog is  essential to producing a clear plan of action for their conservation. Only by  actually getting out onto the farm land and talking to locals can we hope to find practicle solutions to the current conflict between humans and wildlife, the result of which is often the indiscriminate persecution of endangered species at the hands of angry locals.
Important Information for Everyone
Volunteers should be equipped to work under any weather conditions, including cold winters and long hours in the sun (please check prevailing weather conditions at your time of travel). The Mangetti is a high risk Malaria area from November to March and anti-malarial medication is strongly recommended Suitable insect repellents should also be brought. Except for emergencies, volunteers have no access to the internet.

Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary

Volunteers can choose between either Neuras, Mangetti or Kanaan research sites however everyone will spend some time at the Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary also helping to care for an work hands on with the many animals including the big cats that have found a safe home there.   This is where many of the big cats that have been given a second chance at freedom in the wild have been rehabilitated and cared for.  Spending time at both the sanctuary and the release site is a fantastic opportunity to be involved in a truely unique experience of wildlife and big cat conservation in Namibia.

 
 

What's Included

  • Food
  • Accommodation
  • Transfers
Experience Volunteering
Region Africa
Country Namibia

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