Why volunteer on this project?
Poverty, deforestation and wildlife crime have put Malawi’s animals under huge pressure. Volunteers are crucial to the sanctuary’s rehabilitation and release programme – the project is focused on keeping wildlife in the wild, and releasing as many animals as possible back to their natural habitat. Volunteers participate in all these areas, plus learn about and care for orphaned and injured wildlife.
There are just under 200 animals in residence at the sanctuary including primates, carnivores, antelope, reptiles and birds. Most have been rescued as orphans or were victims of the illegal bushmeat and pet trade, others have been injured in snares, hit by cars or stoned by local villagers. Thanks to the state-of-the-art vet clinic, orphan care programme, experienced animal care team and dedicated volunteers, the majority of intakes can be managed on site.
This is an amazing opportunity to get practical wildlife care experience, working towards animal releases back into their natural habitat.
What will I be doing?
Volunteers have the option to get involved with animal care and enrichment, learn veterinary skills and assist in community education programmes and tours. Most focus on wildlife rescue and rehabilitation projects, which can include:
Wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and release
The majority of animals are destined for release into the wild. No contact is allowed with adult primates, to ensure their survival skills are maintained for the best chance of a successful release.
- Help with pre-release monitoring to ensure animals are fit to be reintroduced
- Settle new arrivals and rehabilitated animals into groups and monitor progress
- Monitor released primates at one of the National Parks Primate Release Programmes
Baby and young orphaned primates are often in need of special attention, so your skills as surrogate parents are often called upon! Most animals need round the clock care so volunteers staying longer then 3 weeks will be given an animal to care for during their stay. Each animal has an individual care plan, supervised by staff.
- Surrogacy work may include owls, jackals, baboons, monkeys, antelopes and serval cats
- You may also be required to bottle feed orphans
Volunteers play a vital role in the daily care of all sanctuary animals. You may be involved with caring for monkeys, birds, reptiles or antelopes – or any other new addition to the family!
- Cut browse for the antelopes and forage for food for animals such as hedgehogs (catching grasshoppers anyone?)
- Prepare food for the animals
- Clean enclosures and feeding pens
- Quietly observe sick and injured wildlife and spend time with distressed animals that need monitoring
A critical role is to provide enrichment for the adult animals who cannot be released back into the wild. This includes sociable animals who need to be kept alone because of the stage of their release programme. Volunteer led enrichment can prevent the onset of stress behaviour by keeping animals stimulated.
- Build activity centres to encourage baboons to run, jump and climb
- Make toys for primates to stimulate foraging
- Observe and record behaviour
Priority in this area is given to those studying Veterinary Medicine, but if you are interested in learning more, there is the option to participate in this area.
- Assist the on-site vet with basic surgical procedures
- Assist with vaccinations and health checks for new arrivals
- Contribute to disease screening projects
If you are interested in a Veterinary Internship Experience, please enquire for more details.
Volunteers can also choose to participate in wildlife monitoring programmes, splitting their time between the sanctuary and National Parks. Research volunteers will:
- Undertake primate census surveys and reintroduction monitoring
- Bat diversity studies
- Insect and mammal surveys (large and small mammals)
- Elephant census surveys
Please enquire for more details of these research opportunities.
Where will I stay?
Volunteers stay in a homely volunteer house in the heart of the sanctuary, surrounded by animals. There is mixed dorm-style accommodation sleeping ten volunteers and the house has electricity, hot and cold running water, kitchen, lounge and bathroom. There is also housekeeper who will do your laundry and make beds. Three meals a day are prepared by the resident Malawian cook, Joseph, and tea and coffee is freely available through the day. Drinking water is also provided. On a Sunday volunteers take it in turns to prepare food or you can try one of the local restaurants.
“My time here can only be described as the very clichéd “once in a lifetime” experience, only I hope that it does not happen only once, as I would love to go back as soon as possible. I researched volunteer programmes based on previous volunteer experiences, treatment of animals, ties to hunting, etc, and this one was highly recommended.
The volunteers and staff were immediately welcoming. I was responsible for feeding/sitting with a new orphaned monkey who arrived shortly before I did, as well as a new baby duiker, who was possibly my favourite because I fed her almost every day that I was there, five times a day, so we got to bond a little.
Another of my favourite activities was observing the vervet monkeys who would be released a few weeks after my departure – by the end of my volunteer experience, I knew all of their names and individual personalities. Aside from getting to work with animals all day (vastly differently than the job I do at home), I also really enjoyed getting to know the volunteers and staff, who went out of their way to ensure we had a great Christmas even though we were so far from our family and friends. I will definitely be back!
Holly G, USA, December 2016
“My first time in Africa, and what a wonderful experience this was! There are a lot of projects in Africa, but you must do your research to find a good one. And trust me this one is!
In my first week I really learned a lot. A few things we did: food preparation and feeding techniques, animal behavioural observation, making enrichment for the monkeys, orphan handling and feeding, assisting with health checks (with vervet monkeys and a python), darting (with a blowpipe and dart pistol), travelling to Kasungu National Park (to see the group of released vervet monkeys) and a lot more!
I stayed for 3 weeks (which was too short!). In my last 2 weeks I helped in the orphan care (preparing food, feeding monkeys and duikers, browsing, cleaning etc). There were not a lot of volunteers in this period so I also had the great opportunity to hands-on fed orphaned monkey Fraggle who needed 7 feeds a day, from 7:00 till 19:00.
The people that work here have a passion for wildlife and they really do everything they can to help every animal. It was hard to leave this place after these 3 beautiful weeks. I met great people from around the world and I took back beautiful memories.
So if you are considering to volunteer at a wildlife centre, this is the right place! Before I booked, I doubted, because I was going to travel alone (for the first time). But trust me, if you’re doubting too, just do it! You will not regret it!”
Nadia S, Netherlands, March 2017