There are many wildlife volunteer projects in South Africa, given its abundant game. Work through responsible wildlife voluntourism agents and be rewarded with highly gratifying programmes that include monitoring and tracking the Big 5, feeding and caring for abandoned animals, and working with endangered species.

Did you know?

The endangered cheetah is the only member of its genus - all others have become extinct.

Wildlife volunteer projects cover a range of experiences working with wild animals either in their natural habitat or in captivity. While there are numerous wildlife voluntourism programmes available in the country, volunteers are strongly advised to work through accredited operators in order to be placed in legitimate projects.

Wildlife conservation is a major focus of these volunteer programmes and often includes the opportunity to assist in the research of endangered species. One such programme is the Endangered Wildlife Monitoring project from operator Aviva.

This programme in northern KwaZulu-Natal actively works to save threatened species by implementing and managing wildlife monitoring projects around cheetahs, wild dogs, black rhinos and vultures. Volunteers get involved in the tracking and locating of these animals, GPS mapping of sightings, animal behavioural research, game counts, and the creation and updating of animal identikits.

There are also opportunities to help with the radio collaring of animals, bird ringing, vulture counts and nest surveys, and the relocation and re-introduction of game.

In a similar vein, you can work exclusively in cheetah conservation at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, in Limpopo. This acclaimed programme comprises caring for the cheetahs (cleaning, feeding and assisting/ observing veterinary activities), attending lectures on all major conservation aspects. The perks include a visit to the nearby Kruger National Park and an elephant-back safari at Camp Jabulani.

Wildlife volunteer projects also include working with orphaned animals at rehabilitation sanctuaries across the country. All Africa Volunteers offers a programme along these lines, assisting the Animal Rehabilitation Centre in the Eastern Cape with feeding and caring for abandoned and injured wild animals.

If you want to work with primates, consider the Vervet Monkey Foundation in Tzaneen (Limpopo) or the equally respected Primate Care (C.A.R.E Animal Sanctuary) in Phalaborwa, which does excellent work rehabilitating injured and orphaned baboons.

You may want or need a broad-based experience of conservation work, in which case several private game reserves, including Samara, run volunteer programmes that expose you to a number of wildlife experiences. These might include monitoring cheetahs and vervets, fighting erosion and being part of game capture experiences.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Aviva:
Tel: +27 (0) 21 557 4312
Fax: +27 (0) 86 634 2063
Email: info@aviva-sa.com

Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre:
Tel: +27 (0) 15 793 1633
Fax: +27 (0) 15 793 1646
Email: students@cheetahcentre.co.za

All Africa Volunteers:
Tel: +27 (0) 42 296 0594
Fax: +27 (0) 866 228 159
Email: allafricavolunteers@gmail.com

How to get here

The organisation you're working with will most likely organise transfers from the closest airport.

What will it cost

Prices vary according to the length of your stay.

Length of stay

Most programmes prefer you to stay for at least a week up to a maximum of 12 weeks.

What to pack

Sun hat, sunblock, insect repellent, a torch, sleeping bag, binoculars and walking boots. Malaria tablets (consult your GP beforehand) are essential if participating in the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre cheetah programme.

Where to stay

Most volunteer programmes have accommodation, but check first.