This animal protection project involves conservation of the wilderness and protection of endangered wild animals such as cheetahs, rhinoceros, African wild dogs, elephants, lions and leopards. The project works across several different Game Reserves in Zululand, each with a different conservation focus, and with differing animal species present on each reserve. Your entire training will take place while on the job in the African bush. You will learn how to locate the wild animals at risk, using various instruments, how to read their tracks and how to document their behaviour and feeding patterns. The project works in collaboration with the WWF, which also partially sponsors the project.
Zululand is a district in the province of Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa. It is known as the pulse of Africa and at the same time, was the birthplace of African nature conservation and environmental protection. It has one of the most diverse, fertile and wild landscapes in the world. The fact that you might come across the renowned “Big Five” is enough to take your breath away, but the never-ending expanses and the incredible diversity of animal and plant life in their natural intact habitat reflect the beauty of Africa and make a trip to this fascinating continent worthwhile.
You will book a flight to Johannesburg airport and an onward flight to Richards Bay airport, where your adventure will begin. For a surcharge of approximately € 100.00, the coordinators will pick you up at the airport and take you to the reserve. Work placements on the project begin every second Monday of the month. Your stay can last between two weeks and three months. The African bush is a dynamic and constantly changing environment, so that work on the project depends entirely on the movements and activities of the animals under observation and the prevailing weather conditions. A typical day starts in the early hours of the morning. Accompanied by the other volunteers and an experienced supervisor, you will set off before sunrise seated on the back of in an open off-road vehicle to watch the animals. In order to locate them various gadgets, such as tracking collars, are used. You will learn how to monitor these gadgets and so be able to work more independently. Once the animals have been located, the sighting and the behaviour and food patterns of the animals will be recorded and documented for research purposes. You will return to camp late in the morning and have time to relax as you wish. In the late afternoon it is time for the second trip into the bush. On returning to camp shortly after sunset, the next thing on the agenda is preparing supper and the day finally draws to a close around the camp fire. One day per week is reserved exclusively for data entry and analysis in the camp.
For an extra charge of approx. €100 you will be picked up from Richards Bay Airport and brought to the camp.
In addition to the activities listed above you may also be involved in checking camera traps, carrying out game counts, bird-watching, photographing animals, removing non-endemic plant species or marking accompanying the professional staff to mark certain animals such as rhinoceros for data collection and research purposes. These activities will depend on the length of your stay, the season and necessity. A further possible aspect of your work could be the translocation and reintroduction of endangered species, if these activities are scheduled for the time that you will be there. Any planned activities like collaring, treatment or relocation are performed in conjunction with Reserve Management Staff and with veterinarians, whose availability to perform this work depends upon their schedules and proximity, as well as upon the pack/pride dynamics of the animals themselves. Through the daily practical training in the bush, you will acquire many new skills.
These include the proper utilisation of tracking and GPS gadgets, how to make animal identification systems, setting up and using camera traps and data collection about animal behaviour. Moreover, you will learn about the traditional methods of animal identification and tracking and develop an understanding of nature conservation issues and objectives with regard to the endangered species in Africa. Work on the project can sometimes be dangerous, very strenuous and extremely challenging. Your safety is guaranteed at all times by the training you receive, the instructions from the professional and experienced coordinators and the protective vehicles when out on observation. The working hours and the challenging and often strenuous tasks are fully compensated by the rewarding experiences which you would otherwise probably never have. You will get an insight into the work of real conservationists and naturalists and be part of it.
If you’re interested, please note that this project does not involve any direct interaction with wild animals. We are strongly against breeding young lions for canned hunting, and have therefore signed the strict code of conduct of the organisation CACH ( Campaign Against Canned Hunting). We can provide additional information if required. We realise that some of the people on our projects in Southern Africa want to see as many animals as possible in their natural environment. However, this is dependent on a number of factors. Please note that NATUCATE makes no guarantee that you will see a variety of animals, in particular the big five. To make such a guarantee would be unprofessional and against our corporate philosophy.
The project is located in Zululand, South Africa – an area renowned for the spectacular diversity of its animal life. Zululand is home to many unusual mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and plants. Depending on the length of your stay, you will be housed in one or more camps in the various wildlife reserves. The project works in four different reserves, each with its own type of vegetation and animal species. If you are only staying two weeks, you will work in just one reserve. If you are staying eight weeks, then you will get to know all four. You will share accommodation with the other volunteers, at a research camp within the reserve. There is electricity, warm water and toilets. You will be supplied with everything except towels and mosquito nets. You can use the internet in the office once a week. Depending on the area mobile phone reception can be limited. The communal kitchen is well equipped with an oven, microwave, a hob and a solar cooker and contains everything you might need for cooking. You can prepare your meals here, together with the other international volunteers. If tastes differ or you suffer from food intolerances, you can of course cook on your own. The coordinators who live at the research camp with the volunteers, will make a trip to the supermarket (once a week or every fortnight) to purchase the food required. Some of the volunteers may accompany the coordinator on this trip, if there is space in the vehicle and if the work allows. As the volunteers choose and prepare the food themselves it is easily possible to follow a vegetarian diet.
Everybody interested in volunteering abroad should be able to adjust to entirely unfamiliar standards of living in their future host country. Therefore, we would like to point out the importance of being flexible and adaptable regarding the accommodation and sanitary facilities provided by the project. Those are very basic and – depending on the project – cannot be compared to European standards. The equipment and furnishings are limited to a minimum; air conditioning is not available. Depending on your host country occasional power blackouts or water outages are quite common. Please contact us if you have further questions about your accommodation. We are pleased to provide you with comprehensive information since we would like you to feel entirely prepared for your time abroad.
South Africa is renowned for the variety of species which live there. Together, the Zululand region, the famous Krüger National Park and the southwestern province of The Western Cape are home to more than 300 mammal species, 500 bird species, 100 reptile species and numerous species of insect. They are also home to the rarely seen African wild dog and the big five (rhinoceros, elephant, Cape buffalo, lion and leopard). National and international efforts have established a number of nature and species conservation projects which carry out research using tracking technology in a number of areas, such as populations and movement patterns of endangered wild dogs. Mapping (monitoring) of animal and plant species helps to monitor wildlife populations and planning future conservation measures.