Volunteering: Details about our conservation project in South Africa
In this blog you receive detailed background knowledge concerning the topics and tasks of our volunteer project in Zululand, South Africa.
What is our species conservation project in South Africa about?
Our volunteer project is primarily concerned with the monitoring of threatened and priority species in Southern Africa. The monitoring activities include the collection, analysis and updating of huge amounts of data, which serve to facilitate the making of critical decisions regarding certain species protection measures.
A second aspect of the project is the capture and relocation of endangered species so that they can find a new and safe home in protected areas. It also develops and applies technological measures to combat poaching, which are used in emergency situations.
Finally, the project focuses on interaction with people who live very close to biodiversity hotspots, i.e. in places with a high number of endemic plant and animal species and whose nature is particularly threatened. The aim is to provide the inhabitants with valuable knowledge about peaceful coexistence with the migratory species.
What is behind the monitoring of endangered and priority species?
Monitoring proves to be an effective method to get information about animal movements and demographic developments and thus to learn about their ecology and population structures. Monitoring enables the observation and recording of behavioural and eating patterns. These findings can then be used for scientific purposes. Intensive monitoring also allows predictions to be made about movement patterns and possible dispersal of individuals (especially wild dogs), which can help in wildlife management to make decisions about appropriate species protection measures. If animals cross the boundaries of a park, monitoring can quickly determine this and act accordingly – the animals are returned to the park to prevent conflict, disease and contact with humans and domesticated animals.
Monitoring also plays an important role in the fight against poaching: daily and continuous monitoring helps to draw attention to incidents by poachers within a short period of time. Injuries caused by fighting can also be detected quickly. In the case of the reintroduction of priority species, an evaluation of the success of the reintroduction is of great importance. Monitoring proves to be the most accurate survey method for making suitable species conservation decisions and gaining valuable knowledge about future reintroduction processes.
The role of volunteers
Volunteers who come to Zululand/South Africa receive comprehensive training in the use of radiotelemetry devices and participate in the daily monitoring of endangered and priority species. Data collection also plays an important role in this context. The volunteers also learn conventional tracking methods and gather valuable knowledge about the typical behaviour patterns of focal species.
Camera traps are checked once a week, SD cards and batteries are exchanged and the images are searched and sorted for specific animals. At least one day per week is used to enter and analyze all the information collected in a database.
Depending on the need and length of stay, volunteers can also assist in the fitting of tracking collars to endangered animals, the dehorning of rhinos (to prevent poachers from killing them), area counting, animal rescues from poacher traps, fence and roadblock repairs, or reintroduction processes.