Be an Africa Wildlife Volunteer

Vancouver, BC | Posted: February 25th, 2019

Africa Wildlife volunteers can help elephants

Interested in being an Africa wildlife volunteer?

Africa – both the 2nd largest and 2nd most populous continent on the planet. It’s home to diverse ecosystems, unique cultures and some of the planet’s most iconic wildlife species. The Big 5. They are the African Elephant, the Cape Buffalo, the Black Rhino, the African Leopard and the African Lion, and collectively are unmatched in the wildlife viewing appeal. They are the reason safaris were created and why choosing to be an Africa wildlife volunteer is gaining in popularity.

Habitat loss, poaching, and climate change are impacting the health of African wildlife. Development is pushing wildlife further afar, and creating troublesome encounters as human interaction increases. Harvesting the wildlife for traditional medicine, or as trophies have commoditized the animals and created value in their death. Climate change is creating longer and more severe droughts, and altering the predator-prey balance.

Volunteering with African wildlife is helping change the prospects for many local animal populations. Volunteers, and in many cases ‘Citizen Scientists’ provide much-needed assistance both in labor and in financial support. Trading in a 2-week sightseeing tour of South Africa, for a 2-week conservation program, that layered with applied learning and impact, is becoming more popular every year. It offers a deeper look in local community, habitat immersion and in some cases can be a great entry point into a career in the veterinary studies or wildlife management.

The benefits of being an Africa wildlife volunteer

The benefits run deep, but they can be simplified as benefits to place and benefits to people. Your presence offers support to many places that are outside well-trodden tourist circuits. They benefit from the economic legacy from your accommodation, food, and transfer fees. You also provide a reaction in expenses. Checking camera traps, auditing populations, or preparing meals for elephants can be a laborious job and an expense many non-profits just can’t afford.

As for benefits to people, there are the jobs you are stimulating by being there, such as accommodation, the jobs you are helping fund, such as the local project managers helping administer the program. Then there is the benefit to yourself. The applied learning, skills development, and immersion that only comes from being there, and getting your hands dirty. These can be life-changing moments, a chance to make new friends, and for many, a chance to find their true calling.

Considerations for African wildlife volunteers

Not every program is easy, nor is every program suitable for every individual. Some may be a little too far outside one’s comfort zone. Other’s may not be ‘as advertised’. As potential wildlife volunteers, it’s up to you to do your own homework. Budget aside, we invite to pay attention to the following 4 key considerations:

  1. Seasonality: Weather and climate. Make sure it’s to set expectations. Rainy season in parts of Africa can be ‘monsoon-like’ and limit your ability to participate in tasks or impede on accessibility.
  2. Geopolitical issues: It goes without saying that continental Africa has a checkered past of social issues and internal conflict. We advise you to look up your home country’s travel advisory status in any nation you are interested in visiting.
  3. Accessibility: You may fly easily enough into Cape Town, but your program could still be 9 hrs away, by bus. Plot out to the location of your program, find out where the closest city is, where the closest hospital is, and exactly how remote you are going to be.
  4. Validity and impacts of the volunteer program: The trickiest consideration of them all. There are a lot of points of view around determining the integrity of a program. The fail-safe measure is this if you are petting lions, riding elephants, or feeding cheetahs you are likely doing them more harm than good. There are excellent programs, many research-based, that have the best interest of the animal and its habitat in mind. Rarely, if ever, is that anything that looks or sounds like a petting zoo.

Volunteer Work & Wildlife Conservation Options

Despite what many postcards show Africa isn’t just one giant Savannah. It’s mountains, and lakes and a rich coastline. There are options to volunteer in most eco-systems and we have selected a few of our favorites to get you started.

Volunteer Opportunities On land

Be an Africa Wildlife Volunteer with Elephants

Kevin Richardson Wildlife Volunteer in South Africa with Intern Africa. Join internationally acclaimed South African conservationist, Kevin Richardson both at a rehabilitation wildlife sanctuary, and in the bush, as you track animals, learn animal science and help both their habitat and their prospects.

Volunteer with Monkeys in South Africa with Oyster Worldwide. Join efforts at a primate rehab center for injured and orphaned monkeys and baboons. Assist with feeding, cleaning, and supporting the on-site veterinary team.

Conservation Projects At Sea

Be an Africa Wildlife Volunteer with sharks

Dolphin Research and Conservation Volunteer in Zanzibar with GVI. Help measure local numbers, monitor behavior, and feeding patterns. Reports help support and guide local conservation policy.

Volunteer with Great White Sharks in South Africa with Marine Volunteers. Help local marine biologists collect live data from a boat off the shores of the Great White capital of the world, Gaansbai, South Africa.

Whale Sharks and Marine conservation in Mozambique with Kaya Volunteer. Help collect data on whale sharks, coral reefs and other marine biodiversity, to make recommendations for improving the conservation of marine life as well as creating general awareness about the marine environment.

Hands-On Experience as a Career Starter

Be an Africa Wildlife Volunteer with a safari guide course

Safari Field Guide Course in South Africa with Intern Africa. Join a 28day, 55-day, or 1 full year at field guide program in South Africa. From local biology, bushcraft, and astronomy you will learn what it takes to be a field guide in South Africa.

Pre-Vet project in South Africa with SAVE Volunteering. Are you heading into a veterinary career? On this program, you will learn about animal welfare, animal management, and veterinary science.

To see all the African volunteer programs, including social impact and economic development options, click here.

If being an Africa wildlife volunteer isn’t something for you at the moment, SEEtheWILD, has a terrific list of responsible safaris and wildlife viewing programs that range in time commitment and cost.