Why volunteer in Africa? One great reason is to learn more about and help to protect some of the planet’s most intriguing wildlife.
From mighty savannah elephants to furtive spotted hyenas and brightly-feathered birds, Africa is home to a dazzling array of wildlife. Sadly, habitat loss, wildlife trafficking, and illegal hunting are driving the decline of many animal populations.
Join the ranks of people working for African wildlife conservation. Take a look at these Africa animal volunteer programs and find out how your actions can help to protect species.
1) Hyena conservation and research
As an animal volunteer abroad, you’ll have the opportunity to gain a holistic view of Africa’s ecosystems and learn about some of the less popular creatures in the animal kingdom. Volunteering in hyena conservation and research is a great example of this.
Through this animal volunteer program, you’ll get to know the behaviours of spotted and brown hyenas. Your volunteer tasks will include using remote camera traps to identify individual animals and gain an understanding of how they explore an area for food, and compete with other predators.
While studying a creature that is often reviled, you’ll come to have a deep appreciation of South Africa’s hyenas and the role they play on the savannah.
2) Research dolphin behaviour in Zanzibar
Zanzibar’s dolphin population attracts many tourists to this Indian Ocean island. However, as dolphin tours are unregulated, the marine mammals have little protection. Data collection and conservation initiatives are necessary to help ensure the safety of the species.
The good news is, you can assist with the conservation of these species. GVI’s bird research and conservation project gives you the chance to directly contribute to the South African Bird Atlas Project, SABAP2, by uploading important data directly to the database.
As healthy bird populations are a key indicator of the overall health of an ecosystem, SABAP2 is a crucial conservation tool. The database helps researchers to understand and evaluate the impact of threats such as climate change, which in turn supports wider conservation efforts in South Africa.
4) Research big cats in South Africa
Volunteering in South Africa with animals is particularly alluring when your focus is some of the most impressive creatures of all — big cats.
Your tasks as a volunteer will include carrying out biological surveys, and tracking and recording the movements of the big cats. The practical conservation skills you’ll learn over the course of this project make it a great starting point for a career in this field.
5) Help to protect sicklefin lemon sharks and turtles in Seychelles
Take part in GVI’s sicklefin lemon shark catch and release program, and monitor shark pups to keep an eye on populations around the island. You can also observe the nesting habits of turtles and collect data on hatching success rates.
The research station where this project is based is set in a remote island location. As well as learning more about the biodiversity of Seychelles, you’ll be able to explore pristine beaches, warm tropical waters alive with corals, and dense jungles.
6) Research South Africa’s mysterious cheetahs
Cheetahs are classified as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They face human-related threats such as poaching and habitat loss, as well as competition from other fiercer savannah predators, including hyenas and lions.
The world’s fastest land animal is also an elusive creature with a wide-ranging territory and a nomadic nature. This can make it difficult to study. As a result, there are large gaps in our knowledge about their behaviour.
The focus of this program is on the poaching of the critically endangered black rhino, and near-threatened white rhino. Your day-to-day volunteer activities could include attending lectures on the impact of poaching on the ecosystem, or delivering environmental education workshops to the local community.
9) Learn camera trapping and data collection techniques in South Africa
Animal volunteer programs that help to collect data and research are critical to conservation. With a clear understanding of the behaviour and environments of African wildlife, conservation organisations are better able to put in place measures to protect vulnerable animals.
As well as trying to detect rare species, you’ll assist with species inventories and biodiversity assessments. Learn to identify individual elephants, cheetahs, lions, and other animals, and use this data to help monitor populations and guide conservation efforts.
Zaytoen Domingo is a content writer and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa. She is currently enrolled in the Masters program in English at the University of the Western Cape. After graduating with an Honours Degree in English and Creative Writing, Zaytoen completed a skills-development program for writers and became an alum of the GVI Writing Academy.
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