Large Carnivore Conservation

NAMIBIA

Namibia

2 - 12 weeks

Friday

6 - 12 people

Age 18+

From $1,395

Namibia

2 - 12 weeks

Friday

Fri

6 - 12 people

Max 12

Age 18+

From $1,395

What's the project about?

Namibia is home to 25% of the world’s wild cheetah population, and the country’s stunning desert regions are also home to brown and spotted hyena, and leopard – all threatened species. The project have two dedicated carnivore research sites, dedicated to the study and monitoring of large carnivores and smaller desert-adapted mammals. The project is ideal for adventurous volunteers who want to experience true desert wilderness and contribute to the studies of Namibia’s wild carnivores.

How will I be contributing?

Volunteers assist research staff in the monitoring and tracking of the large carnivore and mammal populations in the area. The Desert Retreat site is dedicated to studies of wild hyena, plus land rehabilitation and studies of the local desert ecosystems. The Winelands site is home to highly adapted wildlife including cheetah and leopard. Volunteers at both sites will record wildlife information, conduct game counts, collect data and experience desert living.

What makes this project ethical?

These are two truly worthwhile carnivore research programmes, for you to support the conservation of Africa’s big cats in a responsible way. Volunteers contribute to long-term wildlife management programmes through the monitoring of large carnivores, and other desert-adapted species, helping to mitigate Namibia’s human-wildlife conflict. Both sites are dedicated to land rehabilitation and responsible land use, where possible removing game fences to allow uninhibited movement of local animals, including oryx, springbok, ostrich and the bat-eared fox.

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Project information

“Returning the wild to the wild”

The mission of these two desert-based research programmes is to conserve the land, culture and wildlife of Namibia, and support keynote species affected by ever-shrinking habitats. The human-wildlife conflict is one of the biggest threats to Namibia’s wildlife, and the project aims to mitigate the conflict through research projects and education of rural landowners.

The overriding principle of all the research activity is to develop a greater understanding of the Namibian wildlife that regularly come into conflict with humans, focusing in particular on leopard, cheetah and hyena.

The vision of the organisation is to use responsible conservation tourism to support their wildlife projects.

The project sites are release sites for captured and collared big cats – relocated to mitigate conflict situations with farmers, allowing carnivores to be responsibly translocated to new areas where they can thrive in peace. The project are also dedicated to responsible land use, allowing animals to move freely within private areas and removing game fences to allow uninhibited movement of local animals, including oryx, springbok, ostrich, bat-eared foxes and other desert-adapted animals.

The research conducted at these two sites is used for long term human-wildlife conflict mitigation – to find a balance between the needs of the human inhabitants and its spectacular wildlife.

Namibia is home to the largest density of free roaming cheetah in the world, and has 25% of the global cheetah population. It is also one of the few African countries which has free-ranging populations of 6 species of large carnivore (lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog, spotted and brown hyena). Their habitat is increasingly threatened as human populations grow and expand. Settlements, farming and roads are destroying the open grasslands that cheetah favour, and loss of their natural prey brings them into conflict with farmers, as they then attack livestock instead.

Carnivore research and the fitting of GPS collars allows for mitigation between farmers and the animals they view as pests.

The two Carnivore Research Sites are release sites for problem animals, and the research teams conduct ongoing research into the territories, behaviour and populations of these animals. Volunteers chart the progress of released cheetah and leopard in a spectacular environment and live in one of Namibia’s most stunning and diverse wilderness areas. This project is ideal for adventurous volunteers who want to experience the heart of one of Southern Africa’s most unique locations.

There are currently two core research projects:

Human-Carnivore Conflict Research

Namibia is one of the few African countries which is home to six species of free-roaming large carnivore – lion, leopard, cheetah, African wild dog, spotted and brown hyena. The aim of the research is to keep wildlife safely in the wild, through conflict mitigation strategies with some of the 3,500 commercial farmers and landowners.

Through a better understanding of Namibia’s carnivores, tolerance levels can be increased and persecution levels reduced.

Spotted Hyena Research Project

This research programme is focused on the spotted hyena of the Namib Desert. The aims of the study are to identify population dynamics, prey preferences and spatial ecology. These findings are used to create and refine conflict mitigation plans for local farmers who report problems with the hyena.

The research also contributes to population density and distribution maps of hyena in the area, aiming to reduce conflict by identifying potential high conflict situations and providing information and resources to reduce or eliminate the problem.

This is a 33,000 hectare habitat in the Namib Desert – a photographer’s paradise, with endless red dunes and spectacular night skies. The area has been transformed into a wildlife reserve, with no internal fences, and is a haven for a variety of desert-adapted wildlife – the ideal environment to perform research and observations of wild carnivores.

The project site and neighbouring farm comprise an area of 352 square km of stunning desert scenery; with a mix of red sand dunes, vast grass plains and ancient camel thorn trees. The site borders the Namib Naukluft Park and is an important link for huge scale wildlife conservation.

The main flagship species in the area are brown and spotted hyena, cheetah, leopard and a range of other desert-adapted species. It is text-book Namibia, with picture-perfect scenery and spectacular sunsets.

Activities at this research site include:

Environmental mapping
The basis of professional management of an area is an accurate map. These are used to evaluate plant and animal population data and guide future wildlife management decisions.

  • Join researchers and use a GPS to map everything including wildlife observations, habitat features and fixed points such as roads, waterpoints and fences.
  • Learn about desert-adapted flora and fauna and identify the tracks and signs of local wildlife;
  • Mapping means spending time in this fantastic environment exploring on foot and encountering different species of wildlife.

Carnivore Monitoring
GPS satellite tracking is the best way to track how wildlife utilise the reserve and how they interact, especially for species such as brown hyena and leopard.

    • Identify areas of regular carnivore activity (dens, riverbeds, tree markings etc);
    • Place cages and fit animals with GPS trackers;
    • Follow the satellite information from study animals and produce reports;
    • Gather data for the spotted hyena project: monitor the local collared hyena, enabling updates to be provided to local farmers, leading to increased tolerance from landowners.

Radio Tracking
GPS trackers give good information on day to day movements and interactions, but does not tell researchers about their breeding, prey selection or health status. Direct monitoring methods are also used.

  • Learn to track animals using telemetry
  • Track collared animals by vehicle and on foot
  • Collect meaningful information through observation of behaviour, feeding and social interactions

Game Counts
The area is home to large herds of migratory and desert-adapted oryx (gemsbok) and springbok, but also lesser known species such as klipspringer and Greater Kudu. A large number of game counts will be conducted to establish baseline populations of each species in the area.

  • Participate in regular all-species game counts to assist environmental assessment
  • Learn about the differences between desert-adapted animals and their forest and plains relations
  • Understand how wildlife use the semi-arid desert on a seasonal basis and what impact that usage has on predatory populations

Trail Cameras
Volunteers will get involved in the placement and setting of 24/7 motion-triggered trail cameras. These capture information on all animals which pass before them including birds, reptiles as well as large and small mammals.

  • Set trail cameras at key locations (e.g. water points, caves, known marking points etc)
  • Maintain cameras and go through images
  • Help assess the number of individuals, breeding successes and territories

Cheetah Feeding
The project is home to five rescued Cheetah from the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary in Windhoek, who are the residents of a 7 hectare fenced area on the red dunes. Caring for these semi-habituated cheetah has become a vital aspect of the programme, as these animals were the victim of the human-wildlife conflict prior to their rescue. There is no handling of the cheetah allowed and, in accordance with Namibian law and ethical animal management practices, they are not used for breeding.

  • Prepare food and feed the cheetah
  • Maintain and clean enclosures

This project is famous for its sundowner drive. Enjoy the tranquility of the Namib Desert and the breathtaking scenery as the sun sets and paints the desert red, orange and purple. Marvel at the night skies and the nightly displays from the Milky Way. You will have the opportunity to go on night drives and camp-outs to observe the nocturnal wildlife and for an anti-poaching presence. You may also do evening and night time waterpoint monitoring.

Wildlife Sanctuary – add-on

The Namibia wildlife sanctuary was established in 2005 to protect and improve the lives of Namibia’s animals, and work towards an Africa where humans and wildlife can thrive together. The 8,000 acre sanctuary and wildlife reserve provides a safe forever home for orphaned and injured animals, with a focus on rescue, rehabilitation and long term care. Residents include leopard, cheetah, African wild dog, primates, antelopes and a variety of other large and small, wild and domestic animals.

Volunteers are critical to the daily care and feeding of animals in rehabilitation or permanent care:

  • Assist with daily food collection, preparation and feeding, focusing on herbivores, carnivores and omnivores;
  • Clean and maintain enclosures;
  • Raise baby and juvenile animals, from bottle feeding (often through the night);
  • Accompany baboons on bush walks, encouraging natural behaviours such as foraging, jumping and playing;
  • Work with a range of species including zebra, ostrich, owls, raptors and bush babies, plus a range of domestic animals and birds.

Click for more details of the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary Programme, and see the Rates and Dates tab for combination pricing details.

This research site is based on a 14,400 hectare wildlife reserve on the edge of the Namib Desert, home to highly adapted wildlife including wild cheetah, leopard and hyena. You will live amongst Namibia’s famous red sand dunes, an hour from the iconic Sossusvlei Dunes and 3 hours south of Windhoek. Originally a farm, this is a unique and beautiful research site, based at one of only three wineries in Namibia. The winery uses the income from wine production to support the conservation of the large carnivores in the area.

The estate is part of 144 square km area of the Pro-Namib eco-system, nestled within a much larger public and private conservation area. The northern section includes the majestic Naukluft Mountain range and the Tsauchab river system; and the southern section is a maze of ancient canyons with a unique underground cave system, fascinating geological formations and natural fountains. The different environments within the reserve and the five springs, provide specialised ecosystems and highly adapted wildlife, which volunteers will study.

Carnivore Monitoring
To understand how wildlife utilise the area and how they interact, indirect monitoring techniques such as GPS tracking is used, especially for secretive and nocturnal species such as leopard. GPS collars on certain animals, including cheetah and leopard, are used to gather important information.

  • Help researchers identify areas of regular carnivore activity
  • Set cage traps for fitting animals with radio collars;
  • Follow the satellite information from study animals and report on the data.

Radio Tracking
GPS trackers give good information on day to day movements and interactions, but does not tell researchers about their breeding, prey selection or health status. Direct monitoring methods are also used.

  • Learn to track collared cheetah and leopard using telemetry;
  • Collect meaningful information through observation of behaviour, feeding and social interactions.

Game Counts
Herbivores of all sizes are integral to all wildlife ecosystems. It is critical to monitor the population density of herbivores to assess the health of the environment.

  • Participate in regular all-species game counts to assist environmental assessment;
  • Learn about the differences between desert-adapted animals and their forest and plains relations.

Trail Cameras
Volunteers will get involved in the placement and setting of 24/7 motion-triggered trail cameras. These capture information on all animals which pass before them including birds, reptiles as well as large and small mammals.

  • Set trail cameras at key locations (e.g. water points, caves, known marking points etc);
  • Identify bird and mammal populations and their behaviour;
  • Maintain cameras and go through images;
  • Help assess the number of individuals, breeding successes and territories;

Wine Production
Volunteers will assist in the various areas of wine production such as harvesting, bottling and labelling, all of which are done by hand. This gives an idea of how different conservation projects can be sustained through a wealth of income-generating projects such as farming.

Visit the Sossusvlei Dunes
The project is situated just over an hour away from the iconic red Sossusvlei Dunes.  Volunteers can join an optional day trip for a small extra fee to experience these majestic, colourful dunes. Sossusvlei is an absolute must-see in Namibia and we highly recommend this trip.

Desert Retreat

You will stay in a beautifully renovated farmhouse with shared rooms and bathrooms. The house has electricity, but please remember to bring your own South African socket adapters to charge your electrical appliances (large round three pin).

You will take your meals at the house or out in the bush if you are spending the day in the field, but remember to buy snacks and drinks before you leave Windhoek – staff will remind you and take you to the supermarket. Because of the remote location, some fresh produce will only be available on a seasonal basis. Vegetarians and those with dietary requirements can be accommodated with advance notice.

There is no cell phone signal in the area and the internet is for emergency use only, so it is time to get back to basics and enjoy being surrounded by nature.

There is a maximum of 6 volunteers on this project which means you are guaranteed a small group experience with lots of hands-on opportunities.

Winelands

You will stay in a tented camp across from one of the natural springs. Tents are shared between two people (same sex sharing) with shared bathrooms. The main area has a swimming pool and braai (bbq) area. It is an intimate and homely camp in a stunning location.

Volunteers will receive three meals a day, and one night a week will be a traditional Namibian braai and a volunteer favourite – brick oven pizza night! Vegetarians and those with dietary requirements can be accommodated – please just let us know on your booking form!

Its time to get away from it all – there is no internet except for emergencies, and the area has absolutely NO cell phone coverage. There is a landline which can be used for emergency calls.

“I was also really pleasantly surprised by the food. I’m a vegetarian and brought jars of peanut butter and dozens of protein bars assuming I wouldn’t have much to eat. To my surprise, they had vegetarian meat at many dinners. I never went hungry.”

When can I volunteer?The volunteer programme starts every Saturday throughout the year. Volunteers should arrive into Namibia no later than the Friday before their project begins (the day before). Return flights should be booked for the day after your project finishes (Sunday) as the transfer time back to Windhoek is 6-7 hours. Accommodation at the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary on the Friday night before and Saturday night after, is included in the project price (subject to availability).

2019 project pricing:
2 weeks (16 nights): $1,395
3 weeks (23 nights): $1,625
4 weeks (30 nights): $2,595
5 weeks (37 nights): $3,335
6 weeks (44 nights): $3,995
7 weeks (51 nights): $4,655
8 weeks (58 nights): $5,295
9 weeks (65 nights): $5,925
10 weeks (72 nights): $6,495
11 weeks (79 nights): $6,995
12 weeks (86 nights): $7,495

All prices are in USD.
Note that a week stay (9 days) is possible, but we do recommend a minimum of a two week stay to ensure you get to experience all the activities. Please enquire if you are interested in a short stay.

What’s included in the cost?

  • Project contribution: this goes directly to our project partner, and provides funding to ensure the programme can continue to meet its goals. For this project it will cover things like staff costs, equipment purchases, maintenance of buildings, equipment and vehicles, veterinary fees, animal feed, fencing etc;
  • Accommodation and three meals per day;
  • Return airport transfers;
  • One night accommodation before the programme and one night after at the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary (subject to availability);
  • Volunteer uniform (three t-shirts per volunteer);
  • Comprehensive orientation and supervision;
  • Practical instruction by experienced staff members;
  • Equipment and materials required to do your work.

What’s not included?

  • Flights or travel to Windhoek, Namibia;
  • Visa fees (all volunteers must apply for a work permit 6-8 weeks prior to your project start date). The visa cost is paid separately and is around N$1,580;
  • Travel insurance (compulsory);
  • Personal expenses such as souvenirs, drinks from the bar, snacks;
  • Additional excursions.

View our booking terms and conditions.

Combination projects 

We highly recommend combining your carnivore research programme with time at the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary, where you will get to experience working with a diverse range of small and large animals.

Combination project pricing 2019:

1 week Carnivore Conservation / 1 week Sanctuary: $1,195
2 weeks Carnivore Conservation / 1 week Sanctuary: $1,795
1 week Carnivore Conservation / 2 weeks Sanctuary: $1,695
2 weeks Carnivore Conservation / 2 weeks Sanctuary: $2,295

Longer durations are available, please enquire for pricing.

Click for more details of the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary Programme.

Who should volunteer on this project?

This programme is a wonderful experience for volunteers of all ages, where you can experience Africa is a safe environment, work hard and see the impact that your contribution is having. Volunteers come from all backgrounds and nationalities, with varied animal and wildlife experience – bring an open mind and a willingness to participate in all activities, in a variety of weather conditions!

You should be able to communicate reasonably well in spoken English.

What level of fitness is required?

Winelands – volunteers should be able and prepared to walk between 5-10km a day on a fairly regular basis, over different terrain.
Desert – a good level of fitness will make your time more comfortable, but there is less hiking on this project.

Volunteers should be prepared to work in a variety of weather conditions, including cold winters, short rain showers and hot summers. Please check the prevailing weather conditions before you travel.

How old do I need to be?

The minimum volunteering age for solo travellers is 17 years and six months – you must turn 18 within 6 months of your volunteer date. There is no upper age limit, subject to the fitness levels above, but for volunteers aged over 65, we do require your medical form to be signed by a doctor.

How many people will there be?

There is a maximum of 12 volunteers at a time at each site.

When can I join?

Transfers to both research bases are early on a Saturday morning, returning late on Saturday afternoons. Volunteers should plan on arriving into Windhoek ideally on a Thursday, but a Friday is also acceptable, and return flights should be booked for the Sunday, as the project cannot guarantee what time they will be back to Windhoek on the returning Saturday. Prices in the Rates section assume an arrival on the Friday, and departure on a Sunday. Longer stays at the Sanctuary before and after are welcome!

When is the best time to come?

Namibia experiences on average around 300 days of sunshine a year, with hot summers and mild winters (with cold nighttime temperatures).
The dry season runs from May – September, where daytime temperatures are a pleasant 18-25 degrees. Night time temperatures plummet, sometimes falling to below freezing. Pack warm clothes, lots of layers and a sleeping bag!
The summer season from October – April consists of hot days, ranging from 25 to over 40 degrees, and cooler nights. From November to March, Namibia has its ‘rainy’ season, being blessed with sporadic rainfall and spectacular thunderstorms.

Do I get some time off?

At the Winelands site there is the option to take a day trip to Sossusvlei which is highly recommended. The remote location of the Desert Retreat site means opportunities to get off the reserve are limited, but there is so much to do and explore that you will never be bored!

We highly recommend taking a guided or self-drive tour to some of Namibia’s best landmarks, either before or after your volunteer programme. Car hire and tours are very affordable and there is lots to see – from the unique salt pans of Etosha National Park, the magnificent sand dunes at Sossusvlei, or Namibia’s adventure town of Swakopmund. See the Namibia Tours section of our website.

How long can I volunteer for?

The minimum project length is two weeks, and the maximum stay is three months.

How much spending money should I bring?

We recommend allowing $100 per week in USD to cover personal expenses such as drinks, souvenirs, snacks, tips and internet usage. There are ATM machines at the airport and we suggest you withdraw cash there for your time at the sanctuary. The currency of Namibia is the Namibian Dollar (N$), but the South African Rand (ZAR) is also accepted on a 1 to 1 basis.

Do I need a visa?

All volunteers need to obtain a work visa prior to arrival. Once you have booked your place, we will send you a visa application form and instructions on completion. If you are from the UK or Germany, you can use the Namibian embassy in either London or Berlin to process your visa. Nationals of other countries should use the project’s visa agency in Windhoek to process the application as many embassies do not issue the correct visa. You should allow 6-8 weeks to process.

It is your responsibility to check your visa eligibility prior to arrival.

What animals will I encounter?

The sanctuary is home to large carnivores, including lions, leopards, cheetah, wild dogs, caracals; primates including vervet monkeys and baboons; a host of birds including peacocks, vultures, owls and eagles; antelopes (oryx, duiker, springbok and kudu); small mammals such as meerkats, polecats, genets and warthogs, and lots of farmyard and domestic animals. The reserve in which the sanctuary is based is also home to free-roaming game including giraffe, zebra, kudu, hartebeest and jackal.

What vaccinations do I need?

Please consult your GP or travel clinic for detailed medical advice. All volunteers should make sure their Tetanus, Polio and Hepatitis A and B are up to date. A rabies vaccination is recommended. You must bring your vaccination certificate with you!
Malaria – the sanctuary and carnivore research project sites are regarded as a low-risk malaria areas, but please consult your GP for guidance.
Please visit this UK government website for more details.

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