Rhino & Elephant Conservation
1 - 8 weeks
Max 12 people
1 - 8 weeks
Max 12 people
What's the project about?
Imire: Rhino & Wildlife Conservation is dedicated to the sustainability of African wildlife, with particular focus on the endangered black rhino. Their vision is to ensure the long term protection of Africa’s natural heritage, taking a unified, holistic approach to conservation, through the creation of positive relationships between communities and the environment.
How will I be contributing?
This unique wildlife conservation programme combines rhino and elephant conservation work with community empowerment and education projects, conservancy management and wildlife research. The project is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play an important role in the daily activities involved in the operation of a rhino conservancy, and become part of a dedicated, passionate conservation family.
What makes this project ethical?
Private conservancies, such as Imire, play a vital role in protecting and propagating endangered species. The human-wildlife conflict is possibly the greatest issue currently faced by conservationists. Through volunteering at Imire, you are directly participating in not only the protection of threatened wildlife, but also contributing to a conservation success story – where communities and conservancies peacefully and beneficially co-exist.
The primary goal of Imire is to support Zimbabwe’s rhino heritage, through the successful breeding and re-introduction of the endangered black rhino. Alongside this goal, is to ensure the long term protection of Zimbabwe’s wildlife through a unified and holistic approach to wildlife conservation. Their aim is to create a blueprint for small conservancies, enabling them to peacefully and successfully exist alongside local communities, ensuring that environmental stakeholders, including landowners, conservationists, communities and local farmers, all benefit from the presence of wildlife.
The volunteer programme forms a critical part of Imire’s mission to connect responsible travellers, wildlife programmes and community projects, to create a sustainable, long term, collaborative conservation strategy. Wildlife volunteers at Imire have a significant impact on Imire’s conservation efforts in Zimbabwe.
During your time at Imire, volunteers will gain an appreciation of the dedication and commitment it takes to protect wildlife in Africa, and obtain an overall understanding of holistic conservation strategies and ethical conservation practices.
Imire: Rhino & Wildlife Conservation is a 10,000 hectare privately owned rhino conservancy in the Mashonaland East district of Zimbabwe, approximately 130km east of Harare. The conservancy is dedicated to the welfare of all wildlife, with a particular focus on the protection and breeding of white rhino, and the critically endangered black rhino.
Imire was founded in 1948 by Norman and Gilly Travers. Originally farmers, the Travers’ had a passion for wildlife and conservation, leading to the establishment of Imire as a wildlife conservancy in 1972. During the 1970s, game was introduced back onto what was previously farmland. Then, like Noah’s Ark, the animals came in two by two and by 1980 the park was home to sizeable herds of plains game – waterbuck, impala, nyala, zebra and the rare sable antelope.
A history of rhino conservation
During the poaching crisis of the 1980s, most of Zimbabwe’s remaining black rhino population were relocated to the relative safety of Intensive Protection Zones within private conservancies. In 1987, Imire was granted custodianship of seven orphaned calves from the Zambezi Valley and became a dedicated black rhino breeding station. To date, 15 rhino have been born on the reserve, and Imire has released 13 black rhino back into National Parks in Zimbabwe.
With increasingly sophisticated wildlife poaching, rhino numbers have again dropped alarmingly. Until the current high levels of poaching abate in Zimbabwe’s National Parks, Imire has resolved to protect and secure its rhino onsite, rather than risking release into wilderness areas.
Imire’s current strategy is for their rhino, excepting a core breeding herd, to be released into a community-supported, second stage, free-roaming wilderness area within Imire’s boundaries. This allows the rhino to become less habituated, without daily interactions and supplement feeding. Armed guards remain with the rhino, but at a distance. In this way Imire can ensure their rhinos are safe from birth, until such a time when they are able to confidently release rhino back into their wild habitats, in Zimbabwe’s National Parks.
Imire is world-world-famous for its five black and three white rhino. In addition, the conservancy is home to three elephants, a herd of Cape buffalo and an elderly male lion, living out his retirement in comfort! There is a variety of plains game including eland, kudu, nyala, waterbuck, blesbok, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest and crocodile, plus herds of the rare sable antelope – Zimbabwe’s National Animal. Imire is also home to a wide variety of birds, reptiles and snakes.
The Rhino & Elephant Conservation Programme focuses on an integrated approach to endangered species protection. Volunteers work closely alongside local employees and community members, and play a key role in safeguarding the resident elephant and rhino.
Volunteering at Imire is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in a new country and culture, and experience first-hand, day-to-day life in Africa. In return you will contribute to an important conservation cause. The experience will be life-changing.
Wildlife conservation volunteers are involved with a diverse variety of tasks, which include opportunities to:
- Work closely alongside rhinos, elephants and an abundance of other wildlife;
- Participate in a wide range of conservation activities including game counts, wildlife research and animal tracking;
- Assist with anti-poaching efforts to ensure the continued safety of the animals;
- Educate local school children about conservation, wildlife and the environment;
- Learn about wildlife conservation and the threats to African wildlife, and experience first-hand the immense undertaking of managing a wildlife conservancy.
Volunteers will usually get involved in some or all of the following activities:
Rhino and Elephant conservation:
- Collect observational data on rhino and elephant behaviour, health, movements, interactions and browsing activities;
- Feed and walk alongside the rhinos and elephants while you gather data;
- Learn from experienced handlers about the challenges these animals face to survive;
- Repair elephant damage;
- Cut browse for night time feeds;
- Learn to use telemetry and identify rhino tracks and signs in the bush;
- Maintenance of rhino and elephant beds.
Anti-poaching and security
- Provide additional manpower for foot patrols and snare sweeps
- Securing, repairing and checking the boundary fences
- Conduct weapons training and anti-poaching simulations
- Communicate anti-poaching messages to school children
- Deliver feed and nutritional supplements around the conservancy, focusing on sable, giraffe, lion, elephants and buffalo;
- Undertake game counts and herd studies on foot, by vehicle and on horseback;
- Carry out indigenous tree planting, and invasive and alien species removal;
- Maintain fences, roads, fireguards and equipment.
Imire has been closely involved with the Wedza community since its foundation. Community engagement is the essence of sustainable conservation, and Imire has been a long-time champion of local employment, education, healthcare and poverty alleviation projects. Volunteers will get involved with:
- Education projects focusing on English literacy and conservation education;
- Organic gardening and tree planting;
- Homework and computer training for older children and adults;
- Cultural exchange experiences through traditional home visits and Shona culture evenings.
The volunteer programme is small and welcoming, taking a maximum of 12 volunteers. There are two accommodation options, and volunteers will be placed in one of these, depending on group sizes and composition.
Numwa House is a thatched farmhouse in the heart of the conservancy, situated in an idyllic spot on the banks of a large dam. The view from the house, and the African sights and sounds, make this a unique living situation. Rhino conservation volunteers share the house with volunteers on the project’s Horse Riding & Rhino Conservation Programme, with a maximum of 12 volunteers living in the house at any one time.
The house has five bedrooms, with four twin / double rooms and a same-sex dormitory. There are two inside bathrooms with bath or shower, an inside toilet with basin, and three outside solar showers, with the best view in the house! Have a hot shower and admire a magnificent sunset over the dam. The house also has a pool and outside verandah.
There is electricity and hot and cold running water. Bear in mind that electricity can be intermittent and power outages are common, especially during the rainy season. There is a generator and solar lights, so please be organised about charging your electricals!
“The house is spacious, super clean, attractive and comfortable inside and amazingly beautiful outside, with huge yard, swimming pool, a wonderful expansive lake with boats, earth mounds from which to watch the sunset, comfy outdoor seating for gathering and tea/coffee, a hammock to relax in, splendid outdoor showers and toilets – so plenty for the whole house. The staff keeps the house immaculately clean and tidy. The food is good and offers plenty of variety.”
Chiwawe wilderness camp
This brand new tented camp is situated in a remote part of the conservancy and consists of 6 walk-in tents under thatch, each with attached en-suite bathroom. Bathrooms have hot and cold running water, shower and flush toilet. Each tent has two twin beds, side tables and storage space. There is a central dining and living area with fully-equipped kitchen.
The camp has solar power for charging equipment and for lights. Note that heat-drawing appliances may not be used (hair dryers etc). There are no plug sockets in the rooms, but electrical items can be charged in the communal areas.
At both sites, three home-cooked meals are provided by the resident kitchen staff, and tea, coffee and drinking water is freely available. Vegetarians, vegans and other dietary requirements can be catered for. Housekeeping staff will do your laundry and keep the house and camp clean and tidy.
It’s time to get away from it all – there is no WiFi at the project, but 3G signal is good and cell phone roaming is available. The signal is strong enough to check emails and use social media.
When can I volunteer?
Volunteers can join the Rhino & Elephant Conservation Programme on Mondays. The project is closed from 16th – 30th December 2019.
2019 project pricing:
1 week: $900
2 weeks: $1,800
3 weeks: $2,700
4 weeks: $3,600
5 weeks: $4,500
6 weeks: $5,400
7 weeks: $6,300
8 weeks: $7,200
All prices are in USD.
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, and funding for community projects
- Accommodation and three meals per day
- Return airport transfers (Mondays)
- Laundry and housekeeping
- Comprehensive orientation and supervision
- Practical instruction by experienced guides
- Equipment and materials required to do your work
What’s not included?
- Flights or travel to Harare, Zimbabwe
- Visa fees (variable depending on nationality)
- Travel insurance (compulsory)
- Personal expenses such as souvenirs, drinks from the bar, snacks
- Pre and / or post programme accommodation (if required)
- Additional excursions
- Local SIM card and data / airtime bundles (optional)
- Administration fee ($40)
View our booking terms and conditions.
We highly recommend combining this rhino and elephant conservation project with a week or two at our Primate Conservation Programme. Experience large and small animal conservation, working with two organisations dedicated to Zimbabwe’s animal welfare. Click for more details of our Conservancy & Rehabilitation combination project.
Who should volunteer on this project?
The unifying motivation of nearly all Imire volunteers is an interest in a genuine conservation programme, and a desire to be part of a smaller group of volunteers. This rhino conservation project is a wonderful experience for volunteers of all ages, where you can experience Africa in a safe environment, and become part of a very special team. There is some walking and foot-based tracking on the project, plus climbing in and out of a high-sided vehicle, so volunteers should be of reasonable mobility.
How old do I need to be?
The minimum volunteering age for solo travellers is 17 years. There is no upper age limit, but for volunteers aged over 65, we do require your medical form to be signed by a doctor. The project is perfect for family volunteers who have children of all ages. Please visit our Rhino Conservation – Family Programme page for further details.
How many people will there be?
There is a maximum of 12 volunteers at one time, plus staff and volunteer managers.
When can I join?
Volunteers should aim to arrive and depart on a Monday. The inclusive transfer service is as follows:
Arrivals – Mondays
There is one collection from Harare International Airport at 1500 every Monday afternoon. Should your preferred flight arrive later than this, you can either arrive into Harare on the Sunday and arrange overnight accommodation in town, or you can arrive on Monday and pay a transfer supplement of $100. If you choose to arrive on Sunday, you should make your way to the airport at an agreed time on Monday.
Departures – Mondays
There is one transfer from Imire which arrives at Harare International Airport at 1000 on Monday morning. Onward flights should depart later than midday to allow ample time to check in. Should you wish to book a departure transfer outside of this time, there is a transfer supplement charge of $100.
When is the best time to come?
The game viewing and interaction at this project is year-round, so there is no real ‘best time’ to visit. December to March is ‘baby season’, where many of the plains game give birth, so there are always lots of new animals around.
From a weather perspective; April – October is the dry season, with the rains usually coming again in mid to late November. June – September is winter, characterised by warm, sunny days, clear blue skies and cool evenings and nights. October is the hottest month, with temperatures in the area reaching 30-32 degrees. November – March is summer, where rain showers are intermingled with hot, sunny days and temperatures of over 30 degrees.
Do I get some time off?
Volunteers work from Monday to Saturday lunchtime. Saturday afternoon and Sunday is leisure time, where you can go fishing, canoeing or hiking, or relax by the pool at the volunteer house. We highly recommend a weekend excursion to Victoria Falls (a one hour flight), which can easily be organised.
How long can I volunteer for?
The minimum recommended project length is one week, and the maximum stay is eight weeks.
How much spending money should I bring?
We recommend bringing around $100 per week in USD to cover personal expenses such as drinks, souvenirs, t-shirt, snacks, tips and internet usage. A weekend trip to Victoria Falls, which we can organise for you, will cost around $400.
Do I need a visa?
Most nationalities, including British, American, Canadian, Australian and most EU citizens, can get a 30-day tourist visa upon arrival into Harare. Fees are dependent on nationality and range from $30 – $75 (paid in USD cash). Extensions are available from the Department of Immigration in Harare, up to a maximum stay of 6 months. It is your responsibility to check your visa eligibility prior to arrival.
What animals will I encounter?
Imire is world-world-famous for its eight black and white rhino. In addition, the conservancy is home to three elephants, a herd of Cape buffalo and an elderly male lion, living out his retirement in comfort! There is a variety of plains game including eland, kudu, nyala, waterbuck, blesbok, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest and crocodile, plus herds of the rare sable antelope – Zimbabwe’s National Animal. Imire is also home to a wide variety of birds, reptiles and snakes.
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 but not compulsory.
Malaria – the project is regarded as a low-risk malaria area, but please consult your GP for guidance.
Please visit this UK government website for more details.
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