Big 5 Conservation, National Parks
Up to 6 people
Up to 6 people
What's the project about?
The focus of this Big 5 Wildlife Conservation project is to assist with the operation and rehabilitation of two of Zimbabwe’s National Parks – its largest, Hwange, and one of its most neglected, the Zambezi National Park. The project supplies game water for wildlife, particularly to support Hwange’s ever-growing elephant population. It also assists National Parks rangers with park maintenance, deployment of personnel and environmental monitoring.
How will I be contributing?
This is a unique opportunity to volunteer as a Field Assistant, supporting the daily operations of the project staff. You will participate in park infrastructure and development projects, wildlife monitoring, bird and animal population surveys, and ranger field support. Learn about the work being done to sustain Zimbabwe’s wildlife and natural environment, and the challenges facing conservationists working to support animals in vast National Parks.
What makes this project ethical?
The Big 5 Conservation volunteer programme has been established for as long as the Trust have been operating. It allows wildlife enthusiasts to join the team, and enjoy a rare and exciting opportunity to experience the Africa of conservationists, and its vast, remote wilderness areas. At the same time, knowing they are actively assisting in the conservation and survival of iconic African wildlife.
Join a team of professional rangers, monitor big game including elephant, wild dog and lion, and assist with vital infrastructure projects within two of Zimbabwe’s finest National Parks. This project is a unique opportunity for volunteers who are looking for a true wilderness experience, and who want an understanding of how a National Park works.
Monitor elephant populations and movements and gather data for research projects and policy-making. Volunteers maintain and restore key waterpoints, repair damage throughout the park and restore roads and riverbanks. You will also take advantage of unique wildlife viewing in this off-the-beaten-track adventure.
The Big 5 Conservation Programme works around the full moon, as this and the period just after, is when animals like lions tend to be most active.
Your activities and itinerary will depend on the time of year you join the project, but there is plenty to do year-round and your work will always be useful, exciting and very interesting.
Your first role is that of a Field Assistant. Volunteers monitor animal movements, record the location of specific animals and herds, and look at the structure of known groups of elephants. Hwange has a one of Africa’s largest elephant populations (in the region of 30,000-40,000)who can be very destructive in their constant search for food and water.
Secondly, the volunteer programme supports research programs within the Parks, including studies on hyena populations, predator/prey relationships, vegetation mapping and fire management.
As you move from location to location, the activities and duties will vary depending on the ecosystem and its needs. Volunteers may get involved with:
- 24 hour animal game counts
- Monitoring animal movements and looking at the impact of certain animals in the area
- Big game monitoring and identification
- Large animal and bird population surveys
- Population monitoring of African wild dog
- Road transect data surveys, data capture and analysis
- Learn about birds, butterflies, trees and grasses and how they impact the health of the Parks
- Set up and monitor camera traps, looking at animal activities around popular animal paths.
Park maintenance and development:
In addition to being a field assistant, volunteers participate in a number of other programs, including infrastructure maintenance, especially of Hwange’s 50+ water points. The water points are vital for the survival of all animals during the long dry season. NGOs and private individuals have supported the introduction of pumps at many water points, but these are regularly damaged by elephants and suffer general wear and tear from lots of pumping. Depending on the time of year and location, volunteers may get involved with:
- Repairing elephant damage to pumps around water holes
- Refuelling diesel water pumps
- Repairs and installing of solar and wind pumps
- Digging out water points
- Building and maintaining new game viewing hides next to waterholes.
Game Park Management:
Finally, you will provide support to the permanent Trust staff who live in Hwange. Experience the challenges and joys of running a 5,000 square mile conservation area. You will:
- Carry out repairs and maintenance to Park infrastructure such as game viewing hides and road signs
- Create new roads and repair river erosion
- Carry out environmental management and area rehabilitation such as digging trenches, tree planting and repairing erosian.
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