Large Carnivore Conservation
2 - 12 weeks
6 - 12 people
2 - 12 weeks
6 - 12 people
What's the project about?
Namibia is home to 25% of the world’s wild cheetah population. The country’s unique desert regions are also home to brown and spotted hyena, and leopard – all endangered species. Our carnivore conservation project has two dedicated research sites, focused on the 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?
Carnivore conservation 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. Volunteers can be sure they are supporting 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. Both research 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.
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 carnivore 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:
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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