Large Carnivore Conservation
2 - 12 weeks
Max 12 people
2 - 12 weeks
Max 12 people
What's the project about?
The human-wildlife conflict is one of the biggest threats to Namibia’s wildlife. The purpose of the research activity is to develop a greater understanding of the wildlife that regularly comes into conflict with humans, focusing in particular on cheetahs, lions and hyenas. The project also focuses on monitoring focus species which have been rewilded from conflict situations.
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. The carnivore conservation project has two dedicated research sites, focused on monitoring desert-adapted mammals and other large endangered species. The project is ideal for adventurous volunteers who want to experience true desert wilderness and contribute to the studies of Namibia’s wild animals.
How will I be contributing?
Carnivore conservation volunteers assist research staff in the monitoring and tracking of the large carnivore and other mammal populations in the area. The Desert Retreat site is dedicated to studies of wild hyenas, plus land rehabilitation and studies of the local desert ecosystems. The Omaruru site is home to rewilded focus species such as lions, elephants, rhinos and African wild dogs. Volunteers at both sites will monitor animal behaviour, learn to track big game in diverse environments, conduct game counts, collect data and experience life in the wild!
What makes this project ethical?
These are two truly worthwhile wildlife research projects. Volunteers can be sure they are supporting the responsible conservation of Africa’s big cats and endangered wildlife. You will contribute to long-term wildlife management programmes through the wildlife monitoring and game counts. Both research sites are dedicated to land rehabilitation and responsible land use, where possible removing game fences to allow free movement of animals, including oryx, springbok, ostrich and bat-eared fox.
This is a 33,000 hectare habitat in the Namib Desert, with endless red dunes and spectacular night skies. The area has been transformed into a wildlife reserve, with no internal fences. It is a haven for a variety of desert-adapted wildlife and 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 any professional management of a conservation area is an accurate map. These are used to evaluate plant and animal population data and guide wildlife management decisions.
- Use a GPS unit to monitor 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.
- Identify areas of regular carnivore activity (dens, riverbeds, tree markings etc);
- Place, check and analyse camera traps;
- Follow the satellite information from study animals and produce reports;
Radio Telemetry Tracking
GPS trackers give good information on day to day movements and interactions, but does not tell researchers about their breeding, prey selection or animal health. You will go into the field to track collared animals and make visual assessments.
- 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 desert-adapted oryx (gemsbok) and springbok, but also lesser-known species such as klipspringer and Greater Kudu.
- 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 predator numbers.
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
Maintenance and security
Maintenance activities are critical to the desert ecosystem. Anti-poaching and fence patrols are conducted, and volunteers are also involved in fence removal and other environmental rehabilitation projects.
- Removal of jackal-proof fences
- Repurposing wire to reinstall onto existing fences to prevent vehicles from entering illegally whilst still allowing wildlife to move freely underneath the wires
- Building and installing owl boxes at waterholes.
A must-do activity in the desert is the sun-downer – a chance to enjoy the tranquillity and breathtaking scenery of the Namib, when the sun sets and paints the desert in magnificent technicolour. The prominent Milky Way is another nightly spectacular desert feature.
Volunteers will have sleep-outs in the desert and go on night drives, to observe the desert’s nocturnal wildlife.
Remember: this site is part of a vast open desert environment, where wildlife, although present, is harder to spot.
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