Wildlife Sanctuary Volunteer
2 - 12 weeks
Up to 12 people
2 - 12 weeks
Up to 12 people
What's the project about?
The wildlife centre is Malawi’s only animal sanctuary, with a focus on rescue and rehabilitation. Working alongside a resident team of expert wildlife vets, the sanctuary volunteers get involved with all aspects of animal care, learning new skills and gaining practical experience. Join the animal care team, where work covers the whole rehabilitation spectrum and a range of small animals and birds.
How will I be contributing?
Sanctuary volunteer duties include animal husbandry (cleaning, feeding and enrichment), orphan care, veterinary clinic support and animal observations. Volunteers also get involved with animal integrations, reintroductions and release strategies – the most rewarding part of any stay, as wildlife are released, safe and well, back into their natural environment. Get your hands dirty, work hard and make new animal friends!
What makes this project ethical?
Join an organisation internationally recognised for its work to protect Malawi’s wildlife. Then sanctuary is focused on wildlife rescue and rehabilitation and is widely reputed to be one of the best facilities in Africa for responsible wildlife care and rehabilitation. You can be confident you are joining a genuinely ethical, high impact project, where you will learn best practice from conservation experts.
Malawi’s wildlife and biodiversity are in fast decline. It is also the 10th poorest country in the world where most people live on less than $1.50 per day. Habitats are increasingly being lost to a fast-growing population and increased pressure on natural resources and the increasing human-wildlife conflict is putting the lives of wild animals at risk, with the illegal bushmeat and pet trades still commonly practiced.
This Wildlife Trust works for the welfare and conservation of Malawi’s wildlife through four key principles: rescue and rehabilitation, wildlife research, environmental education and community conservation.
Be part of the bigger picture
Volunteers work directly with animals rescued from the bushmeat and exotic pet trades, and become part of human-wildlife conflict resolution – allowing staff the resources to work with communities and law enforcement to tackle the roots of the conflict right from the ground up.
The volunteer programme teaches best practice in animal care and rehabilitation, allowing volunteers to acquire new skills and gain practical experience, in a positive learning environment. Volunteers who have specific goals and ambitions in the animal care field, can work with sanctuary staff to achieve their own personal objectives, and get as much as possible out of their volunteer experience.
Support a high impact charity
The organisation is much more than just a sanctuary, having grown to span wildlife rescue (large and small animals), animal welfare, education, advocacy, justice and research – and work with local community leaders, wildlife departments and law enforcement agencies to play a central role in Malawi’s fight to protect its wildlife and habitats.
The sanctuary has won awards for its efforts to promote, address and resolve the human-wildlife conflict in Malawi.
The sanctuary is accredited by PASA, GFAS and the Born Free Foundation, ensuring volunteers learn best practice from a knowledgeable and passionate team of local and international experts.
Hands-off for the best care
The sanctuary is home to around 200 animals, including primates, small carnivores, antelopes, reptiles and birds. Most have been rescued as orphans or were victims of the illegal bushmeat and pet trade, others have been injured in snares, hit by cars or stoned by local villagers. Thanks to the state-of-the-art vet clinic, orphan care programme, experienced animal care team and dedicated volunteers, the majority of intakes can be managed on site.
Whilst the sanctuary operates a strict hands-off policy, orphans and juveniles do need special attention so there is a chance you will be put to use in surrogacy work and providing initial care to younger animals until they enter the second phase of the rehabilitation and release programme.
The Malawi Wildlife Sanctuary focuses on wildlife rehabilitation but also take their responsibilities of community education very seriously and bring more than 30,000 local children every year to the sanctuary to learn about the importance of caring for the wildlife around them.
Join an acclaimed team, experienced in wildlife releases, live in the Warm Heart of Africa and wake up to the sounds of the African bush!
Hands-off wildlife policy
This project prides itself on its hands-off approach to animal care, so that wildlife stands the best chance of successful release. However, when volunteers look after baby and young orphaned animals, your skills as a surrogate parent will undoubtedly be called into play!
Note that animal care activities will depend on what animals and orphans are at the sanctuary at the time.
Volunteers play an essential role in the daily care of the sanctuary’s animals and may get involved with some or all of the following activities:
- Prepare meals for animals on a daily basis, and feed during the day (and night!);
- Find food for younger animals (you may need to forage for grasshoppers for a pygmy hedgehog!);
- Help care for orphaned animals, primates and birds;
- Learn about successful rehabilitation and release methods;
- Clean out enclosures and feeding pens;
- Learn about the human-wildlife conflict and how individual animals were brought to the sanctuary;
- Help settle newly rescued animals into groups or into their rehabilitation enclosures;
- Quietly observe sick, distressed and injured wildlife who need close monitoring;
- Orphaned babies may also need intensive care such as bottle feeding, observation and interaction.
- Assist the on-site vet in basic surgical procedures on all sorts of animals from hedgehogs to zebra and barn owls!
- Assist with vaccinations and health checks for new arrivals.
If you are studying Veterinary Medicine then you will have priority when helping on veterinary procedures and operations
Behaviour and habitat enrichment:
A critical volunteer role is to enrich the lives of the animals who cannot be released, enable them to live as natural a life as possible, and behave as closely as they would in the wild.
- Build activity centres for baboons and primates to enable them run, jump and climb
- Make toys for the baboons to stimulate foraging
- Work with animals who are not current candidates for release due to mental or physical issues
Rehabilitation and release:
Releases done by this sanctuary have been highly acclaimed, thanks to the expertise and effort which goes into the rehabilitation process and subsequent release. Volunteers are crucial to this process from rehabilitation, through monitoring and subsequent release.
- Help with pre-release monitoring to ensure animals are fit to be released;
- Settle new arrivals and rehabilitated animals into new groups and monitor their progress.
Activities around the sanctuary and game reserve:
- Monitor free-roaming animals within the 400 acre reserve (on foot, by vehicle and on horseback);
- Build and repair enclosures and fences;
- Dig new waterholes, build and maintain roads and paths, make signs and other building work around the sanctuary.
Volunteers are encouraged to spend time with local people, helping children understand the importance of protecting the wildlife and their environment.
- Help with guided tours and show children animals they may have never seen before;
- Visit rural communities and engage with them about wildlife;
- Get involved with tree planting projects;
- Help with community development initiatives such as fuel briquette projects to reduce the loss of animal habitats from the selling and burning of firewood.
If you have a passion for education and children and would like to participate on the community side as well as with the animals, please let us know – there is always useful and interesting work to get involved with.
Your days will be full and activities will depend on how long you are staying and what animals are at the sanctuary. If you are staying two weeks then you may be asked to focus on one area rather than spending a little time on many different projects.
Volunteers on this Wildlife Sanctuary project stay together in a homely volunteer house in the heart of the sanctuary, surrounded by the animals. There is mixed dorm-style accommodation sleeping ten volunteers and the house has electricity, hot and cold running water, kitchen, lounge and bathroom. There is a housekeeper who will do your laundry for you as well!
There is also a chalet next to the volunteer house which provides volunteers with a bit more of their own space. It sleeps one or two people and has a private bathroom and balcony. Meals are taken with the other volunteers. If the chalet is available, it is an additional £25 per night.
Three vegetarian meals a day are prepared by the resident Malawian cook, and tea and coffee is freely available through the day. Drinking water is also provided. The chef is off on a Sunday so volunteers take it in turns to prepare food or you can try one of the local restaurants. Those with dietary requirements can be accommodated – please just let us know on your booking form!
Volunteers will be issued a Malawian SIM card upon arrival, and you can then purchase data bundles for using the internet. There is no Wi-Fi at the volunteer house.
When can I volunteer?
Arrivals at the Malawi Wildlife Sanctuary are on Tuesdays, although arrivals outside of these days are possible upon payment of a transfer supplement. The project is open year-round.
2019 project pricing:
**20% OFF – ORPHAN SEASON DISCOUNT, NOVEMBER 2019**
November is the start of Malawi’s orphan season, where sadly the sanctuary receives large numbers of orphaned babies – mostly monkeys and baboons, but often other small animals as well. Volunteers are desperately needed, so we are offering a 20% discount on 2 and 3 week bookings to volunteer in November!
2 weeks: £1,370 (November bookings: £1,096, save £274)
3 weeks: £1,775 (November bookings: £1,420, save £355)
4 weeks: £2,235
5 weeks: £2,575
6 weeks: £2,885
8 weeks: £3,450
10 weeks: £3,930
12 weeks: £4,350
All prices are in GBP.
Off day transfers are an additional £35.
You may pay a supplement (subject to availability) to stay in the private 2-bed chalet – £25 per night
Feedback from volunteers suggests that a 2 week programme is just not long enough to experience the project to its fullest. We highly recommend a minimum 4-6 week stay if possible!
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, funding for community projects etc
- Accommodation and three meals per day
- Return airport transfers
- Laundry and housekeeping
- Volunteer t-shirt and local SIM card
- 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 Lilongwe, Malawi
- Visa fees (usually around USD $75 payable on entry)
- Travel insurance (compulsory)
- Personal expenses such as souvenirs, drinks from the bar, snacks
- Pre and / or post programme accommodation (if required)
- Additional excursions
- Administration fee (£40)
For the latest travel updates, please visit our Malawi destination page.
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 – from none to experienced vets. What all volunteers have in common is a love of wildlife and a passion for helping Africa’s threatened animals.
You should be able to communicate reasonably well in spoken English.
How old do I need to be?
The minimum volunteering age for solo travellers is 18 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.
How many people will there be?
The volunteer programme takes up to 12 people at a time, which means you will never be lonely or too crowded!
When can I join?
Volunteers should aim to arrive and depart on a Tuesday, although start dates can sometimes be flexible depending on availability and the payment of a transfer supplement. The project is open year-round.
When is the best time to come?
Lilongwe has a temperate climate for Africa. Wet season is from November/December to February/March, but it is actually very pleasant as rains last only an hour or so in the afternoons and make the country lush and green! Temperatures reach around 32oC in the hot months of October and November, and the coolest month is July, at around 25 oC, but still bright and sunny.
Do I get some time off?
Volunteers are kept very busy during their stay on the project and you will work 6 days a week from 8am until 4.30pm. Volunteers who stay for longer than four weeks will be given a long weekend off every month (if you want!). Volunteers should try and be flexible with their working hours as some will be required to take night shift duty with injured and orphaned animals who often need round the clock care.
Lilongwe is a clean and relatively quiet and safe African city with just the right amount of nightlife and restaurants, which you are more then welcome to visit! There are craft and food markets within walking distance for buying curios and haggling for vegetables!
What excursions can I join?
It is well worth considering spending some time either before or after your programme exploring Malawi. Car hire is very affordable, and Lake Malawi is a short drive away, where you can swim, snorkel and relax on the beach! A weekend excursion to the Lake of Stars will cost approximately £125.
We can also organise an excursion into the stunning South Luangwa National Park in Zambia for after your project – the perfect ending to your African adventure! Get a special discount on the trip: Tour price – approximately £450 which includes meals, accommodation, game drives, transfers from Lilongwe, guides, park entrance fees and Zambian visa.
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 £30 per week 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. If you plan an excursion to Lake Malawi, you should allow around £70-£130, and a 3-day safari to South Luangwa in Zambia will cost around £450.
Do I need a visa?
Most nationalities can obtain a tourist visa upon arrival into Lilongwe. The cost of this is usually around $75 payable in cash. It is your responsibility to check your visa eligibility prior to arrival.
What animals will I encounter?
The sanctuary is home to almost 200 animals including antelopes, hyena, monkeys and baboons, crocodile, tortoises, serval cats and other small carnivores, a large number of birds including birds of prey and owls, and a number of reptiles including lizards and snakes.
Please note that activities will vary according to what animals are at the project at the time and what their needs are. Be flexible and bear in mind that the variety and number of animals can change daily. The only thing we can guarantee is that you will have an amazing time!
Can I touch the animals?
The goal of the sanctuary is to release as many animals as possible back into the wild. It is very important not to habituate or humanise the animals, as this puts them at greater risk of poaching or capture after their release. With that in mind, the sanctuary operates a hands-off policy. Some orphans will need special attention and round the clock care to promote their chances of survival and rehabilitation, and in these cases volunteers may be asked to step in as a surrogate. It is an especially rewarding experience to see animals progress and know that you have helped them journey back to health and release.
What vaccinations do I need?
A rabies vaccination is compulsory as you will be working closely with animals. You must also undertake a TB test prior to travel. Even if you have been vaccinated against TB, you must take a new one for this project. A Mantoux test, blood test or chest x-ray is most appropriate. You must email your TB-negative test to the project and carry the results with you. All volunteers should make sure their Tetanus, Polio and Hepatitis A and B are up to date.
Lilongwe is regarded as a high-risk malaria area, so anti-malarial prophylaxis must be taken. Consult your GP or travel clinic for further detailed medical advice. Please visit this UK government website for more details.
You must bring your vaccination certificate with you!
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