1 - 12 weeks
Up to 6 people
1 - 12 weeks
Up to 4 people
What's the project about?
The project is Zimbabwe’s only dedicated primate conservation facility, and was purpose-built to support the ongoing care, rehabilitation and eventual release of primates. However, the facility has an open-door policy to all wildlife species in need of care and has taken in rare and endangered species such as pangolin and vulture, as well as zebras, bush babies and birds. The focus remains the protection and rehabilitation of primates, who are the often-forgotten victims of the human-wildlife conflict.
How will I be contributing?
This small wildlife sanctuary relies on volunteers to support local staff in all aspects of animal care. There is one goal in mind – the care and release of Zimbabwe’s vulnerable wildlife. Each primate conservation volunteer plays a vital role in the rehabilitation process whether by caring for orphaned monkeys, assisting with release preparation or working with animals that cannot be released. Volunteer tourism plays a vital role in achieving the project’s goals of raising international awareness and contributes to a local solution to the human-wildlife conflict.
What makes this project ethical?
The primate conservation project’s mission is for there to be no captive primates in Zimbabwe, and the focus of the sanctuary is wildlife release and education. It has a successful and well-documented release programme and has relocated many captive baboons and monkeys into the wilderness of the Matopos National Park. Other smaller animals including pangolins, servals, zebra, ostrich, birds and bush babies have been released into partner release sites.
The primary goal of the Primate Conservation Programme is for there to be no captive primates kept in Zimbabwe. This could include primates kept as exotic pets, victims of the illegal wildlife trade or those affected by conflict situations.
Baboons and monkeys are looked upon as pests by farmers and are often poisoned or shot. This results in both horrendous injuries and numerous orphaned babies, who, if not rescued, often spend their inevitably short lives in small cages. However, the success of primate release in Southern Africa is an admirable 97%, and the sanctuary works hard to maintain this high standard.
The sanctuary has an open-door policy to all animals in need of care, and the focus with these animals is also on eventual release, either back into wilderness areas, or into a phase two release site within a local wildlife reserve. Releases of animals and birds by the project are well-documented and have a high success rate.
Agonised the project’s rehabilitation and release goals, they work hard to ensure the long term protection of Zimbabwe’s wildlife through a unified approach to conservation – involving communities and other environmental stakeholders. They work hard to demonstrate how small animals can successfully exist alongside local communities, and encourage communities to report problem animals, rather than take their own action.
The primate conservation sanctuary was founded in 2013 when an orphaned baby baboon was given to the owner to raise. The formation of the sanctuary was a long way off, but a promise was made to the baboon, that one day she would be returned to the wild. It remains the only dedicated primate rehabilitation and release facility in Zimbabwe. Since 2014, when the sanctuary was purpose-built to house primates, the centre has grown and now has an open door policy to any animal in need of care.
The project’s mission is for there to be no primates in captivity in Zimbabwe, and has a very successful release record, having relocated many once-captive baboons and monkeys back into the wilderness of the Matobo National Park – one of the country’s largest and most unspoilt areas. Other small animals, including pangolins, servals, owls and bush babies, have been successfully released into a Phase two release site in a local wildlife haven.
Primates often find themselves in conflict situations with farmers and landowners, and this has resulted in numerous cases of orphaned primates, who if not rescued, spend their lives in small cages, usually in very inadequate, miserable conditions.
Volunteering is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the sanctuary family, and contribute to an important conservation cause. The experience will be life-changing.
Sanctuary volunteers are involved with a diverse variety of tasks, which include some or all of the following activities:
Primate conservation and small animal care:
- Work hands-on with wildlife orphans and vulnerable animals
- Raise baby and juvenile primates, from bottle feeding (often through the night), to bush walks, troop reintroduction and eventual release
- Work with a range of species including zebra, ostrich, owls, raptors and bush babies, plus a range of domestic animals and birds
- Assist with food collection, preparation and feeding, encompassing herbivores, carnivores and omnivores
- Experience the joy of accompany primates (and usually a few other special guests!) on bush walks, stimulating them to explore their natural habitat, forage, play in water, jump and interact as a group
- Build toys, platforms, playgrounds and other enrichment objects
- Become part of the troop as you engage and interact with young monkeys and baboons
- Work with animals who are not current candidates for release due to mental or physical issues
Rehabilitation and release:
- Learn about the rehabilitation process and how it applies to a variety of small animals
- Play a part in individual animals release strategies
- Monitor released animals (on foot, by vehicle and on horseback)
- Join the veterinary team when rescue work is carried out (subject to location and conditions)
- Undertake snare sweeps and boundary patrols of the release sites
The project runs a child-focused programme where schoolchildren join educational tours and workshops at the sanctuary. They are taught about the importance of primate conservation and kindness to all animals, plus can see and interact with a variety of different species.
- Assist with planning and implementation of educational tours and workshops
- Help with creating materials
Volunteers live in the heart of the wildlife sanctuary, in a purpose-built block. There are three bedrooms, two twin rooms and one double, with all bedding and linen provided. Each room has solar lights and a lock-up trunk for valuables. There is solar electricity only at this project, so make sure to bring plenty of spare batteries for cameras and other electrical items, or solar chargers.
The volunteer village has two shared bathrooms with hot and cold running water for showers. There is a laundry service available and a housekeeper who comes Monday – Friday.
Food is provided for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and volunteers are responsible for making their own meals. There is a fully equipped kitchen to prepare and cook meals, including a gas fridge and freezer, a four plate gas stove and small oven. A variety of food is provided including pasta, rice, cereals, bread, jams and spreads, oats, meat and cheese, eggs, milk, plus tinned vegetables. Fresh fruit and vegetables and other fresh produce is bought every few days, and vegetarians and vegans can be catered for – please let us know when making your booking.
The sanctuary is set up to be a free-roaming wild environment, and there are animals that share every part of the sanctuary with you, including the volunteer village. The dogs live at the sanctuary love people, company and attention. Marlin and Leni they parrots live at the volunteer village and do wake up early and love to chat! They will roam around, visiting you in the lounge and kitchen areas.
There is no WiFi available at the sanctuary, however you can purchase a local SIM card and buy data bundles for Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and emails, to enable you to keep up to date with the outside world. Do bring games, books and other activities for the evenings.
“The volunteer accommodation is awesome, its relaxed, very open and there are plenty of places to sit back and appreciate your surrounds. I LOVE the house guests that pop in and out. It was nice to be able to cook for ourselves and the availability of food at the local shop was perfect – I’m vegetarian and didn’t struggle at all.”
When can I volunteer?
Arrivals at the Primate Conservation Programme are flexible, although during busy periods we may ask you to try and join with other volunteers.
2020 project pricing:
1 week: $935
2 weeks: $1,800
3 weeks: $2,520
4 weeks: $3,240
5 weeks: $3,840
6 weeks: $4,440
7 weeks: $5,040
8 weeks: $5,640
9 weeks: $6,120
10 weeks: $6,600
11 weeks: $7,080
12 weeks: $7,560
Returning volunteers get 5% off their second visit and 10% off their third!
If you wish to stay for longer than 3 months, please let us know.
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, funding for community projects etc
- Accommodation and three meals per day
- Return airport transfers
- Laundry and housekeeping
- 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 Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
- Visa fees (variable depending on nationality)
- Travel insurance (compulsory)
- Personal expenses such as souvenirs, drinks from the bar, snacks, town trips
- Pre and / or post programme accommodation (if required)
- Additional excursions
- Local SIM card and data / airtime bundles (optional)
- Administration fee ($40)
Zimbabwe volunteer packages
CONSERVANCY & REHABILITION COMBO
We highly recommend combining the Primate Conservation project with a week or two (or longer!) at our very popular Rhino & Elephant Conservation Programme. Experience life in a 10,000 acre private conservancy, dedicated to the protection and breeding of the endangered black rhino. Click for more details of our Conservancy & Rehabilitation combination project.
For the latest travel updates, please visit our Zimbabwe 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. The small team also makes this a great, hands-on, personal experience. There is some walking over uneven terrain, so volunteers should be of reasonable mobility. 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 17 years (under 18s are on request and places are not guaranteed). 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 Primate Conservation – Family Programme page for further details.
How many people will there be?
There is a maximum of 4 volunteers at one time, plus staff and volunteer managers.
When can I join?
Volunteers should aim to arrive and depart on a Monday, although start dates can be flexible. The project is usually closed from mid-December to early January, but please enquire for available dates over that time.
When is the best time to come?
December to February is known as ‘orphan season’ when most baby animals, particularly primates, are born. Some of these animals become orphaned, either because their parents are killed in accidents, or because of the illegal bushmeat and exotic pets trades. Many of them are brought to the sanctuary for rehabilitation and care before their eventual release.
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 explore Bulawayo and the surrounding areas. 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 twelve 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 $200-$300 depending on accommodation.
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 Bulawayo. Fees are dependent on nationality and range from $30 – $75 (paid in USD cash). Extensions are available from the Department of Immigration in Bulawayo, 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?
The sanctuary is currently home to nine baboons, 14 vervet monkeys, antelope, bush pigs and warthog, an ostrich, various birds and raptors, mongoose, bush babies and four deaf Dalmatians.
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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