Get involved in a wide range of veterinary activities and assist with clinical health checks, diagnostics and community outreach veterinary work. This programme is ideal for those looking to gain broad, real-world experience of sanctuary-based vet work that also includes other aspects of animal rehabilitation, as per the responsibilities of the sanctuary volunteer.
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 during periods of quieter veterinary activity, interns will join wildlife sanctuary volunteers in their daily activities.
Vet interns assist the on-site veterinarian when any clinical work arises. All veterinary activities will be under the supervision of an experienced local veterinarian. This work may include:
- Incoming exams, minor trauma and routine diagnostics
- Assist the on-site vet in basic surgical procedures on all sorts of animals from hedgehogs to pangolins and barn owls!
- Assist with vaccinations and health checks for new arrivals
- Learn from experts in wildlife veterinary science
- Orphan care including feeding and possibly hand rearing
- Observe sick and injured wildlife
- Rehabilitation including integrations and observations
Please note that veterinary work may not be everyday, and when there is no clinical work to be done, interns will participate in the Centre’s other on-site animal care work. 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!);
- Learn about successful rehabilitation and release methods;
- Clean out enclosures and feeding pens;
- 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.
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.
Take a look at the sister project to this internship, the Rescued Animal Conservation Programme, for more details of daily life as a sanctuary volunteer.
Wildlife sanctuary volunteers live in the heart of the wildlife sanctuary, which means that you’ll experience the magic of bush life after a hard day or work – spending evenings by the fire listening to the sounds of the forest.
The on-site accommodation building can host up to 18 people at a time across six bedrooms. It also includes a lounge, kitchen, inside and outside dining spaces, two bathrooms, laundry space, an outdoor deck and garden.
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!
Meals are cooked by the local chef every day except on Sunday. The menu is vegetarian with a mix of international and local dishes. Special dietary requirements can be catered for and volunteers are welcome to buy in other luxuries or meat if they wish.
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.
2022-2023 project pricing:
2 weeks: £1,370
3 weeks: £1,775
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.
We highly recommend a minimum 4-6 week stay if possible. Priority is given to interns who can spend a month or more at the sanctuary.
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)
View our booking terms and conditions. **January 2021 UPDATE: view our updated terms and conditions**
Malawi’s wildlife and biodiversity are in fast decline. It is also one of the poorest countries 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 rescue and rehabilitation, campaigning for conservation justice and inspiring people to value and protect nature in Malawi.
Be part of the bigger picture
Veterinary interns and volunteers on our Rescued Animal Conservation Programme 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 and veterinary internship teach best practice in veterinary 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 veterinary internship.
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 at any given time, 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.
For the latest travel updates, please visit our Malawi destination page.
Who should volunteer on this project?
The vet intern placements in Malawi are aimed at vet students who have completed at least one year of veterinary school, recent graduates and fully qualified working vets. Six veterinary placements are available at any time and priority will be given to vet students who can stay four weeks or more. If you are on a pre-vet course or have yet to start a veterinary degree, you may join the Malawi Wildlife Sanctuary project and they will endeavour to give you priority on clinic observations during your time there.
You must be able to communicate 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 18 people at a time, plus a maximum of six veterinary interns.
When can I join?
Interns 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 32 degrees in the hot months of October and November, and the coolest month is July, at around 25 degrees, but still bright and sunny.
Do I get some time off?
Interns are kept very busy during their stay on the project and you will work 6 days a week from 8am until 5pm. Most orphans need feeding through anti-social hours and some may need round-the-clock care. 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. Volunteers staying more than four weeks will be given a long weekend off each month (if you want!).
Lilongwe is a clean, 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.
An excursion into the stunning South Luangwa National Park in Zambia makes the perfect ending to your African adventure! A three day tour will cost approximately £450 which includes meals, accommodation, game drives, transfers from Lilongwe, guides, park entrance fees and Zambian visa. These excursions can be booked when you are at the programme.
How long can I volunteer for?
The minimum length for the veterinary internship 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 other entry requirements are there?
For details of Covid-19 travel requirements, please see our Malawi travel guide. You will require proof of vaccination and a negative PCR test, plus the project requires that your travel insurance is fully comprehensive and covers Covid-19.
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. Lilongwe is regarded as high-risk malaria areas, so anti-malarial prophylaxis must be taken. Consult your GP or travel clinic for further detailed medical advice. All volunteers should make sure their Tetanus, Polio and Hepatitis A and B are up to date. You must bring your vaccination certificate with you!
Please visit this UK government website for more details.