Malawi’s wildlife research projects cover a range of issues. You will have the chance to partake in specific research projects, whether it be radio tracking large carnivores, assisting on camera trap surveys or creating identification kits for elephants.
You will learn first-hand about various conservation techniques and initiatives which are crucial to protection Africa’s wildlife and wilderness areas.
Wildlife research volunteers choosing the Liwonde National Park placement will get involved with a number of important biodiversity monitoring projects.
What will I be doing?
Based in Liwonde National Park and working in partnership with African Parks, you’ll collect data that will enable park management to take informed conservation action for species of special concern (e.g. lions, cheetahs, hyenas, pangolins, vultures, leopards and wild dogs).
Field work is intensive and requires early starts, long days and a lot of patience! You will get involved with tracking focus species, checking camera traps and recording sitings of all wildlife. You will undoubtedly witness unique and special wildlife moments – such as the take-over of a pride by a new male lion; watching a female cheetah teaching her cubs how to hunt; or observing the dynamics between vultures and predators at a carcass.
You may get involved with some or all of the following activities:
- Camera trapping
- VHF tracking of cheetahs, lions and other species
- Behavioural observations of cheetah, lions and elephants
- Develop ID kits for elephants, hyenas, cheetah, lions and servals
- Vulture and lovebird road counts
- Vegetation surveys
- Carnivore surveys
- Data entry and GIS mapping
By the end of your stay in Liwonde you will be skilled in mammal identification, radio tracking, camera trapping and data entry, and you will have learnt to use the CyberTracker software for data collection.
Liwonde National Park
Located in the southern region of Malawi, Liwonde is home to Malawi’s largest populations of elephant, black rhino, cheetah and waterbuck. The area is managed by African Parks, in partnership with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife.
Liwonde was at the heart of the largest elephant translocation in history, led by African Parks and known as 500 elephants. In recent years Liwonde has been the subject of numerous wildlife reintroductions and it is now the top park in Malawi for carnivore sitings, especially cheetahs and lions.
Students who are looking to conduct research as part of their BSc or Masters degree, or who wish to conduct their industrial, PTY or professional training overseas placement can apply to undertake student research.
The project can assist with shaping a research topic, providing access to locations and logistical support, but the research itself needs to be self-directed and you will need to secure your own supervisor. Please get in touch and have a chat with us to explore research ideas as a first step.
Where will I be based?
Student researchers will be based at an appropriate research site or other national park / private reserve depending on their field of interest, the season and the field work that is currently being done at each research base.
Who should apply?
You should be a BSc, MSc, Mres or DVM student.
What could I be doing?
Your time on the placement will be dictated by your research project. Some examples include:
- Assessment of the release of rehabilitated vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus rufoviridus) in Kasungu National Park.
- Stress and parasitism in translocated vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) in Malawi.
- Factors influencing the presence of blue monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis) in naturally fragmented Afromontane forest patches in Nyika National Park.
- Pre-release enrichment strategies to stimulate natural behaviour in common duiker and common genets.
- Surveillance for African Swine Fever vectors in pig kholas around Kuti Wildlife Reserve.
2022-2023 Student research fees
1 month: £1,360
2 months: £1,870
3 months: £2,380
Each additional month up to 12 months: £510 per month
Liwonde National Park
The research camp is located on the edge of the Likwenu River, close to the main gate to the National Park. Placement participants stay in shared rooms and the camp has a large kitchen and outdoor fire area. Ablutions include flush toilets and hot showers. Power at the research camp is intermittent and often powered by a backup power source, therefore we recommend limiting the number of devices that require charging.
Three vegetarian meals are provided a day, and cooking and cleaning are shared communally. Dietary requirements can be catered for – please let us know in advance! Laundry can be done either by yourselves or one of the staff – detergent is provided.
Liwonde research camp does not have WiFi available, but there is network coverage and staff will help you to get data for your cellular device so you can contact home. It is best to make sure that your phone is unlocked prior to leaving home.
Rates & Dates
When can I volunteer?
Wildlife research volunteers at Liwonde and Vwaza Marsh should plan to arrive into Lilongwe International on a Tuesday, from where you will be collected and taken to the Malawi Wildlife Sanctuary for your first night’s accommodation. The wildlife research programme at Liwonde is open year-round.
2022-2023 project pricing – Liwonde wildlife volunteers
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.
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, and fuel.
- Accommodation and three meals per day
- Return airport transfers
- 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, snacks
- Pre and / or post programme accommodation (if required)
- Additional excursions
- Administration fee (£40)
View our booking terms and conditions. **March 2020 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
Malawi is in the grip of a conservation revolution. In recent years, the Government has clamped down on wildlife criminals by passing tough laws and disrupting organised crime syndicates. Greater investment in protected areas has led to a boom in wildlife populations and the return to some areas of the ‘Big Five’.
This means that Malawi is fast earning a name for itself as an emerging leader in African conservation.
Volunteering in Malawi is a chance to be part of this fascinating conservation success story.
Support a high impact charity
The organisation started as a sanctuary, but has 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 in Lilongwe 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.
For the latest travel updates, please visit our Malawi destination page.
Who should volunteer on this project?
This wildlife research 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. Research volunteers come from all backgrounds and nationalities, with varied animal and wildlife experience. 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 well in spoken English. Full training in data capture and data entry will be given.
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 research programme takes up to 5 people at a time, plus 2 staff members, so 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?
Field work generally runs for five and half days a week. You will sometimes have downtime between morning and afternoon monitoring sessions, but the work is unpredictable and sometimes you may be required to spend full days in the field. In the evenings you will sit round the fire, listening to the night time sounds of the bush and marvel over the days events.
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!
How long can I volunteer for?
The minimum project length is two weeks, and the maximum stay is three months. Student researchers can spend up to 12 months in Malawi.
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?
Depending on which research site you are based it, you could be focusing on elephants, lions, cheetahs and African Wild Dogs.
Please note that activities will vary according to what the research focus is at the time and what their needs are. Be flexible and bear in mind that the variety and number of animals you encounter can and will change daily. The only thing we can guarantee is that you will have an amazing time!
Can I touch the animals?
Liwonde National Park is a wilderness area, home to some of Africa’s most iconic wildlife. On the research placement you will not the opportunity to interact with animals except from the safety of your game viewer!
What vaccinations do I need?
All volunteers should make sure their Tetanus, Polio and Hepatitis A and B are up to date. Malawi 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.
If you are not planning to volunteer at the wildlife sanctuary at all then a TB test is not mandatory. However, there are instances where there might be some activities in Liwonde and even at the Centre where they could get the opportunity to work very closely with wildlife and it would be great if the project team know that you have tested negative for TB. If you plan on combining your research placement with time at the sanctuary, then a TB is required. Even if you have been vaccinated against TB, you must take a new one for the wildlife sanctuary part of the 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.
Additionally, if you do plan on spending time at the sanctuary, a rabies vaccination is compulsory.
You must bring your vaccination certificate with you!