Volunteer Placement: Animal Behavior & Human-Wildlife Conflict in Dinokeng Game Reserve

14+ days
Category:
  • A Female African elephant (Loxodonta africana) displaying a warning as she crosses the road in Hluhluwe Game Reserve. Animal Behaviour Volunteering
  • Alex Tozer (29)
  • Lioness-dinokeng
  • tent1
  • Mel Andrews 1 (53)
  • Lion-South-Africa-Research
  • DSCN0505
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Tom Hodgson (396)
  • Ferdie Muller 523
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Alex Tozer (38)
  • South-Africa-Biodiversity-Studies-Dinokeng
  • Rhinos-South-Africa

Description

Project Summary

Join us in the Dinokeng Reserve (DGR), a unique public-private partnership that is home to the African Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, elephant) as well as 170 homesteads and communities within the reserve. We work with volunteers like you to monitor and protect the incredible species of this reserve alongside local NGOs and communities who care for South Africa’s unique wildlife. We are extremely grateful for your support in making these projects possible. 

In return, we promise you the experience of a lifetime, a letter of reference or certificate for your CV, and the opportunity to gain valuable skills to launch your career in conservation management. 

PLEASE CHECK ALL TABS ABOVE FOR FULL INFORMATION ON ACTIVITIES, COSTS, AND START DATES! Please note that the Dinokeng site will not open until July 2021 due to pandemic-related restrictions.

Dinokeng Game Reserve comprises 18,500 ha and is a unique project that combines conservation and employment opportunities for rural communities in South Africa’s Gauteng province. This ecosystem is the first free-roaming Big Five residential game reserve in South Africa next to an urban area. Our volunteers will work with local partners WTSA Volunteering and Wildlife & Ecological Investments (WEI) to analyze how close interactions between humans and wildlife impact both conservation and rural livelihoods. 

Our goals at this site revolve around understanding how human-wildlife conflict affects ecosystem health, as well as the carrying capacity of the reserve for various species. The reserve opened in 2011 after over 10 years of planning and the final Big 5 species (buffalo) were introduced in 2012. Our partners depend on volunteer support to study this novel project, which could have important implications for the future of wildlife conservation. 

Volunteer placements in Dinokeng run for 2-12 weeks, all in two-week increments. It is not possible to travel to Dinokeng for an odd number of weeks. If you are interested in staying for 1+ months (after July 2021), you can combine your stay at Dinokeng with an internship at our Kruger National Park site to work on issues of large-scale conservation management and research at one of Africa’s most emblematic parks.

Start dates begin on the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month and the price includes a return transfer to the nearest airport. Please see the ITINERARY tab above for a detailed description of dates, accommodation, and other logistical details. 

Volunteers will be allocated assignments and work responsibilities after their arrival at the camp upon completion of an initial introductory period. Volunteers will be involved in many different work activities, including tasks that are not animal or wildlife-related, but are essential to conservation efforts. Examples of activities may include: rhino and elephant tracking, pitfall trapping, lion behavioral surveys, road maintenance, and bush clearing.

Specific activities cannot be guaranteed during any one volunteer’s stay as conservation management work depends on many uncontrollable factors such as weather, wildlife, and organizational needs. Please see the ACTIVITIES tab above for a detailed description of possible volunteering activities. 

Accommodation

You will stay within shared bunk-style accommodations in the WEI Tambuki Research Houses, located within the reserve, inside an electrified fence to protect against dangerous animals. The center has flushing toilets, warm showers, electricity, and a fully-equipped kitchen. Volunteers are expected to cook their own meals and participate in daily cleaning of the camp. You should expect to share a room with other volunteers, usually of the same sex. However, we cannot guarantee a same-sex roommate, so mixed rooms may occur. 

The camp is only one hour from the city of Pretoria, so you may budget to spend 1-2 nights in the city during your stay, if desired. However, expect a rural camp with satellite internet; this is not an ideal program for someone who needs to be in a big city! High speed WiFi is available on site for a cost of ZAR 100/week (approximately €7).

How to Book

Please indicate the number of weeks, start date, and any additional courses in the form to the right of this section. Please fill in the number of weeks in the box that currently lists “2”. You must pay the flat deposit fee of €100 to hold your place. We will contact you with a full invoice once we receive your deposit confirmation. Discounts will be applied to bookings longer than two weeks. Please see the PRICING tab above for detailed pricing information.

Itinerary

Volunteer Placements in Dinokeng run for 2-12 weeks, all in two-week increments. It is not possible to travel to Dinokeng for an odd number of weeks. If you are interested in staying for 1+ months, you can combine your stay at Dinokeng with an internship at our Kruger National Park site to work on issues of large-scale conservation management and research at one of Africa’s most emblematic parks.

Start dates begin on the 1st and 15th of every month (except January) and the price includes a return transfer to the nearest airport. Our program with WTSA will run from 1 July 2021 through the end of the year.

You are responsible for booking your own flights to OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg (JHB). Volunteers are met on arrival at OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg (JHB). Volunteers have to arrange their international and/or domestic connecting flight for arrival at ORTIA on set starting dates. 

Volunteers will be transferred to the reserve as one group departing at 13h00 on the 1st and 15th. Volunteers that have arrived on earlier flights are therefore required to wait at the airport for later arrivals. We advise volunteers to stay over in Johannesburg if their flight arrival is not on the 1st or 15th. If you stay in town you are required to report to ORTIA airport at the Information Desk located inside the International Arrivals Hall by 13h00 on the day of transfer to be transported to the reserve.

The return transfer from the reserve to ORTIA is on the 1st and 15th of each month, departing at 10h00 for arrival at ORTIA by 12h00. Flight departures only to be booked for travel after 14h00 to allow for road conditions and delays. 

Please check your local embassy for visa requirements. (Most western countries are issued tourist visas on arrival). On arrival at the airport volunteers have to declare they are visiting South Africa as tourists and state the period of their stay. Volunteers will be issued a standard 90 day tourist visa, which may be extended at a local Dept of Home Affairs office (subject to certain conditions) for a further 90 days up to a maximum stay of 6 months. Check the validity of your passport as some countries are required to have a passport valid for at least 6 months after the end of your stay in SA.

Activities

Activities

Volunteers will be allocated assignments and work responsibilities after their arrival at the camp upon completion of a two-day introductory period. The introductory period allows volunteers to gain a better understanding of operations and reserve management practices and safety policies. During this time volunteers will receive training in basic bush ecology and how to safely conduct themselves in a big game environment. You can expect to work approximately 8 hours per day, between 5-6 days per week, depending on research requirements, weather, and data collection needs. 

You will be assessed in terms of your skills and interests, and the potential areas where you can make a valuable contribution during your stay. Volunteers will be involved with different types of work activities, including tasks that are not animal or wildlife-related but are critical in conserving the environment, i.e. erosion control measures, road maintenance, bush clearing, and hard manual labor.

Volunteers that are studying in relevant areas of interest may be assigned to specific tasks that could be related to practical components of their studies. Volunteers will work closely with field teams, reserve manager, and scientific coordinator of WEI throughout the project. We will make a best effort to balance wildlife activities with more mundane tasks; however, both are required and volunteers must remain flexible around the work they do based on what is needed to support WEI’s efforts. 

All activities revolve around monitoring and managing the unique ecosystem of the Dinokeng Reserve, including preserving the wellbeing of its human inhabitants. Throughout their stay, volunteers will gain knowledge on bush ecology and an understanding of animal behavior, dealing with potentially dangerous game, navigation, basic bush skills, GPS, and GIS techniques. Volunteers also learn about Animal, Plant, and Bird identifications as well as bush interpretation skills such as spoor identification, tracking, and animal behavior. An extensive library of reference guides, literature, and books are available in camp.

After the introductory period and safety training, volunteers will participate in a variety of the following projects and activities: 

Herbivore Monitoring

Our objective is to determine the carrying capacity, distribution, population dynamics, and environmental impact of herbivores in the DGR, including elephants, buffalo, and rhino, as well as smaller herbivores. Activities related to herbivore monitoring may include: 

  • Habitat Assessment: measuring trees and grass species to determine habitat use and dynamics
  • Herbivore Transects: observing herbivore and antelope behavior relative to predators
  • Elephant & Rhino ID: tracking and identifying individuals using ID kits to monitor behavior, distribution, and impact on the reserve

Predator Monitoring

lion research south africa dinokeng

Our objective is to categorize predator guilds (lions, cheetah, hyena, caracal) and understand how they are distributed within the reserve. We will also study how lions use the reserve and its resources. Activities related to predator monitoring may include: 

  • Lion Behavioral Study: Opportunistic observation for 20 minutes, recording location, date, behavior, condition, and kill data.
  • Habitat Assessment: measuring trees and grass species to determine habitat use and dynamics
  • Camera Trapping: placing and checking cameras set up to trigger remotely when they perceive motion to study animal behavior

Biodiversity Surveyswildlife research dinokeng south africa

The biodiversity surveys comprise 16 sampling sites throughout the reserve, with 6 high-intensity survey sites monitored on a year-round basis. Volunteers will set up, maintain, and monitor these sites to understand the carrying capacity for large mammals and other species within this Highveld savannah biome. Activities related to biodiversity monitoring include: 

  • Habitat Assessment: measuring trees and grass species to determine habitat use and dynamics
  • Bird Point Counts: using auditory and/or visual data for a specific period of time to determine diversity and habitat use of bird species
  • Pit Fall Trapping: installing a line of buckets or cups in the ground to capture herps and arthropods within each habitat zone. 

Reserve Management and Human-Wildlife Conflict

You may also take part in game reserve management activities, essential to helping our partners care for the Dinokeng Game Reserve. These activities may include road maintenance, bush clearing, meeting key community members, assessing and mitigating human-wildlife conflicts, other manual tasks that arise as needed at the center. 

Many activities are seasonal and therefore cannot be guaranteed during any one volunteer’s stay.

Pricing

Pricing

How to Book

Please indicate the number of weeks, start date, and any additional courses in the form to the right of this section. Please fill in the number of weeks in the box that currently lists “2”. You must pay the flat deposit fee of €100 to hold your place. We will contact you with a full invoice once we receive your deposit confirmation. Discounts will be applied to bookings longer than two weeks. Please see the PRICING tab above for detailed pricing information.

Please see the table below for weekly pricing at our DGR camp. Please note that during the high season (1 July – 1 November) there is a €40 weekly supplement cost added to the prices below. High speed WiFi is available on site for a cost of ZAR 100/week (approximately €7). 

Length in weeksCost per week in €Total cost in €
2440880
43851540
63682208
83582864
103523520
123494188

*ADDITIONAL COSTS*

Extra Transfers (not on 1st or 15th) Johannesburg to DGR or DGR to Johannesburg: €180

Dietary Restrictions Supplement (weekly):

€30 – Vegan/Lactose/Gluten Intolerance

€20 – Vegetarian

Price:440.00

Book the tour

Dietary Restrictions?

Vegetarian

Vegan/Gluten-Free/Lactose Intolerant

 Number ticket  × 440.00
Total = 880.00