Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation

Zimbabwe

Be a hands-on wildlife conservation volunteer on this unique rhino and elephant conservation project. Work to secure the future of the black rhino in Zimbabwe and help in the day to day running of a privately owned game reserve.

This is a very hands-on conservation programme where volunteers get closely involved in the daily care of black and white rhino and elephants, plus a huge variety of other wildlife including lion, buffalo, giraffe and zebra. Join the dedicated Anti-Poaching Unit and help patrol the game park, keeping it secure for the animals within its boundaries. Undertake game counts, animal behaviour studies and get involved in collecting observational data for ongoing research projects.

For volunteers who are looking for a hands-on wildlife experience in Africa, this project is perfect. Live and work in the heart of a family-owned conservation area, home to four of Africa’s Big 5 game, where you play an integral role in the daily operation of the game park while getting closer than you ever thought possible to rhinos and elephants.

Play a role in securing the future of the endangered black rhino as you work alongside anti-poaching rangers, undertake rhino research projects and get involved in the daily care of these ancient animals.

**********

BRAND NEW BABY WHITE RHINO!

On 22nd October 2017 a long-awaited white rhino calf was born -  both mother and baby are doing well. We will keep you updated of their progress!

**********

Quick Facts

Who can join: Volunteers aged over 17 years
How long can I stay: 2 weeks - 8 weeks
Accommodation: Volunteer house
Transfer time: 2 hours
Pick up from: Harare
Meals: 3 meals a day
Project numbers: 12
Start dates: Any Monday throughout the year 
How much: from $855 (1 week) 

This project is a:

WHY CHOOSE THIS PROJECT

This is a special wildlife conservation project where you become one of the team straightaway. Learn about the operation of a private conservancy and provide manpower for vital anti-poaching activities. Interact with rhinos and elephants and explore the beautiful Zimbabwe bush as you become part of a fascinating and unique family!

Background

The game park was established in the 1950s as a maize, tobacco and cattle farm. During the 1970s, game was introduced back onto the land and, like Noah’s Ark, the animals came in two by two and by 1980 the park was home to large herds of plains game - waterbuck, impala, nyala, zebra and the rare sable antelope.

Pioneering elephant studies

In 1980 an orphaned baby elephant from a sanctuary in Harare was offered to the park as it was now too large for their premises. This female elephant, Nzou, was placed with a herd of buffalo, this being the largest herd animal in the park (there were no other elephants at the time). An unknown nuance of elephant behaviour was unwittingly discovered - that they could take on the identity of a species other than their own. Today, despite the best efforts of the park to introduce her to the other four elephants, Nzou continues to live with the buffalo, where she has established herself as the undeniable matriarch of the herd.

Rhino conservation

During the 1980s, a decade which saw some of Zimbabwe’s worst rhino poaching, most of the remaining black rhino in the country were moved out of National Parks into the relative safety of private conservation areas, called Intensive Protection Zones. The reserve was chosen as one of these IPZs and, in 1985, were given the custodianship of seven orphaned baby black rhinos. Since then, 15 black rhino have been born at Imire, with 11 released back into the Matusadona National Park in the north of Zimbabwe. The government’s release programme was stopped due to excessive poaching and the black rhino again faces extinction.

Volunteers get very involved in rhino monitoring and data collection to learn more about these incredible animals, as well as enabling successful management planning.

In addition to the larger mammals - rhino, elephant, buffalo and lion, the conservancy is also home to spotted hyena, jackal, baboons, vervet monkeys, aardvarks, zebra, giraffe, mongoose and a huge variety of birds, reptiles, snakes and frogs.

Highlights

  • Help secure the future of the black rhino and elephant in Zimbabwe
  • Participate in a diverse range of activities from rhino conservation to game counts, anti-poaching patrols, tracking, animal handling and teaching
  • Immerse yourself in the wildlife around you as you live in the heart of a 10,000 acre game park
  • Undertake vital conservation management activities including foreign species removal, tree planting and anti-poaching
  • Learn to track and identify animals and learn about the threats which they face
  • Get up close and personal with a wide variety of wildlife in their natural environment
  • Support the community as you teach English literacy to schoolchildren and help with practical conservation education, gardening and sports.
  • Form close bonds with staff, volunteers and the family who own the park - understand the challenges they face on a daily basis
  • Add value to the lives of village school children - share your experiences and ideas and help them with their basic education and English language


What sort of things will I be doing?

No two days on this project are ever the same and there is usually something unexpected and exciting around the corner, volunteers will get involved in some or all of these activities:

Black Rhino and Elephant Conservation:
To support the successful black rhino breeding and release programme and maintain excellence in elephant conservation, volunteers collect data on their behaviour, movements and browsing activities and help educate the local community about the importance of conservation.

  • Observe and record behaviour and family interactions - get closer than you ever thought possible to these amazing animals
  • Feed, observe and walk with the rhinos and elephants while you carry out your research projects
  • Learn from experienced handlers about the battle these animals face to survive
  • Maintain and clean rhino and elephant beds (the rhinos and elephants are kept in pens at night for security)
  • Repair elephant damage around the game park
  • Cut browse for night time feeds

Anti-poaching and security:
Volunteers play a vital role in ensuring the securityof the game park and this area is one of the most important areas of the project and will:

  • Provide additional manpower for anti-poaching foot patrols and snare sweeps in vulnerable areas of the game park
  • Carry out fish netting patrols in one of the many dams on the property
  • Fence building and repair
  • Learn to track big game and recognise different animal spoor
  • Conduct weapons training and anti-poaching training with the park's rangers
  • Communicate anti-poaching and conservation messages to rural school children

Game Park Management:
Get an insight into the running and management of a game reserve and provide daily assistance to the Game Park Manager to ensure its successful operation.

  • Carry out deliveries of feed and nutritional supplements focusing on sable, giraffe, lion and hyena
  • Assist in game counts and herd composition studies
  • Undertake reforesting and the removal of alien species
  • Road maintenance and fireguard building

Community Education:
The heart of this project is its community - no conservation programme can be successful without community education and poverty alleviation. Volunteers spend time in the local school giving additional reading lessons and encouraging children to appreciate the importance of living in harmony with wildlife.

  • Teach lessons on different animal species to highlight the need and importance of protecting the natural environment, as well as focusing on the plight of the black rhino
  • Give additional reading lessons to make sure children have the best start to their education
  • Help with gardening and teaching about permaculture (organic gardening)
  • Tree planting at the local schools
  • Hands on education in the bush with children on the animals and birds, plus the dangers of using catapults, lighting fires, dropping litter and setting traps


At weekends:
Experience local Zimbabwean culture
Take an optional excursion and see the best of what Zimbabwe has to offer

Details

Do I need any experience to volunteer on this programme?

We welcome volunteers with a passion and interest in wildlife and conservation and the ability to communicate suitably in English. You should be of reasonable mobility and fitness as there is some walking and foot-based tracking involved in the project. Volunteers are asked to do as much as they are able - if you do not feel comfortable doing an activity, the position of photographer is always appreciated!

How do I get to the project?

Included in your programme price is a return transfer from Harare - either from Harare International Airport or from another destination within the city.

Do I get some time off?

Volunteers get one and a half days off per week. For those volunteers who are keen hikers, we can arrange a trip to Wedza Mountain and for those who are interested in cultural history there are some very old bushman paintings at Markwe Caves (just outside the reserve).

For those volunteers who are staying longer than 2 weeks, we would recommend a trip to Victoria Falls. Volunteers can also participate in regular excursions to the project house in Nyanga in the Eastern Highlands and enjoy the cool, peaceful mountain air. The project can also arrange excursions to Kariba and Mana Pools - please ask when booking for more details of these trips.

Combination Projects

We highly recommend making the most out of your trip to Africa and consider combining two or more volunteer projects. You could start and finish in the same place (Harare to Harare) or use it as an opportunity to get from one country to another (e.g. Zimbabwe to Namibia).

Take a look at a selection of tailor made itineraries that previous volunteers have enjoyed.

A day in the life

Volunteers will usually get up around 6.00-6.30am to get started before the day heats up.

Before breakfast head to the rhino pens and help the rhino handlers let their beloved animals out into the game park for the day. Armed with your notebook and data sheets, spend two hours walking with the rhino as they begin their day out in the game park.

After a hearty breakfast back at the volunteer house, your task is to locate all the animals in one section of the game park. Mark their locations, note how many there are in the herd, the composition and the health of any babies or pregnant mothers. Feed them nutritional supplements or give them dosed feed to remove pests and parasites.

Return to the volunteer house for lunch and have a siesta during the heat of the day. After lunch your job is to go on patrol. You will be given an area of the game park fence to monitor for signs of entry or snares. Remove snares and make any repairs to the fence. Report your findings to the Game Park Manager. Head to Castle Kopje in time for sundowners on top of the rock overlooking the largest dam - the perfect end to a day in the bush!

Enjoy a home-cooked dinner while you chat about the day, write your blogs and check your photographs. An early night is always needed after a hard days work!

Pricing and Dates

When can I volunteer?

Volunteers can begin the Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation programme on any Monday throughout the year. 

Project pricing from 1st October 2017:

1 week - $855
2 weeks - $1,715
3 weeks - $2,570
4 weeks - $3,430
5 weeks - $4,285
6 weeks - $5,145
7 weeks - $5,995
8 weeks - $6,860

What does the cost include?

- Programme fee - financing which goes back into the programme your are involved with; this includes funding for equipment, supplies, vehicles and foodstuffs
- Transfers to and from Harare on the scheduled date and time
- Full board and lodging for the duration of your programme including laundry (exc. alcoholic and fizzy drinks)
- Practical instruction on wildlife and plant identification as well as spoors, tracking and animal behaviour
- All programme-related transport and equipment required to do your work
- 24 hour support and guidance from the volunteer programme staff

The programme cost excludes:

- Transport by air or bus to Harare
- Visas
- Any expenses prior to your programme start date
- Any personal items such as alcoholic drinks, snacks, wifi, additional food or souvenirs
- Personal medical and travel insurance, which must cover the entire duration of your programme and should include cover for repatriation, air evacuation and any activities you may undertake or plan to undertake
- Any additional trips outside the volunteer programme
- Telephone calls and internet

View our booking terms and conditions

Love horse riding? Combine hands-on rhino and elephant conservation with horse safaris and riding patrols on our Horse Riding & Wildlife Conservation Programme.

Accommodation

Your home on this project will be a large, thatched, self-contained two-storey house which has a family atmosphere. Situated in the heart of the game park on our largest dam, Numwa House is in an idyllic spot with a pool and plenty of opportunities for fishing. There is a cook and housekeeper who will make sure you are well fed and looked after! You will share the house with volunteers on the Horse Riding & Wildlife Conservation Programme.

Numwa House has three twin rooms and two dormitories - twin rooms can be requested at the time of booking and a double bed is available in one of these rooms.

There are two bathrooms, one with bath and one with shower and bath, three inside toilets and, for those hot days, three outside solar showers. There is hot and cold running water for showers, baths and cooking and a borehole with fresh drinking water.

Three meals a day are provided from Monday - Saturday plus tea, coffee, juices and water. On Sundays the volunteers are responsible for cooking for themselves (food is provided) or you can opt to have a three-course dinner cooked for you by chef’s at the main lodge (additional charge).

 

Destination

Volunteering in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is the true home of Conservation Travel Africa as our founders were all born and still live there. Zimbabwe is often in the international news for the wrong reasons but the reality is quite different and tourism is beginning to grow again in one of Africa’s most beautiful and unspoilt countries.

The country offers something for every traveller - from the absolute wilderness of Gonarezhou and Mana Pools to the ruins of Great Zimbabwe and the hustle and bustle of Africa’s adventure capital,  Victoria Falls. Zimbabwe is rich in colour and the people have retained their resolve, sense of humour and friendliness.

No trip to Zimbabwe would be complete without a visit to Victoria Falls. Mosi-au-Tunya (“the smoke that thunders) is accepted to have the largest sheet of falling water in the world (1,708m wide and 108m high) and is located on the far western tip of Zimbabwe on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Victoria Falls is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. As well as the Falls being a definite must-see for visitors, Victoria Falls town is a also lively centre for adventure. For white water rafting the best time to visit is when the waters in the Zambezi are low (August - December) - these rapids have often been referred to as the best one-day white water rafting in the world.

Hwange National Park: at 14,000 square kilometers, Hwange is a wildlife enthusiast’s dream. With some of the most unspoilt wild areas in Zimbabwe, an abundance of elephants as well as leopard, lion, rhino, buffalo and over 100 bird species, a trip to Hwange must be on everyones To Do list.

Mana Pools National Park: Mana Pools is synonymous with the Zambezi River, elephants, lions, wilderness and remote beauty. It is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site based on its wild-ness and beauty together with its wide range of large mammals and birdlife. The name “mana” means “four” in Shona, relating to the four large pools inland from the Zambezi River, the remnants of four ancient ox-bow lakes. Spread over 2,196 square km, the Park is part of a region of 10,500 square km, from the Kariba Dam to the Mozambique border, which has no physical boundaries and animals are able to move freely throughout the area. It is the only National Park where visitors are allowed to walk unaccompanied by a guide.

Lake Kariba: the world’s third largest man-made lake offers spectacular elephant and buffalo sit-ings on its shores as well as being home to the ferocious tiger fish! Take the 24-hour ferry from Milibizi on the southern tip to Kariba town in the north and witness the beauty of remotest Zimbabwe.

Great Zimbabwe: a ruined stone city in south Zimbabwe, which was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the country’s late Iron Age, in around the 11th Century. One of its most prominent features are its 5m high stone walls, constructed entirely without mortar and the ruins are some of the oldest, largest and most impressive stone structures in Southern Africa. The city was built over a period of 300 years and it is believed that over 18,000 people lived there at its peak before being eventually abandoned and falling into ruins.

Nyanga: Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands is home to rolling green hills, majestic waterfalls and the country’s highest peak, Mount Inyangani. A tranquil retreat from the heat of the Lowveld, Nyanga is a haven for bird-lovers and hikers and is also home to rivers ideal for tubing and canoeing.

What will the weather be like?

During the Zimbabwe summer (September - April) temperatures at Imire average 28-30°c. Volunteers should bring light clothing in neutral colours (not white), a wide-brimmed hat, polarised sunglasses, a water bottle, plenty of high factor sunscreen (and after-sun!), strong mosquito spray and closed shoes. A light waterproof jacket is also essential for sudden downpours! Average lows are around 15-20°c.

During winter (May - mid-August) daytime temperatures average 25-27°c with no rainfall at all. Temperatures during the night and in the mornings and evenings can get down to 7-10°c (and it has been known to frost!) so volunteers are advised to bring lots of layers including fleeces and a warm hat for nighttime camping with a wide-brimmed hat or cap and loose light clothing for daytime.

Excursions

Do I get some time off?

Volunteers get one and a half days off per week. For those volunteers who are keen hikers, we can arrange a trip to Wedza Mountain and for those who are interested in cultural history there are some very old bushman paintings at Markwe Caves (just outside the reserve).

For those volunteers who are staying longer than 2 weeks, we would recommend a trip to Victoria Falls. Volunteers can also participate in regular excursions to the project house in Nyanga in the Eastern Highlands and enjoy the cool, peaceful mountain air. The project can also arrange excursions to Kariba and Mana Pools - please ask when booking for more details of these trips.

Combination Projects

We highly recommend making the most out of your trip to Africa and consider combining two or more volunteer projects. You could start and finish in the same place (Harare to Harare) or use it as an opportunity to get from one country to another (e.g. Zimbabwe to Namibia).

Take a look at a selection of tailor made itineraries that previous volunteers have enjoyed.

Project News

23rd October 2017

A first for the project - a  baby white rhino

Rhino breeding continues apace with a third rhino calf born in four years. This time its the turn of Ntombi, the reserve's white rhino female, to produce a calf on 22nd October. After years of false alarms and heartbreak, we are proud to congratulate the project on their new addition.

We will keep you updated on the progress of little Murwi!

15th September 2017

Get involved in a rhino dehorning operation

A fantastic opportunity to experience rhino dehorning as the project's black rhino have their horns removed. Sad though it is to have to do this, the project believe that the operation does protect their rhinos from poaching.

Volunteers joining the programme in early October will experience the thrill of monitoring heart rate and breathing as local vets and conservation professionals perform the operation. Dehorning will take place on 3rd and 4th October.

Read more...

December 2016

Another new baby rhino!

We are delighted to announce the birth of a new baby black rhino on 12th December 2016, the second rhino to be born at Imire in two years.

Read more...

July 2015

Rhino De-Horning

Volunteers were priviledged to be able to get involved with the de-horning of five rhino, an amazing and rare experience to witness. We wish that it didn't need to happen, but the project is dedicated to the safety and protection of its precious rhinos.

Read more...

November 2014

The first baby rhino to be born at the project in 7 years!

We are delighted and proud to announce the birth of a new baby black rhino at Imire. A perfect, healthy female calf was born to the project's youngest female rhino, Shanu on the 27th November – the best Thanksgiving Day present you could hope for!

Read more...

Book Now

Drop us an email to enquire about availability and reserve your place!

Go to our contact form.

Project Gallery - Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation

Testimonials

Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation I chose this programme because I wanted to be involved in the rhino dehorning operation. I enjoyed every minute of my time spent on this project; everything was positive, from the animals, the community children, cultural experiences and meeting many new and delightful people. The activities on the programme were incredibly diverse, which kept me constantly interested and excited for the next adventure. Apart from the dehorning, my highlight was when I participated in a two ... Beverley M, USA Read More
Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation This programme is a fantastic place for anyone who wants to play an integral part in the fight against poaching. You get the chance to be up close and interact with the magnificent rhinos and elephants on a daily basis, but if you want to you also get a chance to play a practical and on-going role in supporting the community with projects, ranging from the local schools to the health clinic, or amenities for surrounding ... Mary S, United Kingdom Read More
Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation I spent 2 weeks at this amazing place and could move there permanently. Working so closely with the elephants and the rhino was a dream. The awe inspiring community and the projects and long term goals took me by surprise, and as such has left a space in my heart. The people are wonderful and very passionate. I loved the days walking with the elephants and joining them for breakfast in the bush. ... Jan H, Australia Read More
Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation “If you were nervous about doing a non animal task, the staff were so perfect in helping you achieve what you believed you never could. A real thank you to them! Always calm, both with the volunteers and the animals. If I was an animal, I would be happy to be looked after here!” Fiona, UK “This was my first time volunteering to celebrate my 50th year on the planet – and Imire was definitely the best ... Ann and Fiona, United Kingdom Read More
Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation Feedback from Cary H on Rhino Elephant Conservation Programme | January 2017 | I loved every moment we have to spend time with the animals, especially breakfast with the elephants, horseback riding and feeding the elephants and rhinos. I also enjoyed our weekly party and climbing Castle Kopje. After we greet the rhinos and elephants in the mornings and clean their enclosures, which is fun, we stay with the handlers for an hour and watch ... Cary H, USA Read More
Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation Unforgettable weeks at Imire Submitted by Katarzyna J | 16th May 2016 I chose Imire for the chance to get hands-on experience with animals and also because of the diversity of the programme, the positive opinions of the programme and its conservation value. I came to Imire between jobs, at my 40th birthday. I hoped to experience the wonderful African wildlife up close and have my own impact on conservation. I got these and so much more. The ... Katarzyna J, Poland Read More
Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation Loving the simple life Submitted by Carol Warden | 24th February 2016 Here we have our schedule everyday that builds in time for work, eating, socializing, resting and observing. In the wonderful weather and with the gas stove, we don t even notice when the power cuts out. Ah, the simple life. No internet, no texting, no rushing. Left to enjoy the life that is right in front of you; interacting with fellow volunteers, catching up on ... Carol W, USA Read More
Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation I was at the center for 22 weeks and I loved every second of it! It was all that I thought it would be and so much more. From the moment I arrived, late because I missed a flight; the staff took care of me. They made sure that I got picked up at the airport and help me to settle in and get my luggage back – it of course also got lost on ... Julie K, Denmark Read More
Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation Such a special place Submitted by James P | January 11, 2016 You discover its beauty from the moment you wake up in the volunteer house, overlooking a beautiful dam, to then having a delicious breakfast with people I can now call friends, knowing the day ahead will be a new and exciting experience. Nothing is false here, the people are friendly and helpful because that s just them, and you feel it everywhere. Driving through the ... James P, UK Read More
Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation The Trip of a Lifetime! Submitted by Mary Drummond | November 2015 I don t even know where to start! I read reviews before I got here from people saying how two weeks was just not long enough. I was heartbroken after my two week stay as well! Every day we experienced something new and exciting. From day-to-day tasks like cleaning out the rhino and elephant stalls and doing feed deliveries, to swimming with the elephants and feeding ... Mary D, Ireland Read More
Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation Discussing world issues with a rhino I am a 60 year-old retired attorney who decided it was time to do something worthwhile. I had been searching for a volunteer project in which to participate. I have always loved animals, maintaining homes for such creatures as llamas, a blind deer, and tortoises, to name a few. Another retired attorney and friend had participated in various volunteer projects in Africa and unearthed the Imire program. She asked me ... Marcia B-G, Zimbabwe Read More
Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation I don’t even know where to start. From the minute I got here I was struck by the pure beauty of this place and the warmth from everybody involved. I didn’t know what to expect at all but this place just blew me away. I will never forget seeing and spending time with a month-old baby rhino, swimming with the elephants and saying good morning to Tatenda the rhino, who was the first thing I saw ... Magnus Rockerman, Sweden Read More
Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation The hands-on experience with the wildlife on this project is like no place I have been before. When faced with a situation of trying to capture a baby wildebeest which had escaped the reserve, we were all involved and treated as part of the team. All the staff in the different sections of the game park are so knowledgeable and professional, but hilarious and fun to be around - they are a great asset to the ... Floss Wood, Australia Read More
Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation Every time I visit this project, and this is my third time, I am always impressed by the professionalism and dedication of the staff. This is from the cooks right through to the rhino and elephant handlers who are always very knowledgable and love imparting their wisdom to us lesser mortals, unfortunate enough not to live in Africa. Whether riding horses or following the rhino through the bush, they are always very dedicated, keeping the volunteers ... Nigel Parker, UK Read More
Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation It is so hard to describe my time here at Imire, because it has been so breathtaking. The knowledge I have gained about nature and animals is beyond amazing. To ask me to put my experiences and adventures down on paper is just too hard, the things I have done here are out of this world and the people I have met here are so inspirational. I have learnt new things from every person I ... Holly H, South Africa Read More

Send an enquiry

 

Stay Informed

Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest news.