Wildlife Research Internship, Zimbabwe


This internship is run alongside the Anti-Poaching & Wildlife Management Programme on the shores of Lake Kariba in northern Zimbabwe. You will work alongside volunteers on the project, the project managers and also support permanent researchers based in the area. The data will be used by both the Kariba Conservation Programme and the Zimbabwe Department of National Parks and Wildlife in their long term management plan for the area.

This internship provides opportunities for people who are interested in both aquatic research or terrestrial projects, with a focus on wildlife. The internship is ideal for adventurous volunteers and students who would like to support the rehabilitation and restoration of a Big 5 wilderness area.

Quick Facts

Who can join: Natural Science Students / PhD students / Post-Graduates
How long can I stay: 2 weeks - 16 weeks
Accommodation: Tented camp
Transfer time: 5 hours
Pick up from: Harare
Meals: 3 meals a day
Project numbers: 2-6
Start dates: Flexible througout the year
How much: from $315 per week (2 week minimum)


The organisation behind this project, Kariba Conservation Programme, was formed in 2014 to provide holistic solutions to anti-poaching threats, focusing on operations in Zimbabwe.

Poaching is a wildlife crime with many drivers and causes, which make it an extremely complex crime - part of the multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade. KCP's objectives are to give communities the tools and training to improve and maintain their own environment, to reduce poaching and to reduce the need for poaching. This work begins with showing a community how integral wildife is to their lives. Once a community is able to sustain itself, KCP can then move into other areas and begin the process again, while always being available for further advice, training and support.

From 2014-2016 KCP worked extensively with the Zimbabwe Department of National Parks and Wildlife in the Charara South area of Lake Kariba, in northern Zimbabwe. They built a base camp in the heart of the Charara South Safari area and instigated anti-poaching training and support for the Parks Department staff. International volunteers were instrumental in adding additional manpower to the operation and also helped with community programmes and building projects.

In 2017 KCP teamed up with a responsible travel partner in Africa's adventure capital, Victoria Falls, and began operating from a base in the unfenced Masuwe game reserve, just outside the town. The reserve is  home to wild elephant herds as well as herds of kudu and hyena, plus a wealth of other wildlife. There are also two elephants in the conservancy who are going through a transition phase, from being used for tourism, to being re-introduced to the wild. These elephants will continue to play an important role in conservation education for local children, but will eventually have no direct human contact, except from a safe distance. The area is also a game corridor, but one that has seen substantial poaching in recent years. The volunteer programme will undertake anti-poaching work alongside a dedicated Anti-Poaching Unit to make the area safe and attractive for game to return.

At all times, volunteers work alongside the permanent team of the Kariba Conservation Programme.

Research Internship

The focus of this internship is on terrestrial wildlife research and wildlife movements - identifying the habits and habitats of the resident wildlife populations. Aquatic research will form part of the overall research mandate but initially the focus will be on land.

Terrestrial research activities will include:

  • Build and maintain a database of wildlife in the area
  • Work alongside the area's permanent lion researcher to study the populations and movements of lions in the area
  • Monitor elephant populations and their territories
  • Log and identify  individual animals e.g. identify individual elements and which herd they come from; look at the relationships between animals, siblings and babies, establish the matriarch status, herd structure and their territorial areas
  • Establish the carrying capacity for different species
  • Build and maintain heat maps for anti-poaching purposes
  • Log data from trail cameras
  • Provide research assistance to build a world class research area and helping create a list of equipment required to carry out professional research
  • Liaise with National Parks teams, universities and other institutions
  • Improve methods of collecting research material
  • Build a photographic library of wildlife structures
  • Help identify ways to reduce the human-wildlife conflict
  • Work on community and human impacts; for example - does an area which is subject to elephant movements include human habitation and, if so, what is the status of that habitation (population size, farming methods etc)
  • Beekeeping projects within the local community

Aquatic projects may include:

  • Fish monitoring - species identification and population estimates
  • Water quality assessments
  • Environmental monitoring in different areas of Lake Kariba
  • Fish netting patrols
  • Help with a community-led fish breeding programme to help with poverty alleviation and to combat local fish poaching

In addition you will also work on ecology projects where you will collect data on the different plant species found in the area; look at the impact of elephants and other herbivores in the area on plant growth and distribution and assess elephant damage.

You will get to work alongside volunteers on the Anti-Poaching & Wildlife Management Programme on activities such as extended patrols and community projects, but only if your research work is up to date and on track.


Who should apply for this internship?

Ideally, interns should Natural Science students who are at degree or post-graduate level, who have some practical research experience. If you are a student but do not have research experience, please do also apply. Applications are also welcome from non-scientists who have an interest in data gathering and would like to find out more about how they can help. All applicants will need to write a letter of commitment outlining what skills and interests you will bring to the programme.

There are also opportunities for students to conduct their own research or PhD projects in addition to supporting the work of the researchers  and ecologists based in the area. These individual projects must benefit the area and must be agreed and accepted beforehand.

You must have an interest in wildlife conservation and be of reasonable fitness. You will be based in a permanent tented camp in a Big 5 wilderness area, with shared ablutions and a field kitchen.

There will be a maximum of two interns at any one time.

You will receive practical instruction in a number of topics including wildlife tracking, spoor and sign identification, animal, bird and plant identification and animal behaviour.

How do I get to the project?

We will arrange transfers from Harare Airport before and after the programme.


We suggest that interns try and stay at least a month to get the most out of the role, but we understand that your holiday time is limited, so if you can only spare two weeks, that is still fine!

The price for the programme is $315 per week and that includes all meals, tented accommodation, transport from Harare to Kariba and back at the end of your programme. It also includes the equipment that you will need to do your work, unless you require specific equipment for your own research project.

Note that if you stay for longer than 30 days, you will need to go to the Department of Immigration in Kariba Town to renew your visa. There will be a charge of $50 for transport to and from their offices. This fee will be paid in cash to the project manager.

What does the cost include:

  • Full board and lodging for the duration of your programme (exc. alcoholic and fizzy drinks)
  • Return transfers from Harare to the project base in Kariba
  • Bush walks and drives
  • Practical instruction on wildlife and plant identification
  • Full safety briefing and orientation
  • 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
  • Visa fees
  • Any expenses prior to your programme start date
  • Any personal items such as alcoholic drinks, snacks, additional food or souvenirs, laundry
  • 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
  • Drinks from the bar and activities during your middle weekend / leisure time (e.g. extra game drives, lodge meals, cruises, fishing expeditions etc)

View our booking terms and conditions


You will be based at a permanent campsite on the shores of Lake Kariba with a field kitchen, showers and toilets. Three meals a day are provided and volunteers will get involved with cooking, cleaning and maintaining camp. All tents are equipped with a stretcher bed, pillow and storage. Please remember a sleeping bag! Showers and toilets are communal and hot water is supplied by solar power. Power sockets are available for limited charging of camera batteries and phones. We recommend you bring a supply of camera batteries and memory cards. 

Three meals per day are provided on a help yourself basis and will be simple stews, curries, pasta, barbecues and vegetables. Please let us know of any dietary requirements before you arrive. Vegetarians and vegans can be catered for.

You will also go on extended patrols into the Charara South Safari Area where you will camp at fly camps within the park. When you go on 1-2 night patrols you will cook over an open fire, have your tent with you, plus a stretcher bed and pillow. 


What will the weather be like?

During the Zimbabwe summer (October - April) temperatures in Kariba average 35-37°c and can get up to 40°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 17-20°c.

During winter (May - September) daytime temperatures average 26-28°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.

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.

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

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. In 2015 Hwange was voted No.19 of Africa's Top 50 Game Parks.

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 wildness 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. In 2015 Mana Pools was voted No.4 of Africa's Top 50 Game Parks.

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 Victoria Falls, Nyanga is a haven for bird-lovers and hikers and is also home to rivers ideal for tubing and canoeing.

Project Gallery - Wildlife Research Internship, Zimbabwe

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