Large Carnivore Conservation

Namibia

Help reduce the human-carnivore conflict in a remote area of Namibia. Monitor the progress of released cheetah and leopard in a spectacular environment and get back to basics as you live in Namibia's most stunning and diverse wilderness areas.

Two truly worthwhile carnivore research programmes for anyone who wants to support the conservation of big cats in a responsible way. No lion breeding, no tourist walks, just the amazing feeling of being in the wilderness, helping to secure the future of some of Africa's most iconic wildlife - the cheetah and leopard.

Project Highlights:

  • Monitor and track wild leopard, cheetah and other large carnivores in a stunning desert setting
  • Help with the collaring of wild animals and the collection and organisation of data
  • Experience desert living in one of the most visually diverse countries in the world
  • Help record wildlife information from game counts, wildlife cameras and GPS data
  • Contribute to the long term management of Namibia’s most successful wine estate
  • Combine unparalleled scenery with wildlife management - Namibia at its very best
  • Live in an unfenced wildlife reserve, home to a range of endangered species

This project is an ideal programme for adventurous volunteers who want to experience the heart of one of Southern Africa’s most unique locations. Learn new tracking and research techniques from experienced conservationists; learn how to make wine in one of the driest areas of the world and help study wild cheetah and leopard.

Quick Facts

Who can join: Volunteers aged over 18 years (or those 18 within 6 months of their project starting)
How long can I stay: 1 week - 12 weeks
Accommodation: Volunteer house / tented camp
Transfer time: 5-7 hours (two project locations)
Pick up from: Windhoek
Meals: 3 meals a day
Project numbers: 6-12
Start dates: Any Friday throughout the year
How much: from $1,395 (16 nights)

WHY CHOOSE THIS PROJECT?

Contribute to long term wildlife management programmes and help reduce the human-carnivore conflict in remote areas of Namibia. This is a unique and exciting opportunity to volunteer in Namibia and actively participate in the long term conservation and management of their endangered carnivore population.

Background

This family-owned animal foundation was set up in 2006 to protect and improve the lives of animals and people in Namibia, and achieve an Africa where humans and wildlife can thrive together. Their mission is to conserve the land, culture and wildlife of Namibia and rescue species threatened or affected by an ever-shrinking habitat. The foundation runs several award-winning projects supporting African wildlife and supporting the marginalised San Bushman community.

The project began as the Lifeline Clinic, dedicated to providing healthcare to rural Namibians in the east of the country. It was originally an outreach service but has since become a full-time clinic with a resident doctor and nurse. In 2004 the owners bought a farm 42km outside Windhoek and established a 3,200 hectare (8,000 acre) animal reserve and wildlife sanctuary which is where the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary Programme is based. In 2012 the Foundation purchased a renowned wine and vineyard estate south west of Windhoek on the edge of the Namib Desert, which makes quality wine, while conserving the land and wildlife in the area. 

The project is based on two research sites in the stunning Southern Namibian desert wilderness, where volunteers monitor and track the large carnivore populations in the area. Track leopard through the desert oasis and explore vast canyons and untouched landscapes. Hike the Namib dunes and assist in the tracking and monitoring of desert cheetah.

The Desert site, located 6-7 hours south west of Windhoek, is 33,000 hectares of pure Namib desert, dedicated to habitat preservation. It is the perfect haven for a huge variety of wildlife, and the ideal environment to perform research and observations of wild carnivores. With jaw-dropping sunsets, stunning scenery and abundant wildlife, it is a researchers paradise. The Wine Estate is a 14,400 hectare wildlife reserve in on the edge of the Namib desert, home to highly adapted wildlife including wild cheetah, leopard and hyena. You will be surrounded by Namibia’s famous red desert sand dunes, only an hour from the iconic Sossusvlei Dunes.

The goal of both research programmes are to ensure the successful management of large wildlife areas, overcoming the human-wildlife conflict and monitoring keynote species.

Site 1 - Winelands and Wildlife

Where will I be?

This is a unique and beautiful research site, based at one of only three wineries in Namibia. The site was developed because of the presence of several clear cold-water springs and  in 2001, three years after its first grapes were planted, the first wine was produced. The winery uses the income from wine production to support the conservation of the large carnivores in the area. The estate a 144 square km area of the Pro-Namib eco-system, nestled within a much larger public and private conservation area. The different environments within the reserve and the five springs, provide specialised ecosystems and highly adapted wildlife which volunteers will help protect and study.

What will I be doing?

Carnivore Monitoring

To understand how wildlife utilise the area and how they interact, indirect monitoring techniques such as GPS tracking is used, especially for secretive and nocturnal species such as leopard. GPS collars on certain animals, including cheetah and leopard, are used to gather important information.

  • Help researchers identify areas of regular carnivore activity
  • Set cage traps for fitting animals with radio collars
  • Follow the satellite information from study animals and report on the data

Radio Tracking
GPS trackers give good information on day to day movements and interactions, but does not tell researchers about their breeding, prey selection or health status. Direct monitoring methods are also used.

  • Learn to track collared cheetah and leopard using telemetry
  • Track collared animals by vehicle and on foot
  • Collect meaningful information through observation of behaviour, feeding and social interactions

Game Counts
Herbivores of all sizes are integral to all wildlife ecosystems. It is critical to monitor the population density of herbivores to assess the health of the environment.

  • Participate in regular all-species game counts to assist environmental assessment
  • Learn about the differences between desert-adapted animals and their forest and plains relations

Trail Cameras
Volunteers will get involved in the placement and setting of 24/7 motion-triggered trail cameras. These capture information on all animals which pass before them including birds, reptiles as well as large and small mammals.

  • Set trail cameras at key locations (e.g. water points, caves, known marking points etc)
  • Identify bird and mammal populations and their behaviour
  • Maintain cameras and go through images
  • Help assess the number of individuals, breeding successes and territories

Wine Production
Volunteers will assist in the various areas of wine production such as harvesting, bottling and labelling, all of which are done by hand. This gives an idea of how different conservation projects can be sustained through a wealth of income-generating projects such as farming.

Visit the Sossusvlei dunes
The project is situated just over an hour away from the iconic red Sossusvlei Dunes.  Volunteers can join an optional day trip for a small extra fee to experience these majestic, colourful dunes. Sossusvlei is an absolute must-see in Namibia and we highly recommend this trip.

Project Accommodation

You will stay in a new tented camp across from one of the natural springs. Tents are shared between 2 people (same sex sharing) with shared bathrooms. The main area has a swimming pool and braai (bbq) area. It is an intimate and homely camp in a stunning location.

Volunteers will receive three meals a day, and one night a week will be a traditional Namibian braai and a volunteer favourite - brick oven pizza night! Vegetarians and those with dietary requirements can be accommodated - please just let us know on your booking form!

Its time to get away from it all - there is no internet at Neuras except for emergencies and the area has absolutely NO cell phone coverage. There is a landline which can be used for emergency calls. Laundry is provided.

The project is not in a malaria area but volunteers should bring prophylaxis if you intend to travel on to other areas within Namibia or Africa - please check with your doctor whether you need them for your next destination. Mosquitos and other bugs are common around the reserve, so bring repellent (spray or roll-on). Ensure your travel insurance covers you for visiting Namibia and that your immunisations are up to date - see your doctor or travel clinic for specific advice.

Site 2 - Desert Retreat

Where will I be?

This project is a desert gem. Prior to being a base for volunteers and researchers, it was a film, photography and holiday destination with picture-perfect scenery and spectacular sunsets. The volunteer programme was established in 2015 to establish an unfenced wildlife reserve which provides refuge for endangered species, run on scientific and sustainable management practices. The project site and its neighbouring farm are an area of 352 square km of stunning desert, featuring all the iconic vistas and wildlife which Namibia is famous for - the perfect location for photographic and research adventures. It borders the Namib Naukluft Park and is approximately 6-7 hours from Windhoek.

What will I be doing?

The main flagship species in the area are cheetah, brown hyena, spotted hyena, leopard and a range of desert-adapted wildlife species.

Mapping
The basis of professional management of an area is an accurate map. These are used to evaluate plant and animal population data and guide future wildlife management decisions.

  • Join researchers and use a GPS to map everything: from wildlife observations, habitat features and fixed points such as roads, waterpoints and fences.
  • This data will be processed into continuously updated reserve maps for use by management and for publication of scientific results
  • Mapping means spending time in this fantastic environment exploring on foot and encountering different species of wildlife

Carnivore Monitoring
GPS satellite tracking is the best way to track how wildlife utilise the reserve and how they interact, especially for species such as brown hyena and leopard.

  • Identify areas of regular carnivore activity (dens, riverbeds, tree markings etc)
  • Place cages and fit animals with GPS trackers
  • Follow the satellite information from study animals and produce reports

Radio Tracking
GPS trackers give good information on day to day movements and interactions, but does not tell researchers about their breeding, prey selection or health status. Direct monitoring methods are also used.

  • Learn to track animals using telemetry
  • Track collared animals by vehicle and on foot
  • Collect meaningful information through observation of behaviour, feeding and social interactions

Game Counts
Herbivores of all sizes are integral to all wildlife ecosystems. It is critical to monitor the population density of herbivores to assess the health of the environment. The area is home to large herds of migratory and desert-adapted oryx (gemsbok) and springbok, but also lesser known species such as klipspringer and Greater Kudu. A large number of game counts will be conducted to establish the baseline populations of each species in the area.

  • Participate in regular all-species game counts to assist environmental assessment
  • Learn about the differences between desert-adapted animals and their forest and plains relations
  • Count ostrich populations
  • Begin to understand how wildlife use the semi-arid desert on a seasonal basis and what impact that usage has on predatory populations

Trail Cameras
Volunteers will get involved in the placement and setting of 24/7 motion-triggered trail cameras. These capture information on all animals which pass before them including birds, reptiles as well as large and small mammals.

  • Set trail cameras at key locations (e.g. water points, caves, known marking points etc)
  • Identify bird and mammal populations and their behaviour
  • Maintain cameras and go through images
  • Help assess the number of individuals, breeding successes and territories

Cheetah Feeding
The project is home to five rescued Cheetah from the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary in Windhoek, who are the residents of a 7 hectare fenced area on the red dunes. Caring for these semi-habituated cheetah has become a vital aspect of the programme, as these animals were the victim of the human-wildlife conflict prior to their rescue. There is no handling of the cheetah allowed and, in accordance with Namibian law and ethical animal management practices, they are not used for breeding.

  • Prepare food and feed the cheetah
  • Maintain and clean enclosures

Maintenance and Security
For the ecosystem to function, maintenance is necessary - especially in very dry desert areas.

  • Conduct anti-poaching patrols and other security efforts (fence patrols and repairs)
  • Maintain water points and repair damage
  • Help around the farm as required

Learn Ancient San Skills
The San people have called the vast Namib desert their home for thousands of years and their expert knowledge of tracks, signs, plants and animals is world-renowned. Experience the unique San culture and learn ancient field skills from community leaders.

This project is famous for its sundowner drive. Enjoy the tranquility of the Namib Desert and the breathtaking scenery as the sun sets and paints the desert red, orange and purple. Marvel at the night skies and the nightly displays from the Milky Way. You will have the opportunity to go on night drives and camp-outs to observe the nocturnal wildlife and for an anti-poaching presence. You may also do evening and night time waterpoint monitoring.

Project Accommodation

You will stay in a beautifully renovated farmhouse with shared rooms and bathrooms. The house has electricity, but please remember to bring your own South African socket adapters to charge your electrical appliances (large round three pin).

There is no cell phone signal in the area and the internet is for emergency use only, so it is time to get back to basics and enjoy being surrounded by nature.

There is a maximum of 6 volunteers on this project which means you are guaranteed a small group experience with lots of hands-on opportunities.

You will take your meals at the house or out in the bush if you are spending the day in the field, but remember to buy snacks and drinks before you leave Windhoek - staff will remind you and take you to the supermarket. Because of the remote location of Kanaan some fresh produce will only be available on a seasonal basis. Vegetarians and those with dietary requirements can be accommodated with advance notice.

The project is not in a malaria region, but do consider bringing prophylaxis if you plan on travelling to other parts of African before or after your Namibian adventure!

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. As both programmes are very hands-on, and there is quite a lot of foot-based walking and tracking, we ask that volunteers have a good level of fitness and mobility to participate. Volunteers should be able to work  weather conditions including cold winters and the rainy season. Solid shoes, a wide brimmed hat and sunscreen (SPF 30 and above) are absolutely essential. Expect to walk 5-10km on a daily basis at Neuras.

How do I get to the project?

Included within your project price is a transfer from Windhoek Hosea Kutako airport to the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary, plus transfers from there to your base location. Volunteers should fly into Windhoek Hosea Kutako airport no later than the day before the project starts (Friday). From there you will be collected and transferred for an overnight stay at the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary. The following morning there will be an early car transfer to your project base. 

Rates & Dates

When can I volunteer?

The volunteer programme starts on every Saturday throughout the year. Because the transfer time is long (between 5 - 7 hours depending on your base), volunteers should arrive into Namibia no later than the Friday before their project begins (the day before). Return flights home should be booked on the Sunday after your project finishes (the day after) to allow plenty of time to return to Windhoek. Accommodation at the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary on the Friday night before your project starts, and the Sunday night after your programme is finished, is included in the project price (subject to availability).

This project is available as a 1 week add-on to volunteers joining the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary for a week or more.

Project Pricing 2019

Note: both locations have the same price. We recommend a 3-4 week stay on this project due to the remote nature of the programme and the fact it is awesome! If you stay for longer than 2 weeks you may also combine the two locations. 

2 weeks (16 nights): $1,395
3 weeks (23 nights): $1,995
4 weeks (30 nights): $2,595
5 weeks (37 nights): $3,335
6 weeks (44 nights): $3,995
7 weeks (51 nights): $4,655
8 weeks (58 nights): $5,295
9 weeks (65 nights): $5,925
10 weeks (72 nights): $6,495
11 weeks (79 nights): $6,995
12 weeks (86 nights): $7,495

What does the cost include?

  • Accommodation on the research project at your choice of base location
  • Three meals per day
  • Volunteer uniform t-shirts (three per volunteer)
  • 24 hour supervision plus all the equipment and training you need to do the work
  • One night accommodation before the programme and one night after at the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary (subject to availability)
  • All transfers including an airport collection and return airport transfer

The programme costs excludes:

  • Flights to Namibia
  • Visa fees (approximately N$1,580)
  • Personal expenses such as souvenirs, alcoholic / fizzy drinks, gifts, snacks etc
  • Any expenses prior to your programme start date including accommodation other than the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary
  • 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. Please ensure your insurance covers you if you have to leave the project early.
  • Any additional trips outside the volunteer programme
  • Telephone calls and internet (there is no cell signal at either location and internet is only available for emergencies at the Winelands & Wildlife base)

IMPORTANT REGARDING VISAS:
 You will require a work visa for your trip which we can organise for you, but in all but the most urgent of circumstances you must allow 6-8 weeks for this to be completed. The visa charge is not included in the project price.

COMBINATION PROJECTS

We highly recommend combining one of these carnivore research projects with a week or two at the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary, to get a hands-on wildlife experience and understand the important work the programme are doing to rehabilitate Namibia's wildlife, small and large.

Or, if you still have a taste for the wild, join our Elephant & Wild Dog Research programme in the far north of Namibia, where you will assist researchers in documenting the movements and activities of African wild dogs and elephants in the area.

Combination project pricing:

1 week Sanctuary / 1 week Carnivore Conservation: $1,195
2 weeks Sanctuary / 1 week Carnivore Conservation: $1,695 **recommended**
2 weeks Carnivore Conservation / 1 week Sanctuary: $1,795
2 weeks Sanctuary / 2 weeks Carnivore Conservation: $2,295
1 week Elephant & Wild Dog Conservation / 1 week Carnivore Conservation / 1 week Sanctuary: $1,795 **highly recommended**

Additional full weeks at the Sanctuary: $500 per week
Additional full weeks Elephant & Wild Dog Conservation: $600 per week

 

View our booking terms and conditions

Destination

Volunteering in Namibia

Namibia is a place of contrasts - from vibrant, colourful cities to the immense desert scenery, mountains and ocean. It is characterised by vast open spaces, breathtaking scenery and has a rich cultural history and some of Africa’s most stunning and unique landscapes. With its looming red sand dunes, the turbulent Orange River, a variety of adventure activities, traditional towns, deep canyons and spectacular bronze sunsets, Namibia is a travellers dream.

Namibia is perfect for travellers looking for unspoilt wilderness areas, 300 days a year of perfect sunshine and a huge variety of wildlife. Its name is taken from the 80 million year old Namib Desert which makes up more than 10% of the country - Namib means “vast” in the local Nama language. With a stable infrastructure, travel around the country is easy and getting off the beaten track into deserted wildlife areas can be done with confidence.

Sossusvlei Dunes are home to the highest sand dunes in the world and Namibia’s most outstanding scenic attraction. Part of the Namib Desert, these dunes have developed over millions of years, the wind continuously shifting the sand further and further inland, reshaping patterns in distinctive warm tints. Climbing to the top of one of these dunes provides breathtaking views of the whole area, including Deadvlei, a large ghostly expanse of dried white clay punctuated by skeletons of ancient camelthorn trees, carbon dated between 500-600 years old.

Etosha National Park is Namibia’s first conservation area, designated in 1907. Undoubtedly one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth and one of Africa’s best game reserves, Etosha is home to huge herds of elephant, black-maned lions, cheetah and the world’s largest population of the rare black rhino.  Etosha owes its unique landscape to the Etosha Pan, a vast shallow depression of approximately 1,930 square miles which forms the heart of the park. Once part of a large inland lake fed by rivers from the north and east, it dried up 120 million years ago as continental drift changed the slope of the land and the course of the tributaries. This white, chalky expanse colours the park, and with the waterholes, creates the characteristic atmosphere of the Etosha of today.

To the west of Khorixas in North-West Namibia is Twyfelfontein, a massive open-air art gallery carved into red rock by ancient Bushmen overlooking an expansive valley below. The engravings, some estimated to be 6,000 years old, record the wildlife seen in area - giraffe, rhino, elephants, ostrich and even a lion. It is believed that the creators incised their engravings as a means of entering the supernatural world and recording their shamanic experience among the spirits. Whatever the meaning, the site was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008.

Swakopmund is Namibia’s playground - a holiday haven away from the dusty heat of the interior. While there is plenty to do within the city, the real action takes place in the desert surrounding the town. Quad-biking, sand-boarding, sand-skiing, parasailing and other adrenaline actives are available from any of the adventure operators in the area. Visit Walvis Bay and join a dolphin cruise or explore the lagoon on a kayak.

What will the weather be like?
Summer (November – April): daytime temperatures can regularly reach over 35°C and days can be very humid with some rain - usually localised afternoon thunderstorms, although the desert is usually very dry. It is a good idea to bring a  light waterproof jacket and wellies or waterproof shoes!

April and May are lovely months in Namibia and the air is clear and much freer of dust. It can even start to look green in the desert!

From June to August Namibia cools down and dries out more; nights can become cold, dropping below freezing in some desert areas. As the landscape dries so the game in the north of the country gravitates more to waterholes, and is more easily seen by visitors. By September and October it warms up again; game-viewing in most areas is at its best, although there's often a lot of dust around and the vegetation has lost its vibrancy.

November is a highly variable month. Sometimes the hot, dry weather will continue, at other times the sky will fill with clouds and threaten to rain – but if you're lucky enough to witness the first rains of the season, you'll never forget the drama.

Excursions

Do I get some time off?

Both projects are very remote, so town excursions will generally be every fortnight. You will get one or two days off a week when you are able to join an excursion to Sossusvlei where you can explore the iconic red and orange dunes. 

It is well worth considering spending some time either before or after your programme exploring Namibia.  Take a look at our selection of scheduled tours of Namibia (camping or accommodated), or self-drive options. Visit the iconic salt pans of Etosha National Park or organise trips to Swakupmond to experience dune surfing, desert quad biking and sand-boarding!

Combination Projects

Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary

Both the Carnivore Research and Release Programmes work closely with the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary, and we encourage volunteers to spend time at this project as well if they have time. Most volunteers will spend a day or two at the Sanctuary before their research programme, as this is the collection point for the Saturday departures. Here you will help with the daily care of a wide range of large and small, wild and domestic animals and participate in wildlife rehabilitation and release projects. The Sanctuary has been home for many of the big cats which have been given a second chance and released in the wild.

A dual programme is the perfect combination of wildlife rehabilitation and wild animal monitoring.

Namibia Tours

Why not explore Namibia on one of our scheduled tours, or have a self-drive adventure in this beautiful, wild country. Visit the vast salt pans of Etosha National Park, home to populations of rhino, elephants, lions and leopard; marvel at the immense red sand dunes of Sossusvlei or the rocky moonscapes of Damarland; and track cheetah and wild dog at the Afric-Cat Foundation.

Project Gallery - Large Carnivore Conservation

Testimonials

Large Carnivore Conservation I went to both desert sites for a week each. Both are located in southern Namibia and I loved them so much! They were definitely a highlight of my stay in Namibia. At the sites we did a lot of research on the human-carnivore conflict: we set camera traps, fed the cheetahs that are at the research sites, and even put out a cage trap and caught a leopard that was killing a farmer’s sheep. The ... Abbey R, USA Read More

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