Veterinary Internship, Malawi


Volunteer with wildlife sanctuary vets in Malawi and get involved in all aspects of animal care and husbandry, with a particular focus on animal health. Work with a diverse range of animals including primates, antelopes, hyenas, birds and reptiles.

The Sanctuary is home to a range of animals including monkeys, baboons, duikers (a small African antelope), hedgehogs and birds. Veterinary interns assist the on-site veterinarian when any clinical work arises, including incoming exams, minor trauma, health checks and routine diagnostics.

This veterinary internship runs alongside our Malawi Rescued Animal Conservation programme, and when not doing clinic work, interns will join volunteers on this project.


This is a fantastic opportunity for vet students to volunteer and get to grips with the wild side of veterinary science at one of Africa’s leading wildlife sanctuaries. Gain veterinary work experience in animal care and nursing, plus enhance your practical skills as you assist with the treatment of some unusual wild animals!

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Quick Facts

Who can join: Priority is given to student vets and those studying animal care or nursing. If you are a professional vet, please do enquire!
How long can I stay: 2 weeks - 12 weeks
Accommodation: Volunteer house
Project size: There will be up to 12 volunteers at any one time, of which a maximum of 2 will be Veterinary Interns
Transfer time: 30 minutes
Pick up from: Lilongwe (Kenyatta) International Airport
Meals: 3 meals a day
Start dates: Tuesdays including Christmas and New Year
How much: from £1,370 (minimum 2 weeks)


Malawi’s wildlife and biodiversity are in fast decline. It is also the 10th poorest country in the world, where most people live on less than $1.50 per day. Wildlife 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. There is also a thriving illegal bushmeat and exotic pet trade.

This Wildlife Trust works for the welfare and conservation of Malawi’s wildlife through four key principles: rescue and rehabilitation, wildlife research, environmental education and community conservation. You will be based at Malawi’s only accredited wildlife sanctuary, responsible for rescuing hundreds of wild animals every year and releasing them back into the wild. It is accredited by PASA, the Born Free PAW Scheme and GFAS, and has exceptionally high standards of animal care, winning many awards for its conservation work.

The Sanctuary focuses on wildlife rehabilitation and release, but also take their responsibilities of community education very seriously. More than 30,000 local children visit the centre every year to learn about the importance of caring for the wildlife around them.

The Trust also runs a wildlife emergency rescue unit which helps wild animals in distress, including larger mammals such as elephants and rhino. The Trust has gone beyond rescue and rehabilitation to tackle the wider issues threatening wildlife and wild places and are instrumental in raising the profile of Malawi’s wildlife through advocacy and national campaigns.


This veterinary internship is based at one of Africa’s leading wildlife sanctuaries, where you may get involved in a huge range of activities including veterinary care, animal husbandry, rescue and release projects, wildlife research, rehabilitation and community education.

  • Join an ethical sanctuary project focused on animal rehabilitation and release
  • Learn new skills in veterinary care as you assist with clinical health checks and diagnostics
  • Work alongside permanent staff as you hand-rear orphaned babies
  • Work on enrichment projects to keep animals happy and healthy
  • Help integrate rehabilitated animals into new groups prior to release
  • Get involved with released animals, as you monitor their behaviour and collect data
  • Wake up that sound of the wilderness around you

What sort of things will I be doing?

No two days on this project are ever the same, and you will be lucky enough to work with each of the different teams at the Sanctuary. The project prides itself on its hands-off approach to animal care to ensure that their rescued wildlife stands the best chance of a successful release. 

Veterinary support

Vet interns assist the on-site veterinarian when any clinical work arises. All veterinary activities will be under the supervision of an experienced local veterinarian. This work may include:

  • Incoming exams, minor trauma and routine diagnostics 
  • Assist the on-site vet in basic surgical procedures on all sorts of animals from hedgehogs to lions and barn owls!
  • Assist with vaccinations and health checks for new arrivals
  • Learn from experts in wildlife veterinary science
  • Orphan care including feeding and potentially hand rearing
  • Observe sick and injured wildlife
  • Rehabilitation including integrations and observations

Please note that veterinary work is not likely to be everyday, and when there is no clinical work to be done, interns will participate in the Centre’s other on-site work in animal orphan care:

Animal care and rehabilitation

The project has a strict hands-off approach to animal care, as the majority of arrivals are destined to be released into the wild. Interaction with young primates, particularly those who have been orphaned and abandoned is very important, but you will be given training on the best way to handle them. They are not treated as pets, and volunteers feed, groom and play with them in the same way the animals would interact with members of their own troop.

  • Prepare meals for animals on a daily basis and feed during the day (and night!)
  • Find food for younger animals (you may need to forage for grasshoppers for a pygmy hedgehog or cut browse for antelopes)
  • Help care for orphaned animals, primates and birds
  • Learn about successful rehabilitation and release methods
  • Spend time with distressed animals or those who need constant monitoring
  • Clean out enclosures and feeding pens
  • Help settle newly rescued animals into groups or into their rehabilitation enclosures

Preparation for release:

Releases done by this sanctuary have been highly acclaimed, thanks to the expertise and effort which goes into the rehabilitation process and subsequent release. Volunteers are crucial to this process from rehabilitation through monitoring and subsequent release.

  • Help with pre-release monitoring to ensure animals are fit to be released
  • Settle new arrivals and rehabilitated animals into new groups and monitor their progress
  • Monitor released animals at their various release sites

Habitat and animal enrichment:

A critical volunteer role is to enrich the lives of the animals who cannot be released back into the wild, give them as natural a life as possible and enable them to behave as closely as they would in the wild.

  • Build activity centres for baboons and primates to enable them run, jump and climb
  • Make toys for the baboons to stimulate foraging

Maintenance and repair:

As parts of the sanctuary are open to the public and can get busy, there are always repairs to be done:

  • Build and repair enclosures and fences
  • Make, paint or repair signs
  • Help dig new waterholes and repair roads

Community education and outreach:

Only through community education can the human-wildlife conflict be resolved. Volunteers are encouraged to spend time with local people and help children understand the importance of protecting their wildlife and environment.

  • Help with guided tours and show children animals they may have never seen before
  • Visit rural communities and engage with them about wildlife
  • Get involved with tree planting projects
  • Help with community development initiatives such as fuel briquette projects, to reduce the loss of animal habitats from the selling and burning of firewood
  • See first hand the negative impact of the illegal bush meat and exotic pet trades

Please note that activities will vary according to what animals are at the project at the time and what their needs are. Be flexible and bear in mind that the variety and number of animals can change daily. The only thing we can guarantee is that you will have an amazing time!


Do I need any experience to volunteer on this programme?

The vet intern placements in Malawi are aimed at vet students who have completed at least one year of veterinary school. Qualified vets and vet nurses are also a major asset to the project as a whole and may be considered outside of the internship programme. Pre-vet or animal care students may be considered, so please do enquire for details.

As only two veterinary placements are available at any time, priority will be given to vet students, but qualified vets and pre-vets will be given priority for clinic work if they participate in the Malawi Wildlife Sanctuary project.

We ask that you have an 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.

There will be two veterinary places available at any time and ideally you should be able to stay a minimum of 4 weeks.

How do I get to the project?

Included in your programme price is a collection from Kenyatta International Airport in Lilongwe and transfer to the centre and return transfers when your project is finished. Ideally volunteers should arrive and leave on a Tuesday, but the project can be flexible - you will have to pay a small transfer supplement of £30 each way for a non-Tuesday collection or departure.

A day in the life of a veterinary intern

No day is ever the same in Malawi, and each brings its own challenges and joys. If you are a long term volunteer (staying more than 4 weeks), you may be given specific animals to care for - perhaps ones that are more difficult to feed, or those who need consistency of care. These will generally be smaller animals such as duikers, hyena cubs and monkeys. If you can only spare a shorter time, you may be asked to care for animals who are getting ready for release or those who are unfortunately unable to leave the sanctuary.

5.30-6.00am (depending on the time of year): time to get up! Head to Orphan Care to prepare for the day - prepare buckets for sterilising bottles and tools, heat water, make up milk for first feeds. You may be bottle feeding a young antelope or an orphaned baboon or monkey. This time of day is when you may also clean out enclosures and change water.

8.00am: feed yourself! Breakfast is served buffet-style at the volunteer house.

9.00am: assist the vets with clinic work - this could be health checks of monkeys, baboons, birds, lions; help with surgeries and dressing changes, plus cleaning wounds and microscope work.

11:00am: help Animal Care staff prepare enrichment activities and deliver it to the particular area of the sanctuary e.g. the baboon enclosure!

12.30pm: give second feeds to the younger animals.

1.00pm - 2.00pm: lunchtime back at the volunteer house.

2.00pm - 5.00pm: work with the Pre-Release staff monitoring and recording interactions and behaviour of animals due to be released in the near future.

5.00pm: assist the vets with evening rounds of sick and injured animals, and help feed those who need a final meal before bed. Head back to the volunteer house for your dinner, sample Lilongwe's nightlife, or retire to bed listening to the night time sounds of the nocturnal animals. 

Pricing and Dates

When can I volunteer?

Volunteer vet interns can begin their programme on any Tuesday throughout the year. The sanctuary also takes volunteers over Christmas and New Year.

We highly recommend a minimum 4 week stay on this programme, but if you cannot spare the time, you can volunteer for a minimum period of 2 weeks.

Project pricing 2018 (all prices in GB£):
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

Please note that all fees for this project are to be paid in GBP (£ sterling).

You may pay a supplement to stay in the chalet accommodation - this is an additional £25 (approximately $35) per night for one or two people.

Transfers outside of a Tuesday are an additional £30 (approximately $45) each way.

Your placement is only guaranteed on receipt of a £300 holding deposit. A payment of 50% of the balance is due two months prior to arrival and the remainder must be paid in cash when you arrive at the project.

We recommend you bring a little extra money to spend on drinks, meals out and souvenirs - £30 a week should cover this, depending on your lifestyle! Obviously you should bring additional money or a suitable credit or debit card to cover any additional activities you may wish to take part in, e.g. a visit to Lake Malawi, or horse riding and game viewing at Kuti.

What does the cost include?

  • Programme fee - financing which goes back into the programme; this includes funding for equipment, supplies, vehicles and foodstuffs
  • Transfers to and from Lilongwe Airport to the project on a Tuesday
  • Full board and lodging for the duration of your programme including laundry (exc. any snacks, alcoholic or fizzy drinks from the bar)
  • Three meals per day
  • Free wireless internet
  • Free t-shirt and local phone sim card
  • Full 24 hour support and training from your programme co-ordinators during your stay
  • All programme-related transport and equipment required to do your work
  • Internet use

The programme cost excludes:

  • Flights to Lilongwe
  • Visas fees (please see note below)
  • Any expenses prior to or after your programme start date
  • Any personal items such as alcoholic drinks, snacks, additional food or souvenirs
  • Excursions and nights out
  • 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

View our booking terms and conditions

There are a number of excursions which are definitely worthwhile - click on the Excursions tab for more details.

A note regarding visas:
Visitors from any country which requires Malawian Citizens to acquire visas to visit their country, will need to get a visa upon arrival into Lilongwe. These countries include, but are not limited to, the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Schengen member states (which includes most EU countries), Australia and New Zealand. Most Middle East countries will also be required to pay visa fees. Exempt from this entry fee are countries belonging to SADC and COMESA, with the exception of those countries that charge visa fees to Malawian nationals.

Below is a summary of the visa fees:

Transit – valid for 7 days                              $50
Single entry – valid for 3 months             $75
Multiple entry – valid for 6 months       $150
Multiple entry – valid for 12 months    $250


Volunteers and interns stay together in a homely volunteer house in the heart of the sanctuary, surrounded by the animals. There is mixed dorm-style accommodation sleeping ten volunteers and the house has electricity, hot and cold running water, kitchen, lounge and bathroom. There is a housekeeper who will do your laundry for you as well!

There is also a chalet next to the volunteer house which provides volunteers with a bit more of their own space. It sleeps one or two people and has a private bathroom and balcony. Meals are taken with the other volunteers. If the chalet is available, it is an additional £25 per night.

Three meals a day are prepared by the resident Malawian cook while you are volunteering, and tea and coffee are freely available through the day. Drinking water is also provided. All meals are vegetarian. The chef is off on a Sunday, so volunteers take it in turns to prepare food, or you can try one of the local restaurants in Lilongwe.

Those with dietary requirements can be accommodated - please just let us know on your booking form!

Volunteers will be given a Malawian SIM card on arrival and you can then purchase data bundles for using the internet. There is no Wi-Fi at the volunteer house.


Volunteering in Malawi

The “Warm Heart of Africa” is a cliche which is hard to ignore in Malawi. It is home to some of the friendliest, most joyful people in Africa, despite their often extreme poverty. This laid-back, landlocked country is the proud host to an unparalleled blend of magnificent blue waters, rolling landscapes, lush forests and abundant wildlife.

It is Malawi’s variety of attractions that is its greatest asset. Whilst Lake Malawi dominates the country, this is not a country of a singular attraction. It is the mixture of beautiful landscapes, fascinating wildlife, the alluring Lake Malawi, and rich culture that combine to make this small country such a wonderful place to visit.

The Malawian people are, without doubt, its greatest asset: friendly and welcoming to a fault. Every visitor is met with a smile and the warmth of the welcome is genuine and long-lasting. Alongside a number of places of particular cultural and historical interest, and all travel will include some element of cultural experience as interaction with local people is very much part of any stay.

Malawi is part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, which provides the vast chasm that Lake Malawi fills. “Discovered” by David Livingstone, this inland sea is a scenic wonderland which provides water sports activities for the thrill-seekers as well as stunning sandy beaches, snorkelling and diving. Fishing villages are dotted around the lake shore and between these are long stretches of uninhabited, golden sand, lapped by crystal clear waters. Enjoy kayaking, sailing and water-skiing or go join local fishermen in a traditional canoe. Relaxing at one of the lodges at Monkey Bay is a definite must for visitors to Malawi!

The best wildlife viewing is in Liwonde National Park in the South of the country wich is home to elephants and the countries largest populations of the endangered black rhino. Visitors to Malawi’s nine National Parks will enjoy unspoilt scenery and an abundance of animals, especially hippos!

Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe is a bustling African city with two distinct parts - the hustle and bustle of the Old Town, a traditional African settlement and the Capital City, with gleaming modern building set in spacious gardens. Both are well worth a visit especially for street food and unique souvenirs.

To the west of the Lake is the Central African Plateau which is characterised by a series of dramatic escarpments, rugged unspoilt wilderness areas and evergreen forests.

What will the weather be like?

Malawi's climate is hot in the low-lying areas in the south of the country and temperate in the northern highlands. The altitude moderates what would otherwise be an equatorial climate.

Between November and April the temperature is warm with equatorial rains and thunderstorms, with the storms reaching their peak severity in late March. After March, the rainfall rapidly diminishes and from May to September wet mists float from the highlands into the plateaus, with almost no rainfall during these months.


Do I get some time off?

Working hours and time off depend on the animals which are at the Sanctuary at the time and the level of care they need. There is one day off a week and volunteers who stay 4 weeks or more are given a long weekend off every month to explore more of Malawi.

Excursions around Malawi

Lilongwe is a clean and relatively quiet and safe African city, with just the right amount of nightlife and restaurants which you are more then welcome to visit! There are craft and food markets within walking distance for buying curios and haggling for vegetables!

It is well worth considering spending some time either before or after your programme exploring Malawi - the “warm heart of Africa”.  Car hire is very affordable and Lake Malawi is just a short drive away, where you can enjoy some of the world's best inland snorkelling and diving, plus long sandy beaches and picture-perfect palm-lined waters. Kuti Game Reserve is also close by where you can enjoy game drives, nature walks and horse riding.

Your long weekends are perfect for safaris into the heart of Africa. A weekend excursion to the Lake of Stars will cost approximately £65-£125 ($100 - $190).

You can also organise venture further afield and enjoy an excursion into the stunning South Luangwa National Park in Zambia before or after your project - the perfect bookmark to your African adventure! Get a special discount on the trip: Tour price - approximately £315 ($480) which includes meals, accommodation, game drives, transfers from Lilongwe, guides, park entrance fees and Zambian visa.

Project Gallery - Veterinary Internship, Malawi


Veterinary Internship, Malawi So much knowldge and so many great times! Submitted by Sarah C | October 2016 I’ve recently returned from a 5 week stay… what an amazing experience! I was involved with the care and husbandry of a range of species and there are also opportunities to carry out some outreach volunteer work too. I have taken away so much valued knowledge and great times from the centre. Being a Veterinary Nurse back home, I especially enjoyed working with the ... Sarah C, United Kingdom Read More
Veterinary Internship, Malawi Amazing Work and Life Experience Submitted by Fliss S | November 2016 I saw this project and thought, yes this is exactly what I would love to do; it gave me the opportunity to work with a variety of different wildlife species and a in a country that I have always dreamed of coming to. I applied and the journey began! I was involved with all animal related work. From Orphan Care (animal sittings, feeding, cleaning etc); ... Fliss S, United Kingdom Read More

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