Elephant & Wild Dog Conservation

Namibia

Play a part in the long-term conservation of two iconic species: the African wild dog and African elephant. Work in northern Namibia to mitigate the conflict between these animals and humans.

As human populations grow and expand, the habitat and ranges of larger animals is increasingly threatened. Settlements, farming and roads are interrupting elephants’ traditional routes, bringing them into conflict with farmers, as they destroy crops, water pumps and fences. The African wild dog is without a doubt the most endangered large mammal in Namibia, with a population of less than 500 in the wild. The project aims to establish more reliable data on the free-ranging wild dog population, including distribution and range, group composition, movements, breeding and prey ecology.

Volunteers assist researchers in documenting the movements and activities of elephants and wild dogs in the area. Using GPS and VHF monitoring equipment, motion sensitive trail cameras and footprint tracking techniques, participants immerse themselves in the lives of the world’s largest land mammal and one of the Africa’s most endangered carnivores.

Quick Facts

Who can join: Volunteers aged over 18 years
How long can I stay: 2 -12 weeks
Accommodation: Volunteer house
Transfer time: 7 hours
Pick up from: Windhoek International Airport
Meals: 3 meals a day
Project numbers: 8
Start dates: Mondays throughout the year
How much: from $1,395 (16 nights)

WHY CHOOSE THIS PROJECT

Actively participate in the long-term conservation of Namibia's remote, free-roaming wild dog and elephant populations. Experience the wilderness and gather research to mitigrate the human-wildlife conflict.

Background

This Elephant and Wild Dog Conservation Programme is based in the Kavango region of northern Namibia - 2,500 square kilometres of Kalahari woodland and acacia savannah.

The mission of the programme is to develop a greater understanding of the levels and causes of conflict between elephants, wild dogs and the local farming communities.

The project aims to establish more reliable data on the free-ranging wild dog population, including distribution and range, group composition, movements, breeding and prey ecology. Aerial game counts have shown a very low natural game population in the area, increasing the chances of wild dogs attacking livestock. Carnivore research, the fitting of GPS collars and educational programmes all allow for mitigation between farmers and the animals they view as pests.

History of the programme

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 foundation began as a medical 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 our 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. This is one of the base locations for our Large Carnivore Conservation Programme, where volunteers observe, monitor and track carnivore populations in the area.

The goal of each research programme is to ensure the successful management of large wildlife areas, overcoming the human-wildlife conflict and monitoring keynote species.

What you'll be doing

The human-wildlife conflict is one of the biggest threats to Namibia’s wildlife, and this project aims to mitigate the conflict to two specific species, through research projects and education of rural landowners.

The overriding principle of all the research activity is to develop a greater understanding of the levels and causes of conflict between elephants, wild dogs and the local farming communities.

The African wild dog is without a doubt the most endangered large mammal in Namibia, with a population of less than 500 in the wild. The project aims to establish more reliable data on the free-ranging wild dog population, including distribution and range, group composition, movements, breeding and prey ecology. Aerial game counts have shown a very low natural game population in the area, increasing the chances of wild dogs attacking livestock. Carnivore research, the fitting of GPS collars and educational programmes all allow for mitigation between farmers and the animals they view as pests.

Camera trapping

The use of motion-sensitive trail cameras is an essential part of wildlife monitoring. The cameras capture information on all wildlife: carnivores, herbivores, birds and reptiles, at all times of day and night, enabling researchers to understand the presence of certain species, and their activity.

The cameras are particularly useful in recording the presence and density of wild dogs, who are sometimes difficult to observe. Camera traps also enables identification of individuals from unique coat patterns, providing accurate data for population estimates and breeding success.

GPS monitoring

One adult elephant cow in the area is fitted with a GPS satellite tracking collar. The information from the collar is downloaded daily, to monitor the movements of her and her herd, and any possible conflict / damage which may have occurred during the previous day and night. This helps to predict and lessen potential conflict situations and improve local tolerance of conflict elephants.

The programme plans to fit collars to high-ranking wild dog pack members, which will allow more in-depth data to be gathered, such as range size and habitat use. The data will also be used to identify potential conflict situations with local landowners.

VHF telemetry tracking

Tracking via the VHF transmitter fitted into the GPS collars on the elephant, allows researchers to make visual observations on group structure and composition, and build up a photographic ID guide to the individual animals in the group.

Spoor (footprint) tracking

Wildlife rarely stands around in a clearing waiting to be observed and photographed. It is important to perform ground searches of the area to locate and identify the footprints left behind. 

Conflict assessment

Volunteers and researchers make detailed records of all occurrences of conflict, whether perceived or actual. This enables plans to be made for the conservation of affected species (in this case focusing on elephant and wild dog). By understanding the causes and responses to conflict, a detailed plan can be created which is mutually beneficial to animals and humans.

This work may take the form of recording and photographing conflict incidents such as damage to infrastructure and crops by elephants, and predation on livestock by wild dogs.

Community outreach

Understanding the attitudes of local farmers and landowners towards study species is critical to producing a plan of action for their conservation. By getting out into the farmland and talking to locals, practical, implementable solutions to the conflict can be found.

This project is ideal for adventurous volunteers who want to experience the heart of one of Southern Africa’s most unique locations and immerse themselves in the lives of the world’s largest land mammal and one of the Africa’s most endangered carnivores.

A week at a glance

Day 1 (Tuesday) – Arrival

You will be collected from the airport by project staff and taken straight to the wildlife sanctuary (around a 45 minute drive), where you will have the rest of the day to meet everyone else and settle in.

Day 2 (Wednesday) – Travelling to Maori Camp

During the morning you will start your journey to the research site, around a 6 hour
bus ride away. This is an experience in itself as you travel through Namibia and witness some breath-taking views! You will spend the night at Maori Camp with the one of the research co-ordinators.

Day 3 (Thursday) – Travelling to the research base

After a quick stop at the supermarket to get some provisions for the week, you will
drive on to the research site – around an hour away. You will receive your orientation and then have the rest of the day to meet everyone else and settle in.

Weekdays

Most of your time will be out in the field conducting research and wildlife monitoring. To increase the chance of observing wildlife in the field, it is crucial to get started as early as possible. Based on movements, the specific monitoring needs and prevailing weather conditions, a decision will be made as to which animals will be tracked during the day.

Lunch may be taken in the field (sandwiches) or depending on the day’s events the group may return to base around noon for lunch. Field work is resumed in the afternoons and then the group returns to the base in the late afternoon / early
evening.

Sundowners and night drives will be a regular feature of your stay.

Weekends

Weekends are a little more relaxed, but there are still a few activities and tasks that
need to be completed. You will get slightly more free time over the weekend for you
to enjoy around the accommodation, and other fun group activities will be arranged.

Last day (Wednesday)

On the Wednesday evening of your last week you will travel back to the wildlife sanctuary overnight.

Accommodation

Your home on this project is one of the management houses in the cattle ranch. The house has electricity and running water, the hot water being heated by a wood-burning water boiler.

Volunteers receive three home cooked meals per day. There is a standard breakfast of cereal, fruit and toast; lunch is generally sandwiches and fruit prepared by volunteers and staff to be eaten in the field, and dinner is a hot meal of meat and vegetables, with pasta, rice, potato or salad. Vegetarians and vegans can be catered for. Everyone takes turns to cook the main meal and clear up afterwards.

There is a washing machine in the volunteer house and laundry detergent is supplied. There is no tumble drier, but clothes air dry quickly in the heat.

There is no internet access except in emergencies. The area is covered by MTC, Namibia’s main network provider, but some of the more remote areas you might visit may not have cell phone signal.

Rates & Dates

When can I volunteer?

The project runs throughout the year, with departures from the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary every Wednesday. Because the transfer is long (around 6 hours), volunteers should arrive into Namibia no later than the Tuesday (the day before). We recommend return flights are booked for the Friday morning that your project ends, as you will get the overnight bus on Wednesday night which arrives Thursday morning, so you might be grateful of a night in a bed that night!

Accommodation at the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary on the Tuesday before your project starts and the Thursday after, 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

Pricing assumes arrival into Namibia on a Tuesday, and departure on a Friday - your first and last night at the sanctuary are included in the price.

2019 pricing for this project is as follows (all prices in USD):

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?

  • Programme fee - financing which goes back into the programme your are involved with; this includes funding for equipment, supplies, vehicles and maintenance
  • Accommodation at base camp and three meals per day
  • Two nights pre-programme accommodation at the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary and all meals
  • All transfers including return airport transfers and bus transfers to the research site 
  • Housekeeping and laundry
  • Volunteer uniform t-shirts (three per volunteer)
  • 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:

  • Flights to Windhoek (Hosea Kutako International)
  • Visa fees (around NAD $1,580)
  • Any personal items such as alcoholic drinks, snacks and souvenirs
  • Personal medical and travel insurance, which must cover the entire duration of your programme and should include cover for repatriation and air evacuation
  • Administration fee ($40)

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 this carnivore research project 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.

We also recommend spending some time exploring Namibia's vast Namib Desert and participating in large carnivore conservation in this unique region. More details of our Large Carnivore Conservation Programme can be found here

Help with monitoring and tracking of released cheetah and leopard and help reduce the human-carnivore conflict in one of two spectactular desert locations. 

Combination project pricing:

1 week Sanctuary / 1 week Elephant & Wild Dog research: $1,195
2 weeks Sanctuary / 1 week Elephant & Wild Dog Conservation: $1,695 **recommended**
2 weeks Elephant & Wild Dog Conservation / 1 week Sanctuary: $1,795
2 weeks Sanctuary / 2 weeks Elephant & Wild Dog 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 Carnivore Conservation: $600 per week

 

View our booking terms and conditions

FAQs

What level of fitness is required?

A reasonable level of fitness is required. Volunteers should be prepared to work in a variety of weather conditions, including cold winters, short rain showers and hot summers. Please check the prevailing weather conditions before you travel.

The region is a high-risk malaria area from November to March, and anti-malarial medication is highly recommended year-round.

Who should volunteer on this programme?

In addition to the fitness levels above, the project welcomes volunteers who have a passion and interest in wildlife and the ability to communicate in English. Bring an open mind and a willingness to participate in all activities, in a variety of weather conditions!

How old do I need to be?

The minimum age on the project is 17 and a half (must turn 18 within 6 months of the project starting). There are no upper age restrictions, subject to the fitness levels detailed above.

How do I keep in touch?

There is no internet access except in emergencies. The area is covered by MTC, Namibia’s main network provider, but some of the more remote areas you might visit may not have cell phone signal.

How many people will there be?

There is a maximum of 8 volunteers at a time. This is to ensure everyone has a personal and hands-on experience, and makes a real impact.

When can I arrive?

Transfers to the research site are every Wednesday morning, departing from the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary. Transport is with the public Intercape bus which is arranged for you and the transfer time is approximately 7 hours. Wednesday night is spent in the small town of Grootfontein with one of the programme co-ordinators, and then on Thursday morning after a quick provisioning run, you will transfer to the research site (around 1.5 hours). Volunteers travel back from the research site through the night the following Wednesday, arriving back at the Sanctuary early on Thursday morning.

Volunteers should plan on arriving into Windhoek on a Monday, but a Tuesday is also acceptable (transfer supplement applies), and return flights should be booked for the Thursday evening.

Prices in the Fees section assume an arrival on a Monday, and departure on a Thursday. You will spend two nights at the Sanctuary upon arrival. Return flights should be booked for Thursday afternoon or later. You are of course welcome to stay longer at the Sanctuary either before or after your research placement (subject to availability).

How long can I volunteer for?

The programme runs for at least 7 nights, starting on Wednesday. We highly recommend staying a minimum of two weeks - one week programmes are only allowed if combined with at least two weeks at the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary. The maximum length of time is 12 weeks and we recommend a stay of at 3-6 weeks to really get a feel for the work that is being done.

How do I apply for a work visa?

Once we have received your payment and completed forms, we will pass your details over to the project manager. She will assist you in the visa application process, send you the forms you need to complete and return, and a list of documents you will need to provide by email. You will pay the project directly for the visa application. Work visas are handled by an experienced visa agent in Windhoek and take 6-8 weeks to organise.

If you are from the UK or Germany, you can use the Namibian embassy in London or Berlin to process your visa - this is a much quicker option. If you are from any other country, we strongly recommend you use the project’s visa agent in Windhoek - from experience, many Namibian embassies do not issue the correct visa.

Volunteering in Namibia

Namibia is a place of contrasts - from vibrant, colourful cities to the immense desert scenery, high mountain ranges and cool 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.

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.

Join one of our Sossusvlei tours, or join our Large Carnivore Conservation project, based a short distance from the dunes.

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.

Join one of our Etosha tours.

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.

Combine one or more of these destinations on one of our Namibia tours.

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.

Join one of our Namibia tours, or one of other our fantastic Namibia volunteer programmes.

Project Gallery - Elephant & Wild Dog Conservation

Send an enquiry

 

Stay Informed

Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest news.