Ever wanted to volunteer with animals? There is no better place to experience hands-on wildlife volunteering than the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary. Here you will have the opportunity for close up encounters and make a difference to the lives of cheetahs, lions, leopards, baboons and other big cats.
The stars of the show are undoubtedly the cheetahs. Namibia is home to a third of the world’s population. 95% of these fast cats live outside of protected areas. Sadly, they are often killed when they stray onto landowners’ farms as they pose a threat to their livestock.
The sanctuary works tirelessly to safeguard the future of these endangered cats by providing refuge to the injured and orphaned. It offers a protected area of Savannah and lush green plains for cheetahs and other wildlife to roam on, relocating them from the local farms.
Volunteers will be expected to work on all aspects of sanctuary work. Helping rescue, clean, feed and rehabilitate cheetahs, leopards, lions, wild dogs, baboons and zebras daily. When animals are rescued, they are often in need of care, but once rehabilitated, they are released into the wild as soon as possible to avoid too much human familiarity. Since opening in 2008, over 40 carnivores have been released into the wild and this number continues to grow with the help of volunteers.
To work at the sanctuary, no experience is necessary – hands-on training will be provided to give you an intimate knowledge and experience in working with African wildlife. You’ll create lifelong memories, meet other wildlife enthusiasts and be directly involved in safeguarding these beautiful creatures.
Feeding the animals is, unsurprisingly, a daily task. Volunteers will be responsible for preparing meals of fruit, vegetables, meat, miele pap (similar to porridge) and milk for the young. A satisfying part of the day, this gives volunteers a chance for close encounters with the wildlife. Feeding the resident meerkats is particularly good as they are hand-feed, while the larger cats (lions, leopards and wild dogs) need large meat feeds.
The sanctuary is home to several baby baboons and volunteers are encouraged to look after them. Take the babies and young for exercise walks as well as helping to feed and bathe them. This is often one of the highlights of the project.
Cleaning and maintenance
Volunteers will need to help clean out the enclosures of the animals including removing old food waste as well as clearing the waterholes and fixing any damage.
It is important that volunteers connect with the animals they are looking after, so time is set aside each day to spend playing with them. This is another of the highlights for many of the volunteers and includes one-on-one interactions with semi-tame cheetah cubs as well as close encounters with much of the other wildlife.
Such a large sanctuary needs constant repair and maintenance. Volunteers are required to help with daily maintenance and building tasks including the construction of new enclosures, checking and fixing the reserves border fences and the removal of weeds and unwanted plant species.
Clever Cubs School
The education of local school children often plays an important part of volunteer projects. The sanctuary has an on-site education centre called Clever Cubs which works with the local San tribe, teaching them about wildlife conservation and helping teach English.
Weekends are free (other than feeding) to relax or explore the wonderful surroundings. Take nature walks along the trails, swim, play football with the locals or spend more time with the animals. This is usually followed by a traditional braai (barbeque).
Each night, volunteers will need to do shift work in the watch towers where they will be required to look out for suspicious activities and poachers. Depending on how the group feel, volunteers can work in pairs or more.
Game count by horseback
Volunteers can take to horseback to do game counts. Vehicles scare the wildlife, are more expensive to run and worse for the environment. Riding horses allows volunteers to get up close to some of the amazing animals in the reserve. No experience is necessary and you will be taught to ride during the project.
There are several optional add-ons to choose from should you wish. Spend a day with the local San people (N$250) to learn about their way of life and ancient skills. Nobody understands the landscapes and wildlife better than the local community. For an additional £70, volunteers can swap a week at the sanctuary for a week exploring the mountainous areas of Namibia, a week exploring the wildlife at a research site in the desert or a week monitoring African wild dogs and elephants at the Mangetti Research Centre.
Book with wildlife conservation experts The Great Projects in January and receive a 20% discount. 14 days at the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary starts at just £620. To find out more or book, visit thegreatprojects.com.