WHAT DOES THE PROJECT DO?
The vulnerability of elephant populations around the world is something widely acknowledged as a result of which many conservation initiatives have been set up to protect this mighty and magnificent animal. However, despite the large scale conservation efforts across much of the globe the opposite has occurred in South Africa. As a result of increasing population numbers over the last few decades, the country now considers itself to be facing the challenge of too many elephants. This overpopulation has led to the culling of many elephants, sadly leaving many more orphaned and unable to fend for themselves. Fortunately a number of reserves have been set up in order to rescue orphaned or threatened elephants from further harm. However, these sanctuaries only have limited capacity, which restricts the number of animals that they can help.
You will provide vital support to nature reserve staff, who will appreciate the extra pair of hands helping to care for their resident elephants. You will also make a significant contribution to the reserve’s research goals, which focus on the welfare and management of captive elephants in South Africa.
WHAT WILL I BE DOING?
Your time at the park and the work you do will vary depending on the needs of the animals. No need to worry though as the elephants will definitely keep you busy! As a volunteer you will get involved in all aspects of running the park, including research, marketing, events, maintenance, guiding, education and more.
Daily tasks may include assisting the guides during daily tours, maintaining and cleaning enclosures, preparing food for the elephants and maybe even preparing milk and feeding the baby elephants if there are some in the park at the time of your visit. You will also be asked to help out with any marketing or advertising campaigns which the park wants to implement. You will support staff in educating visitors about the current environmental issues facing South Africa and the vital role of conservation in the preservation of fragile species and ecosystems.
You will devote much of your time to assisting the research team in their studies. You will collect data and monitor behaviour on some of the following: social interactions between elephants, night time observations, interactions between the elephants and visitors, plant surveys and feeding behaviour. Your contribution will assist in improving the welfare and management of captive elephants in South Africa.
During the day you will tend to work the same hours as the elephants – up early and finishing around 5:30pm. The days will be long and sometimes tough, but the rewards for your dedication will certainly be worth it. You will start to feel something very special when the elephants begin to recognise and trust you.