Zimbabwe - Lion Rehabilitation & Conservation in Victoria Falls
Volunteer to work up close with lions against the backdrop of the majestic Victoria Falls. Be involved in the research of lion behavior and participate in one of the world's few initiatives to release them back into the wild. Volunteers will also volunteer to assist the National Park's rangers and to teach about conservation in the local school.
|Location of Project||Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe|
|Project Length||Min 2 weeks - Max 4 weeks|
|Arrival Airport||Victoria Falls International Airport|
|Volunteer Work||Handling of lion cubs, food preparation, feeding, maintenance, and community work|
|Number of Participants||Up to 10 International volunteers|
|Age||17 - 80|
|Suitable For||Groups and couples|
|Accommodation||Lodge rooms for 1-4 people|
|Food||3 meals a day|
|Support||Local in-country team and 24hr emergency support|
|Airport Transfers||Included on arrival day|
|Pre-Departure Kit||Full project details will be sent following registration|
|Orientation||All necessary training and introductions provided upon arrival|
|Travel Insurance||Comprehensive travel & health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage|
What's Not Included
This project takes place in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. It is located on the outskirts of the town of Victoria Falls; a stone's throw away from the magnificent thundering waters of the Falls.
About the Project
Over 200,000 lions previously roamed the African continent, as recently as 1975. The latest estimates show an 80 - 90% population decline in the last 30 years. The end objective of the Victoria Falls' lion project is the reintroduction of the offspring of captive-bred lions into the wild by means of a four-stage process, which you, as a volunteer, will learn more about during your involvement with the project.
This breeding and rehabilitation project is the world's first and is supported by leading ecologists in this field. We invite volunteers to walk and work with African lions and to be involved in the in-depth research and data collection activities. Spending time with the lions in the wild each day is an essential part of the cubs' upbringings. If the cubs are to be released into the wild, it is important that they spend time in that environment. They need to adapt to it, learn from it, understand, observe, feel, and smell the wild.
Volunteers will also work with the CCWA research team and the national park rangers on any number of conservation activities, as well as teaching about conservation in a local school.
Volunteer Work and Contribution
Your involvement on the project is paramount to achieving our aims on all fronts. You can expect days to be long; but will also be able to end each day knowing that you have given something back to Africa and have made a difference to the animals and people that you came into contact with.
Your primary task whilst on placement will be to assist management and their team of guides, handlers, and scouts in all aspects of care for the animals; this includes giving them the opportunities to develop their natural instincts in preparation for their release into the next stage of the program.
Research is a significant part of the your role; you will be collecting data not only on the development of the lions, but also joining our research team in the Zambezi & Victoria Falls National Parks.
You will also help us with our various community programs that may include conservation or health education as well as a number of other projects that will be discussed on arrival.
To give you an idea of how your time will be split between the different aspects of the program, the following should be taken as an approximation:
- Lion Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild Program 75%
- Conservation work within the National Parks 20%
- Conservation Education & Community Development 5%
Daily tasks may include:
Lion Walks: spending time with the lions in the wild each day is an essential part of the cubs upbringing. If the cubs are to be successfully released it is important that they spend time out in a natural environment. They need to adapt to it, learn from it, understand, observe, feel, and smell the wild.
Since the start of this intensive lion walking program, we have noted a marked increase in the lions' awareness of their natural surroundings, as well as an improvement in their hunting skills. The larger cubs are now able to take down smaller game species whilst out on walks, and these abilities are being enhanced each day whilst under the supervision of volunteers. These are invaluable discoveries, which have earned us further international support for our endeavours.
In addition to the walks, you will be involved in the care of the animals who spend the night in enclosures. They need feeding, cleaning, and occasionally veterinary care to ensure that they are kept in the best of health.
Research: as part of the program, we conduct a number of research activities to better understand lion behavior and ecology. The lion walks offer unique opportunities to observe lions close up in their natural environment. With the data collected, we try to make the best decisions for the animals' welfare and eventual release. You will assist our research technicians in gathering and analyzing this vital data. The research studies being undertaken whilst on your placement will vary depending on the needs of the project at the time, but may include looking at the development of hunting character traits, spoor sizes, or mane growth. You will receive all the training you need to ensure that you are able to provide valuable input to this program regardless of previous experience.
Work in the National Parks: there is a large amount to do to keep a national park ecosystem healthy, and this project is blessed by having two unique parks right on its doorstep. You will work with the research team and national parks' rangers on any number of conservation activities that may include some or all of the following, based on the national parks' needs at the time of placement:
- Assisting in the development of a new waterhole and renovation of a tourist observation tower
- Camping out overnight to conduct a game census to see what animals come to drink. You may see herds of elephants and buffalo or maybe an elusive leopard
- Conduct surveys of tourist movement patterns within the park to assist in better management of the area and to reduce soil erosion from the numerous vehicles in the park
- Conduct surveys of the wild lion population, tracking spoor (the signs left behind by an animal as it moves through the bush, such as paw prints), taking photographs for identification, and recording important information so we can gain a better understanding of the species within the park
- Carry out snare sweeps to remove the wires set by poachers to illegally catch animals that inhabit the park
- Work with local communities to mitigate lion/human conflict
Teach a conservation class: volunteers will join our conservation education program visiting local schools to garner support for conservation through education. The syllabus was originally devised under the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) "We Care!" project and adapted to Zimbabwe by The Curriculum Unit of the Zimbabwe Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture. Lesson plans are designed to offer children a full understanding of their environment and to build an appreciation for the need to conserve what remains of the wild areas of Zimbabwe. Each lesson may focus on a specific species or introduce conservation methods. Learning is achieved through a mixture of classroom-based talks and discussions as well as involving the children in smaller groups and practical activities such as visits to the lion program or to Victoria Falls.
A day in the life of a Victoria Falls lion volunteer:
- 6:15am -- You will be collected by your project manager and driven out to the lion project base at Masuwe lodge located within the Zambezi National Park. This is a approximately a 10 minute drive.
- 6:30 – 9:00am -- Meet your guide and their clients and join them for a lion walk, taking cubs from 4 months to 18 months out into the bush. Watch, take data, and capture recordings as the cubs practice their hunting skills on the many game species they encounter.
- 9:00 – 10:00am -- Breakfast
- 10.00am - 12.00pm -- One group might head off to nearby Chamabondo school to begin the day’s conservation education classes – sometimes there are up to 60 kids in a class! Chaotic but fun! The other group will be cleaning or feeding the cubs, or driving into the National Park to conduct a game census.
- 12:30pm – 2:00pm -- Take the cubs out into the bush again for their afternoon walks.
- 2.30pm – 5:00pm -- Your afternoon duties could include updating the species inventory in the Victoria Falls National Park or a lion walk at Masuwe.
- 6:45pm -- Briefing by your project manager about the following day's activities, followed by dinner at 7pm. On some nights volunteers venture off into Victoria Falls town to experience the night life of this tourist Mecca. For others you may be camping out at a water hole to watch the African Bush come alive at night – you may spot the rarely seen Aardvark, known as the “earth pig”.
Food: volunteers are provided with 3 meals a day. Breakfast and lunches will be enjoyed out at the Masuwe concession (where our lions are based) and volunteers can relax with a warm dinner back in town at the rest camp when they return at the end of the working day.
Internet: there is Internet access in the Lodge.
Laundry: laundry will be washed, ironed and folded free of charge and volunteers will be given a laundry bag to use for the duration of their stay.
On arrival at the Victoria Falls project, the following orientation will take place:
- Volunteers will receive their volunteer's manual which includes information that will help with their integration into the project, as well as give them further tips for their stay.
- Introduction to all the project's senior staff and heads of departments
- Familiarization with the work areas - including rivers, internal roads and tracks, and some of the wildlife species
- Introduction to the lion and cub enclosures
- Briefing on how to complete data capture forms and enter data into the computer systems
- Further information on the lion breeding programm and our ultimate objective of releasing lions into the wild
- Familiarization with all the duties
There are a huge number of optional activities and trips that are available to volunteers, at additional cost, whilst on their placement. Here are just a few ideas:
While on time-off, why not take advantage of the multitude of activities available at Victoria Falls itself, Africa's "adrenaline capital." There are helicopter or microlight flights over the Falls, bungee jumping, white water rafting, horse rides, elephant rides, game drives, gorge jumps, skydiving, canoeing, and a host of other options. There are also day and weekend trips available into neighboring Botswana.
- Min age 17 - max age 80
- At least 1.55 metres tall (5 feet 1 inch)
- Basic English
- Good physical fitness
- Motivation to work with animals
- Full travel & medical insurance
- Immunizations (please consult family doctor)
- Police clearance form
Here's an excerpt of Alida's experience:
Check out our Volunteer Blog at blog.goeco.org
"I had a wonderful time at this program. I most liked there the variety of activities that we had. Every day we had a different activity with the lions and even sometimes with other wild animals in Zimbabwe (like game drive and elephants). The people at the program are very kind and caring to the volunteers. I sincerely recommend this experience and I will come back with out a doubt to volunteer there again."- Shir, GoEco Volunteer 2010, Israel