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Established in 1977, this ranch was South Africa’s first crocodile show farm. A decade later, it was sold and transformed into a leading conservation and tourist education center. While the ranch continues to house a modest crocodilian population, it has actively shifted focus towards endangered species, particularly big cats. 

The privately owned ranch is home to more than 90 species of animals and reptiles and is one of the largest cheetah breeding centers in the world. The ranch’s staff work diligently to care for a number of endangered ambassador animals. In doing so, they have created a platform for conservation through education to encourage public awareness of the plights of various species as well as environmental issues. This has earned them a WAZA (World Association of Zoo’s & Aquaria) institutional membership. It is one of only 6 institutions in Africa to become a member of this esteemed association. The ranch has also developed a number of successful breeding programs and is currently one of only 4 institutions on the continent to receive accreditation from PAAZA (African Association of Zoos and Aquaria).

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Location of the Project:  Western Cape, South Africa
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Project length:  Min 2 weeks - Max 12 weeks
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Arrival Airport:  George (GRJ) Airport
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Volunteer Work:  Wildlife Care, Research and Maintenance
Age:  18 - 55
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Number of Volunteers:  23

What's Included

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Accommodations:  Main volunteer lodge or private lodge
Food:  Breakfast ingredients supplied at lodge and lunch and dinner on the Ranch, Monday to Friday.
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Airport Transfers:  Transport to and from George Airport (domestic airport) on Monday's
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Insurance:  Comprehensive travel health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage
Orientation:  Orientation provided upon arrival and includes a tour of the area and time for shopping. Orientation of the ranch and breeding centers is provided on the second day.
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Support:  Local in-country team and 24hr emergency support

What's not Included

Flights, personal expenses, visa (if required), weekend meals (when not working on the Ranch), medical expenses

Oudtshoorn is situated in what is known as ‘The Little Karoo’ (Klein Karoo) at the base of the majestic Swartberg Mountains in the Western Cape. It is a small, but beautiful tourist-oriented town with a semi-arid climate and typically sunny days. Oudtshoorn is considered the ostrich capital of the world because it has more ostriches than anywhere else. It is also the ideal location for these large fliightless birds due to the dry climate and Lucerne (protein-rich animal-feed) farming.

If you are passionate about wild animals and want to make a difference in their lives, then this is project is for you. You will work with a number of different endangered species from white tigers and cheetahs to ring tailed lemurs and meerkats. 
This volunteer project will give you a fascinating wildlife experience while you learn about the facility’s conservation efforts. You will also gain insight and knowledge into the ranch’s endangered species and breeding programs.

 Some of your tasks may include:

  • Cleaning cheetah, tiger and other animal exhibits and night houses
  • Preparing food for cheetah and tiger cubs as well as other big cats and animals 
  • Feeding the animals
  • Preparing for enrichment activities (manipulation, social environmental and artificial prey) to stimulate all animals on the ranch 
  • Provide various animals with enrichment toys (papier-mâché balls, tug of war rope etc.) to encourage their sensory and predatory behaviors. 
  • Taking notes on the animals’ progress (which will later be used for future research)
  • Assisting with ongoing maintenance on the ranch
  • Assisting with a variety of projects on occasion
Keep in mind that any food used, from worms to donkey tails, needs to be incorporated in the animals' daily diet, so you will also work very closely with the Animal Kitchen staff when preparing items containing food. You are encouraged to research new ideas and present them to the curators for approval.

At the end of your placement you will receive a certificate of completion. 

Typical day: You will work Monday to Friday between 8am and 4:30pm. Morning duties will include cleaning exhibits and night houses, followed by teatime. After, you will help prepare enrichment activities to stimulate all the animals. Then you will have lunch and spend the rest of your time giving out the enrichment toys to the animals while helping to take notes on their progress. There may be some maintenance work to assist with as well.
Important note: Regardless of your dietary preferences, you may be required to assist in the preparation of the big cat’s meals; which is usually donkey/horse meat. This can also involve removing meat from the bone and working with or near the carcasses.

Internet
Internet:  The lodge has a computer with WiFi.
Laundry
Laundry:  There is a washing machine, ironing board and iron available for you to use free of charge.
Accommodations
Accommodations:  You will stay in the Main Volunteer Lodge unless you would like to upgrade to the Zindago’s lodge. Main Volunteer Lodge – This lodge is a sprawling homestead set on the banks of a river with a large lawn, great barbeque area and a small splash-pool for summer. It consists of bedrooms for 2-4 per room, containing separate communal bathrooms. It has a communal spacious lounge and dining area as well as a well-equipped kitchen and launderette. It also has satellite TV and DVD player for your enjoyment. Zindago’s Lodge – This lodge is popular for those who prefer a quieter setting. It is directly adjacent to the ranch with a large garden and a lovely pool area. All of the bedrooms have air-conditioning and 3 of the bedrooms have their own private en-suite bathrooms. The other large bedroom is across the corridor from its own spacious bathroom. Two of the bedrooms sleep 2 persons and the upstairs two sleep three. Although this lodge is partly the owners’ home, there is plenty of space and privacy for both parties. An additional fee is applicable for this accommodation (inquire upon registration).
Food:  Basic breakfast ingredients are supplied at the lodges, as well as daily items such as tea, coffee, sugar, herbs & spices, fruit, cereal, milk and bread, spreads, sauces etc. Lunch is provided during your placement from Turtles, the ranch’s restaurant and dinner is prepared for you by the Lodge Manager, who also runs both lodges. When you are not working (Saturday and Sunday) meals are not included. Please note if you have allergies or special dietary needs, let us know upon registration.

Please take note of the project's minimum requirements:

  • Min. age: 18 +
  • Be at least 1,55m tall (if interacting with some adult cats)
  • Fit and healthy 
  • Basic English
  • Prepared to get dirty 
  • Be extremely passionate about wild animals
  • Hard working and diligently is a must

The ranch is about a 5-minute walk from your Lodge. It will take you about 10 minutes to walk to a local small shop (café) and approximately a half hour walk to most places in town, including supermarkets, shops, restaurants and pubs.

Oudtshoorn is a rather sleepy town, but there are a number of restaurants and pubs, if you are looking for a night out. Oudtshoorn is considered safe at night and you can walk the 20-30 minute route to town. During March/April of each year a well-known weeklong Afrikaans arts festival is held. The town really comes alive with the streets blocked off for market stalls, shows, bands and plenty of entertainment that thousands of people come to enjoy each year. 

Optional tours are available on weekends (when you are off), or you can relax at home by the poolside. You will have the chance to visit the world famous Cango Caves, which are the only show cave in Africa. Oudtshoorn isn’t called the Ostrich capital of the world for nothing! There are also Ostrich farms located 10 km south of Oudtshoorn where experienced guides will teach you all about ostrich farming.

Please note tours are subject to change and are dependent on availability and time of year.

Orientation (Included:)
A host will meet you in George, either at the airport or at your bus stop. From George you will be taken to Oudtshoorn (approximately 45 minutes to an hour away) for your orientation. Upon arrival you will be shown around your new accommodation and then you will be taken on a brief tour of the area. On the tour you will have the opportunity to do essential shopping, if needed. You will then be left to relax and adjust to your new accommodation for the rest of the day.

The following morning, your host will give you an orientation on the ranch and its environment, as well as run through the duties, expectations and house rules. This will also be the time for the coordinators to answer any questions you may have. That morning you will be taken to the ranch where you will be given a complete tour of the ranch and breeding centers. You will also be introduced to the directors, managers, curators and staff with whom you will be working.

Volunteer Experiences
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