Over the last 40 years, the African lion population has drastically decreased by 80-90%, from about 200,000 in 1975 to as low as 32,000 today. In an attempt to offset the rapid decline, the Antelope Park lion rehabilitation program works to reintroduce the offspring of captive-bred lions into the wild so they can one day have their own wild-bred offspring, a process that volunteers will learn more about during their involvement with the project. Spending time with the cubs in the wild each day is an essential part of developing the cubs' natural instincts, which is this project's priority. If the cubs are to be released into a wild environment it is important that they adapt to, learn from, understand, observe, feel, and smell the wild.
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.
As a volunteer at Victoria Falls, you will be involved in all aspects of the day-to-day running of the conservation project, including lion walks and important research as well as general conservation activities.
Volunteers' 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 in their natural environment. Since the start of this intensive lion walking program, there has been a marked increase in the lions' awareness of their natural habitat, as well as an improvement in their hunting skills.
Research: A number of research activities are conducted to better understand lion behavior and ecology. You will assist our research technicians in gathering and analyzing vital data necessary for making the best decisions for the lions’ welfare and gauging their progression through the release program. The research studies being undertaken during your placement will vary depending on the needs of the project at the time. Tasks may include looking at hunting and developmental skills, character traits, spoor sizes, or mane growth. Volunteers will receive all the training they need in order to ensure that they are able to provide valuable input to this program, regardless of previous experience.
Work in the National Parks: As a volunteer, you will work with the research team and rangers on any number of conservation activities that may include some or all of the following, based on the park's needs at the time of your placement:
- Assist in the development and renovation of a new waterhole
- Carry out snare sweeps to remove the wires set by poachers to illegally catch the animals that inhabit the reserve
- Work with local communities to mitigate lion/human conflict
- Remove invasive species
Here is an approximation of how your time will be split between the different aspects of the program:
- Lion Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild Program 75%
- Conservation work within the National Parks 20%
- Conservation Education & Community Development 5%
Volunteers will work 5 to 6 days per week, with full days Monday to Friday and some additional tasks on Saturdays. If you are part of a group going on a weekend trip which departs on Friday or Saturday, then you will generally be exempted from Saturday duties.
Please take note of the project's minimum requirements:
- Minimum age 17
- Basic English
- Good physical fitness
- Motivation to work with animals
- Immunizations (please consult your local travel clinic)
- Police clearance form
Project Orientation (Included):
On arrival at the Victoria Falls project, you will receive a comprehensive orientation, including:
- 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
- Familiarization of your duties and the work areas
- Introduction to the lion and cub enclosures
- Briefing on how to complete data capture forms
- Further information on the lion breeding program and our ultimate objective of releasing lions into the wild