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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.

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Location of the Project:  Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
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Project length:  Min 2 weeks - Max 8 weeks
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Arrival Airport:  Victoria Falls International Airport
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Volunteer Work:  Management of the lions’ daily needs including food preparation, feeding, maintenance of enclosures and community work and conservation education
Age:  17-80
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Number of Volunteers:  Up to 10 International volunteers
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Important Note:  Suitable for groups and couples. Orientation: all necessary training and introductions provided upon arrival. Please note that volunteers staying longer than 30 days will require a “temporary employment permit." This costs an extra $500 USD to be paid upon arrival in Zimbabwe.

What's Included

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Accommodations:  Lodge rooms for 1-4 people
Food:  Three meals a day
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Airport Transfers:  Included on arrival and departure day
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Insurance:  Comprehensive travel health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage
Orientation:  Orientation upon arrival includes introductions to staff members, the lions, and project overview.
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Support:  Local in-country team and 24hr emergency support

What's not Included

Flights, personal expenses, entry visa (between $50 - $100 USD depending on nationality), levy of $30 USD upon departure from Zimbabwe

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. 
You will also be involved in the care of the animals who are housed overnight in enclosures.  They need feeding, cleaning, and occasionally veterinary care to ensure that they are kept in the best of health.

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
Conservation education: You may often be involved in elements of community development, where you will help youth learn about wildlife, animal habitats and why it’s important to preserve the environment.

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%
A typical day: You'll start off your day bright and early at 6:30 am taking 6-18 month-old cubs on a walk around the bush as you observe and record their hunting skills. After taking a break for breakfast around 9:00 am, you will partake in various activities related to either conservation education or caring for the cubs. Around 12:00 pm, you'll enjoy lunch and a nice mid-day break, followed by afternoon activities, briefing with the volunteer coordinator, and dinner.
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.

Internet
Internet:  Wifi is available, though can be sporadic due to the remote location.
Laundry
Laundry:  Weekly laundry service. Laundry will be washed, ironed, and folded at an additional fee of $5.
Accommodations
Accommodations:  Volunteers will be staying in comfortable twin or quad rooms in thatched accommodations at the main reserve camp. Volunteers have separate, clean shower and toilet facilities located adjacent to the sleeping area. The rooms will be cleaned daily by the housekeeping staff. Room upgrades are available at an additional fee.
Food:  Volunteers are provided with 3 meals a day. All meals, unless a volunteer gets a packed breakfast for their lion walk, will be served at the main camp.

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

    During your stay in Victoria Falls, you will have plenty of opportunities to explore some of Zimbabwe's spectacular sights. For an additional cost, you can also enjoy exciting activities in the "adrenaline capital" of Africa, including: helicopter flights over the falls, bungee jumping, horse-back excursions, elephant rides, game drives, gorge jumps, skydiving, canoeing, and white water rafting. 

    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

    Volunteer Experiences
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