Zimbabwe – Pre-Vet African Wildlife Orphanage

Volunteer in our two-week, pre-veterinary focused itinerary at one of Africa’s largest and most successful wildlife sanctuary and rehabilitation centers. This itinerary is designed to integrate pre-vet educational activities seamlessly into the ongoing wildlife volunteer work throughout your experience. This special program emphasizes hands-on experiences in pre-veterinary care and education, allowing volunteers to work closely with a diverse range of animals, from monkeys to lions. Immerse yourself in Zimbabwe’s natural beauty, contributing positively to the delicate African ecosystem while gaining an invaluable introduction into the Pre-Vet Wildlife World.

Program Highlights:

  • A GoEco Best 10 Volunteer Abroad Program for 2024
  • Participate hands on in pre-veterinary focused activities
  • Suitable for students with or without experience
  • Provide care for injured wildlife that cannot be released into the wild and assist with releases whenever possible
  • Volunteer in one of Africa’s largest and most successful wildlife rehabilitation/release centers
  • Work alongside professionals at this world-renowned center
  • Ethical wildlife interactions and volunteer tasks
  • Assist in local wildlife education initiatives


Upgrade your Pre-vet Program to an internship and earn a Diploma in International Volunteering with a Wildlife Conservation Focus! This diploma, developed in collaboration with the wildlife orphanage, is recognized for up to 41 UK credits, 10 US credits, and 20-21 European credits. For additional information, including specific add-ons and details about the volunteer work involved, please refer to the sections below.


Your Schedule at a Glance (Minimum two-week commitment): 

Arrival Day, Sunday: Arrive at Bulawayo Airport (BUQ). You will be picked up by the local team and taken to your accommodation in Bulawayo. If you arrive on an early flight, you will be taken on a tour of the Orphanage after settling in, otherwise you will have the opportunity to rest and then meet the rest of the crew at dinner.

Days 1-2, Sunday-Monday: You will typically have Sunday afternoon and Monday off to rest, explore and enjoy your Zimbabwean experience. Mondays feature a trip into the town of Bulawayo for any personal shopping, eating out at local restaurants, a museum visit or any other group activity agreed upon by the group of volunteers there at the time.

Days 3-7: Tuesday-Saturday: Expect to dedicate around seven hours daily to volunteering. Your day will typically include engaging in the sanctuary’s routine activities, such as feeding the animals and tidying their enclosures in the morning. Before lunch, you’ll have the opportunity for ‘Animal Time’ to bond with and learn about the birds and animals. Afternoon tasks then pick up where the morning left off. It’s important to be aware that during fire season and when there are young animals at the sanctuary, you’ll need to be available on call. However, the responsibility of caring for the babies overnight will be divided among volunteers, so you won’t be required to stay awake all night. Pre-veterinary activities are woven into your daily schedule, potentially involving shadowing during medical examinations, administering necessary medications or treatments, assisting in sedating animals for medical procedures, supporting ultrasounds, participating in micro-chipping, and helping with the capture and release of wildlife, among other tasks.

Remaining Weeks: The pre-vet activities are planned within designated 2 week period throughout the year (see below start dates). Pre-vet volunteers are encouraged to extend their stay for 3 or more weeks to have a chance to participate fully in the volunteer program afterwards and have a chance to participate in the group excursion to Victoria Falls, a wonder of the world. Those staying 2 weeks only will not have the opportunity to join the excursion with the group. If you stay 4 weeks you’ll have the opportunity to join both the Victoria Falls excusion as well as join in on the Rhino Conservation Educational excursion day which would be included in your 4 week program fee only. Departures are on a Sunday.

Stay for four weeks with the Rhino Conservation Excursion! All new applicants for 4 weeks will have included in their program a captivating Rhino Conservation Walking Safari tour in the Matobos National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore the vital issues surrounding the endangered White and Black Rhino species in Africa during a dedicated day of education. This must-see conservation tour offers valuable insights, with only about 600 black rhinos and 400 white rhinos left in Zimbabwe. Learn about the challenges these magnificent creatures face and gain a deeper understanding of the importance of protecting these iconic species in the region.



Location icon Location of the Project: Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Project length Project length: 2 week Pre-Vet Program with option to extend regular volunteer program up to 12 weeks

Arrival Airport Arrival Airport: Bulawayo Airport (BUQ)

Volunteer Work Volunteer Work:  Hands on pre-vet learning opportunities with the animals, combined with wildlife sanctuary work like preparing animals’ food, cleaning out enclosures, promoting environmental education.

Age Age:  18-80. Age Exceptions: this project accepts volunteers who are 17 years old with a letter of consent from a parent or guardian.

Number of Volunteers Number of Volunteers: Up to 10 Pre-Vet participants per start date, and up to 20 volunteers for the regular program.


What’s Included

Accommodations Accommodations: Includes shared housing in cabins

Food Food: Three meals per day are provided

Airport Transfers Airport Transfers: Airport pickup and airport drop off is included included

Orientation Orientation: All necessary training and introductions are provided upon arrival

Support Support: Comprehensive and professional pre-departure travel guidance, 24/7 GoEco emergency hotline, experienced local field team.


What’s not Included

Flights, entry visa (between $50-$100 USD depending on nationality), travel health insurance, personal expenses, expenses for Victoria Falls Excursion. *You will need a double-entry visa if you plan to visit Zambia.

Bulawayo is Zimbabwe’s second largest city and home to more than 650,000 people. This city is considered the business and industrial capital of the country. The wildlife orphanage is located about 30 minutes from the city and set on a beautiful, family-owned property. Nearby lays the Matopo National Park, which has the highest concentration of leopards of all national parks, including Victoria Falls.

About the Wildlife Orphanage:

The Wildlife Orphanage is a sanctuary for animals unlikely to survive in the wild, offering shelter to those orphaned, abandoned, or injured, as well as those confiscated from illegal traffickers. Renowned for its innovative work in wildlife rehabilitation and release, it stands as one of Africa’s leading centers in this field, recognized globally through various documentaries. Established in 1973 by a former game ranger, the orphanage operates distinctly from a zoo, focusing on rehabilitating rescued animals for wild reintroduction when possible, and providing lifelong care for educational and research purposes otherwise. It aims to rescue distressed wildlife across Zimbabwe, educate the local population on natural heritage, promote wildlife and habitat conservation, conduct research for zoological insights, and collaborate with authorities on wildlife management.

About the Volunteer Program:

Upon joining, volunteers are introduced to the orphanage’s operations without the need for prior experience, as comprehensive training is provided. The program is designed for those passionate about animal welfare. Initially, volunteers familiarize themselves with the orphanage’s daily routines, collaborating with various staff members across different areas, including carnivores, primates, birds of prey, snakes, and domestic farm animals.

Volunteer tasks are diverse, ranging from food preparation, feeding, enclosure maintenance, to educational outreach and enclosure construction. Special attention is given to hand-rearing orphaned animals, requiring dedication as it can involve night-time feedings and comforting scared young animals. Tasks are assigned based on the orphanage’s current needs and the volunteer’s duration of stay.

About the Pre-Vet Two-Week Itinerary:

The pre-vet focused activities are seamlessly integrated into the regular volunteer program. These activities range from attending educational lectures, participating in medical examinations, administering medications or treatments, aiding in the sedation of animals for medical procedures, helping with ultrasounds, darting wildlife, engaging in micro-chipping, and assisting in the capture and release of wildlife. This approach merges hands-on animal care with in-depth veterinary educational opportunities. While the sanctuary does not employ a full-time veterinarian, the local team is licensed and possesses extensive experience in managing, medicating, and providing initial medical care to wildlife both in the field and on-site. The selection of activities will depend on the sanctuary’s and the animals’ needs at the time of your visit, highlighting the unpredictable nature of working with wildlife. .Please be aware that the sanctuary includes a section dedicated to farm animals, designed for educational purposes. As a result, some of your activities may involve working with these farm animals.


Pre-Vet program tasks may involve: 

  • Attending educational lectures
  • Participating in medical examinations
  • Administering medications or treatments
  • Aiding in the sedation of animals for medical procedures
  • Helping with ultrasounds
  • Shadowing the darting of wildlife live
  • Darting simulations and practice
  • Assisting in the capture and release of wildlife
  • Postmortems and autopsies on animals
  • Immobilizations of animals for relocation
  • Recording vitals such as oxygen saturation, heart-rate and breaths per minute using pulse oximeters and capnographs
  • Assisting with Vaccinations (intramuscular and subcutaneous), commonly with antibiotics and antiparasitics
  • Shearing of sheep
  • Weighing of sheep
  • Deworming


Volunteer program tasks may include:

  • Preparing food for the animals (keeping in mind the different diets of the various animals, including meat preparation)
  • Feeding the animals
  • Cleaning out enclosures
  • Contributing enrichment ideas for the animals
  • Assisting staff with educational outreach at local schools
  • Helping build and maintain enclosures
  • Giving tours and educating the public
  • Hand-rearing orphans (Comforting them when they cry, feeding them when they become hungry and generally just playing with baby animals. However, this can also be very tiring as they may need feeding during the night or just need a cuddle when they get scared.)
  • Special projects as needed


Please note that volunteer tasks depend on the current needs of the community and the wildlife and also upon the volunteers’ length of stay. Volunteers may only participate in some or all of the tasks.

Typical Schedule: Volunteers are expected to work six days per week, with Mondays off. Volunteers will work eight hours per day (8:00 AM to 4:00 PM) but will always be on call during fire season and when there are babies on-site. Baby shifts will be shared between the volunteers, as we would not expect you to be awake with them all night. Pre-Vet activities are planned throughout the 2 week itinerary and typically feature one pre-vet focused group activity per day.


January 2024 Pre-Vet Program Accomplishments: 

  • Immobilization of 2 leopards and a lion
  • Relocation of a leopard and brown hyena to Hwnage National Park
  • Release of 1 baboon to Matopos National Park
  • Weighing and vaccination of 7 sheep
  • Shearing of 7 sheep
  • Vaccination of 9 monkeys
  • Deworming of 12 monkeys and 5 baboons
  • Vaccination of 40+ chickens
  • Release of 3 snakes into Matopos National Park
  • 24 hour monitoring on sick sheep
  • 7 postmortem of cows
  • 1 postmortem of sheep
  • 1 postmortem of leopard
  • Loading of darts and target practice with them


Upgrade to the Internship and Receive an Accredited Diploma: Ideal for students already pursuing pre-veterinary studies or those seeking to strengthen their university applications, this opportunity allows you to convert your Pre-vet Program into an internship and receive a Diploma in International Volunteering with a focus on Wildlife Conservation. This diploma, formulated in partnership with the wildlife orphanage, grants up to 41 UK credits, 10 US credits, and 20-21 European credits. You can opt for this addition after your application interview. The online course requires a one-time fee of US$990, covering all necessary study materials, supervision, and certification. To ensure adequate preparation, it’s advisable to start the course material at least one month prior to your program start date, though you have the flexibility to begin sooner and progress at your own pace. For comprehensive information about the Diploma, visit our Student Page here.


Internet icon Internet: WiFi is available on site for a small fee. GoEco volunteers receive one free voucher of 10 GB and further wifi may be purchased for a $15 voucher. The local team will help also volunteers purchase a SIM card locally.

Laundry icon Laundry: Laundry is washed and freshly ironed by the staff twice per week. Delicates and undergarments are washed by hand personally by volunteers and hung to dry, supplies are provided.

Accommodations icon Accommodations: Volunteers will stay in two to five person cabins. The rooms are equipped with a comfortable bed, mosquito nets, shelves, wardrobe, bedside table and electricity. Additionally, volunteers will be provided with clean sheets, blankets and a swimming towel. The site has hot water showers, flushing toilets, braai (BBQ) area, kitchen and a swimming pool, available for volunteers to use during the summer months. There is an entertainment room designed for volunteer with comfortable sofas, games, a library, a pool table, a dart board, and a projector to watch movies.

Food icon Food: Three meals are provided per day. Most meals include meat dishes but vegetarian meals can be arranged. Dinner is usually eaten together with the team of volunteers and/or local family. Tea, coffee and cold water are available throughout the day. If the volunteers wish to cook for themselves or have a braai (BBQ) they are more than welcome.
*** At the moment, the project team cannot accommodate volunteers with a strict vegan or gluten-free diet. 

Please take note of this project’s minimum requirements:

  • Open to everyone interested in the veterinary field with a wildlife focus
  • Good level of English
  • Motivation to work with animals
  • Vaccinations – please consult a doctor before departure
  • Flexible attitude and hard-working
  • Dietary Requirements: At the moment, the project team cannot accommodate volunteers with a strict vegan or gluten-free diet



  • Victoria Falls – Guided Trip with the program (3 week minimum): A minimum duration of 3 weeks (2 weeks pre-vet program + 1 week of the regular program) is required for this excursion. The options here are extensive. Bungee jump off the bridge at Victoria Falls or go white water rafting on the mighty Zambezi River. Take a leisurely walk around Victoria Falls National Park to see “the smoke that thunders,” one of the natural wonders of the world. To finish off the day, go on a nice, relaxing sunset cruise and witness the animals bathing in the river. Payments for Victoria Falls are made locally in-country.
  • Matopos Rhino Conservation Excursion – Guided Trip with the program (4 week minimum): A minimum duration of 4 weeks (2 weeks pre-vet program + 2 weeks of the regular program) is required for this excursion. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to see white rhinos in this beautiful national park. Explore the vital issues surrounding the endangered White and Black Rhino species in Africa during a dedicated day of education. The tour is included in the 4 week program fee and takes the full day.
  • Great Zimbabwe Ruins – Guided Trip with the program (5 week minimum): A minimum duration of 5 weeks (2 weeks pre-vet program + 3 weeks of the regular program) is required for this excursion. The Great Zimbabwe Ruins are an ancient village built of stones on a hilltop. Zimbabwe derives its name from the ruins; “dzimba dzemabwe” means houses of stones. This trip includes round trip private transfer with the group, game drives, an overnight stay in a national park, a guided tour through the ancient historical site.  Typically once a month the team plans a group trip to this destination for a weekend for about $150 all inclusive.
  • Hwange National Park: Independently from the program volunteers can travel to this park. If it’s the wildlife you are after, Zimbabwe has many different game parks to choose from. Hwange National Park is the biggest and is said to be the best, covering 14,600 square kilometers with the largest number of animals in any national park in Zimbabwe. Volunteers will have a chance to see elephants, lions, giraffes, buffalo, hippos, crocs, leopards, rhinos and many more, plus over 400 species of birds.
  • Lake Kariba: Independently from the program volunteers can travel to this lake. Lake Kariba is the world’s largest artificial lake or reservoir, at a massive 220 kilometers long and up to 40 kilometers wide. It is very popular with tourists who enjoy using the lake as a mini-cruise. Volunteers can rent a house boat or use the ferry to get from Binga to Kariba. Is it a good place for fishing but also for wildlife viewing, as the animals come to the edges to drink. It is not advised to swim though, as it now has a population of Nile crocodiles and hippos.

Volunteer Experiences

Want to join this program?