Volunteering in South Africa – Observation & Data Collection

Posted by: Erica

I had a really great experience volunteering in South Africa. I had signed up through GoEco for the Big 5 Wildlife Reserve in the Greater Kruger Area project.

Our daily tasks included doing RTP (Research, Tasks and Project) and going out on drives to observe the animals and collect data. We would spend at least half an hour if we saw lions or elephants, taking data on their self grooming, social interaction and so on. Sometimes we would even go on night drives, and used a spotlight to look for ‘eyes’ among the trees and grasses.

After each drive we would have a review session, where we would discuss about the day’s highlight and the animals we saw. It is a great opportunity to share with fellow volunteers about the different animal behaviors. Every day is unique!

One of the highlights was us watching an animal birth. A few of the researchers spotted strange blue legs sticking out from one of the pregnant buffaloes. Everyone quickly whipped out their binoculars and cameras to zoom in on what was happening. Then came out the legs of a buffalo calf, still in its amniotic sac. We were actually witnessing the birth of a baby buffalo! The mother moaned and walked around for a bit before giving the last push where the calf literally dropped onto the ground.

Another highlight was getting involved with the relocation of cheetahs! On 1st February 2015, the volunteers were told that Nandi’s cubs had escaped over to another reserve, and were darted to be moved back to our reserve. The cubs were darted and needed to be watched over until they woke up. This was especially since cheetahs are possible prey for larger predators such as lions, and them being unconscious would make them extremely vulnerable.