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Volunteering in South Africa – Research and Conservation

I had the opportunity to travel and volunteer at the Big Cats Research and Conservation project. My involvement with the project was quick and very in-depth, as I worked with the other volunteer researchers and the field guide to track and monitor lions, elephants, rhinos, and the many other wildlife present on the game reserve. My involvement allowed me to avoid being the one-dimensional tourist, but rather to provide meaningful work in the further advancement of research done on the wildlife in Africa. Seeing and working with these beautiful animals has been eye-opening, especially the black and white rhinos. The next 5 years will be critical for the survival of these magnificent creatures. Conservation becomes vital for the survival of the rhino as well as all the species that live in a very unpredictable part of the world.

Our typical days included a couple of game drives (one in the morning and one after lunch) where we would be out in the bush collecting data on the animals. Emphasis was placed on lions, elephants, and rhinos, as their movements and activities are important pieces of information utilized by the reserves partner organizations. GPS, radio telemetry, and our own eyes were used to locate the animals. Once a week we would have either a night drive or an early morning drive. Spotlighting was used to locate the animals. The night drive was very productive! We got to see elephants, a black-backed jackal, various antelopes in the reserve, and, the very elusive, serval!

I want to work with wildlife in a more conservation-based way and this project allowed me to learn and to utilize some of the skills involved with such a career choice. I am forever grateful for the experience of volunteering in South Africa and the opportunity to live and work on this project.