Loving animals as much as I do, volunteering in Zimbabwe for the African Wildlife Orphanage project seemed to be a perfect fit for me. I was not disappointed with the number of opportunities to directly care for baby animals such as duiker, serval, bush babies, owls, and guinea fowl.
We volunteers were responsible for feeding and interacting with these animals as well as cleaning their enclosures.Each day we were encouraged to spend our spare time interacting with the animals by talking or reading to them, and if the animal was trustworthy, to extend the interaction to physical touch.
I especially enjoyed spending time with the bush babies, tiny primates less than fifteen inches long which can jump as much as thirteen feet! Being nocturnal, the bush babies were most fascinating at night. They would leap onto our shoulders, then at seemingly impossible speed, spring across long spans of space onto another volunteer.
The staff members were as delightful as the wildlife, and they took care to make me feel at home from the very beginning of my two-week volunteer experience. Accommodations were rustic (just as I like them) and the food was fabulous. The staff also provided opportunities to visit nearby Bulawayo and other area attractions such as Motobos National Park.
The African Wildlife Orphanage’s main goal is to care for orphaned or injured animals until they are able to be released back into the wild. If that’s not a viable option, they’re lovingly cared for the rest of their lives. These animals are also used for educating young local children about the creatures that share their environment. Bulawayo is the second largest city in Zimbabwe, so many of the children living there have never had the opportunity to see or touch wild animals. The students at the school we visited loved seeing a tortoise, hedgehog, chameleon, and even a python! And as a former teacher, I loved seeing the students so excited about learning.