Looking to conserve and protect wildlife in a direct way? SanWild’s volunteer program is your chance to spend two weeks or more participating in the daily operations and research projects of a working wildlife sanctuary.
Join one of the oldest volunteer programs in South Africa. Accompany our experienced game rangers out in the field on our 3,000-hectare Big-5 private game reserve. Work on conservation and research projects, and assist our staff in the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. Anyone 18 or older can sign up for this paid life experience, but places are limited.
- The standard volunteer period is a minimum of two weeks.
- Your days will be varied – and completely unpredictable.
- Living alongside lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, and rhinos, you’ll be part of an international wildlife conservation team with a 20-year track record in rescuing and releasing animals back into the wild.
- You will be supporting research into endangered wildlife species, understanding poacher prevention, or helping to restore the landscape to wild savannah conditions.
Helping to give wild animals a second chance will be life-changing – and have a lasting impact in our wildlife sanctuary.
- You’ll enjoy comfortable shared accommodation in a standard two-bedded Comfort tent at SanWild Lodge, with en-suite bathroom and a cleaning service once a day.
- For an additional charge, two people can upgrade to a Deluxe tent with an open-plan bathroom, bar fridge, coffee station and plush furnishings. (Subject to availability)
- Scout Rangers will be provided with three meals per day, which will be prepared by our lodge staff. Note that beverages are not included in the daily rate, but can be purchased from the bar.
- Complimentary Wifi & laundry service is included with your stay.
- You will have access to the SanWild Lodge common area, lounge, dining room and swimming pool.
- Participation in daily SanWild Sanctuary operations which includes the animal rehab centre and predator enclosures.
- Participation in ongoing conservation and research programs. These will vary by season and the current situation and is constantly changing.
At SanWild, our volunteers receive training in survey techniques to ensure the effective and accurate collection of data. You have the opportunity to participate in tracking and spotting activities of a variety of wildlife, including cheetahs, leopards, pangolins, elephants, and rhinos within the reserve. The information we gather provides valuable insight into predator-prey relationships, animal behaviour, geographical movements genetic makeup, and social structures. Our reserve management team uses this information to constantly update our wildlife management plan in order to maintain a healthy balance of natural resources. The research information is also shared with researchers, ecologists and universities to contribute to collective knowledge pool for the successful conservation of endangered African species.
Current Projects that Scout Rangers can participate in:
Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre
The SanWild Rehabilitation Centre is the core of the Sanctuary, where injured and orphaned wildlife are rescued. Wherever possible, these animals are rehabilitated and released back into the wild.
Staff and volunteers work in the facilities assisting with food preparation and feeding of orphaned and injured animals, cleaning animal enclosures and when possible, assisting with veterinarian care and animal rescues.
In order to prevent human imprinting on the animals in our care, the Centre itself is not open to the public. Also note that we do not allow playing or cuddling with animals by staff members or volunteers as this causes human imprinting.
Preditor Sanctuaries for Lions & Hyhenas
The Large Predator Sanctuaries on SanWild house predators such as lions and spotted hyenas that have been rescued from lion hunting farms, zoos and circuses from around the globe.
These proud animals no longer fear humans and lack important survival behaviours, so unfortunately they cannot be released back into the wild. We provide these animals with large enclosures where they are looked after while they live out the rest of their lives in a habitat that is much more natural to them.
The staff and volunteers at these facilities help with feeding the animals, cleaning the enclosures, and at times may also assist with veterinarian care.
Free-range Cheetah breeding project
SanWild’s Cheetah Project participates in a national breeding program for wild and free range cheetahs. Cheetahs wander freely within our Sanctuary, but are tracked and monitored with radio collars to gather information for research programs. SanWild was instrumental in introducing the first wild cheetahs back into Malawi from offspring born on our Sanctuary. Cheetahs are highly endangered, and we work together with other sanctuaries and reserves to ensure their survival for future generations.
Staff and volunteers help with the weekly tracking and monitoring of our cheetahs in the greater wildlife sanctuary, noting their preferred prey, hunting areas, hunting frequency, mating, births etc. This information is used to determine the carrying capacity of the Sanctuary and assist researchers with the placement of offspring in other reserves.
Elephant Management Project
SanWild is home to a herd of rescued elephants with a current population of 13, despite a carrying capacity of only 16 as determined by our Environmental Impact Study and Elephant Management Plan. To proactively manage the population, our elephants are placed on birth control, with sexually mature cows receiving injections every couple of months.
We also take measures to protect the environment by using electric fences and wire mesh to protect endangered trees, or implementing new strategies such as placing beehives or miniature granite pyramids around tree trunks. Additionally, we actively replant endangered tree species in the sanctuary.
Staff and volunteers play an active role in the Elephant Management Project, assisting with research, habitat protection, and veterinarian interventions.
Rhino Conservation Project
SanWild's Rhino Conservation Project is fighting back against poaching with a high-risk/low-reward approach. We've upgraded our perimeter fence with a hi-tech alarm system that is monitored 24/7 and dehorned all our rhinos to make them less valuable to poachers. Since mid-2020, rhino poaching attempts on our sanctuary have dropped by over 95%, and we have not lost a single rhino during the past 3 years.
Our Volunteers help with fence patrols, tracking rhinos on foot, and assisting during dehorning procedures. For safety reasons, volunteers are not permitted to accompany Game Rangers or security personnel when they are pursuing poachers. However, they are allowed to assist in the operations room to monitor cameras and help dispatch rangers.
Our Rhino Conservation Project is making a real difference, and we're always looking for more help to keep up the fight against poaching.
Wildlife Gene Exchange Program
To keep wildlife populations healthy and genetically diverse, SanWild participates in gene exchange programs. We exchange animals with other reserves and sanctuaries, which our staff and volunteers help capture, translocate, and release on SanWild and other properties.
These programs are crucial for the survival of wildlife populations in South Africa that consist of mainly fenced in properties unlike free-range areas that you would find in Kenya or Tanzania.
Habitat Rehabilitation Program
If we had a time machine and could travel back a hundred years, SanWild’s landscape would look very different. Prior to human intervention, the area would have been dominated by vast savannah grass plains, punctuated by trees and rocky outcroppings. However, with the arrival of farming, much of the land was overgrazed by cattle which caused environmental damage that needs to be reversed.
Portions of the Sanctuary suffers from invasive thorn species, and soil erosion. Our Habitat Rehabilitation Project addresses both challenges by clearing sickle bush and working a compost mixture with grass seeds into the soil to establish new grasslands that prevent further erosion.
Volunteers assist in the re-establishment of grass plains and the planting of endangered trees and other plant species.
Counter Poaching Patrols
SanWild participates in counter-poaching patrols, not only on our own Sanctuary, but also on neighbouring reserves. For volunteers, these patrols are an opportunity to learn about animal and plant species, identify animal spoor and delve into the vast knowledge of our experienced Game Rangers.
When indications of human activity are found in the bush it usually indicates meat poaching activity. Participants learn how to trace the movements of the poachers to find – and remove – the animal snares that they have set. As a bonus, volunteers have the opportunity to turn their removed snares into souvenir armbands and other forms of jewellery at a workshop in Hoedspruit called Down-to-the-Wire.
Our counter-poaching patrols are safe to participate in and discourages meat poachers from setting snares as they know our teams are active in the area and will discover and remove any snares before they can catch any animals.