Primate Sanctuary Assistant

Experience living in the African bush and help rehabilitating the indigenous vervet monkey.

About the project

The Vervet Monkey Foundation operates the largest centre for vervets in the world. In 2006 we became a member of PASA (Pan African Sanctuaries Alliance) and we are also a GFAS (Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries) certified sanctuary. We currently care for over 500 monkeys and we take in many orphans each year. We also have some ex-pets here that you may get a chance to spend some time with. In addition you will help the monkeys further by general husbandry, feeding, building new enclosures, observations and maintaining the upkeep of the foundation. Longer term volunteers may become involved with integrations of monkeys into social groups which is very rewarding and a lot can be learned about their behaviour. You will get the opportunity to make new friends and form long-term relationships with like-minded people while you get involved in the everyday tasks of running a monkey sanctuary. 

You may be involved with hand-rearing during baby season, teaching them to drink and get ready for their introduction to monkey moms, you may be lucky enough to see juniors venture out into their new enclosures, watching them become real monkeys. We have some ex-pets here that often need some time spent grooming from outside the cages before they are ready to be integrated into troops. In addition you will help the monkeys further by building new enclosures and maintaining the upkeep of the foundation.

Traveling to the project site

You will need to fly into Johannesburg (Oliver Tambo) airport and take a Translux coach to Tzaneen. Translux coach tickets cost approximately R255.00 each way. The bus usually leaves Johannesburg at 9.30am, Midrand at 10am and Pretoria at 10.30am. If your flight gets in before 8am and you are able to get the bus the same day as your flight then we advise you to take the Gautrain from the airport (approx R125) to Pretoria bus station. The coach arrives in Tzaneen around 3.40pm. We will pick you up upon arrival in the car park where the bus drops you in Tzaneen and transport you to the Foundation. Please note it is essential to book your bus ticket in advance (min 3 weeks) as there may not be any seats left on the day. I If your arrival in Johannesburg is too late to be able to connect with the bus departure, we suggest that you stay at Pretoria for the night. You may phone one of the guest houses below to arrange to pick you up at the airport and drop you the next morning at the Translux bus station. 

On Arrival to the VMF

On arrival all volunteers will have to sign an indemnity form indicating that you accept and understand that you are working with wild animals and that your presence and all activities you undertake at the centre are done so at your own risk. Volunteers will be expected to be on call at all times, including weekends. You should be prepared for often challenging and hard work, based around a shift rota with other volunteers. A typical work day is 8 hours per day depending on the time of year.. You will be presented with a day off each week that you may use to travel to the local town of Tzaneen to purchase supplies or to relax. Volunteering can be an altogether rewarding experience, working together with like minded individuals. You will be able to see at first hand how your actions are benefiting the vervet monkey and the people striving to protect this indigenous primate of Africa.

Dedication

A number of volunteers now work at the Foundation after deciding to stay on to further support the monkeys in our care. As long-term volunteers, they help by co-ordinating daily tasks and are at hand to offer assistance and experience to new volunteers.

You will not need any prior experience as we will teach you everything you need to know – just come with enthusiasm and an interest in conservation! If you have any specific skills or interest we are happy to try and utilize them during your stay. No matter what you do, you can expect that it is hot, dirty and hands on!

Hands On Experience

During the baby season (Nov – Feb) there is a possibility volunteers will work with baby monkeys, nearly all orphaned and traumatised. We introduce them to foster mothers ensuring each baby is stabilised, healthy and able to drink from a bottle when handling them. During the juvenile season (Mar – Oct), you may be able to see juniors being integrated into a troop within our rehabilitation programme or participate in other integrations. Baby rehabilitation involves volunteers handling or observing the babies in their outdoor playpen, mixing up bottles of milk, preparing foods and administering medicine if required. You will feed and monitor them throughout the day, constantly checking their progress. Be aware these babies will defecate and urinate on you quite happily - this is unavoidable so old clothes are recommended. You must remember the vervet monkeys are wild animals so expect a few ‘nips’ whilst they play! You will be helping to rehabilitate vervet monkeys into viable troops for release into protected reserves, integrating them back into their natural environment.

Touring and days off

Volunteers get one day off per week; we provide a lift into Tzaneen to purchase supplies, swim in the nearby lodge pool, spa or relax over a cappuccino in the mall. Volunteers her for 4 weeks are also invited to take one touring day per week to visit local sights. Volunteers often tour with new friends met at the VMF. You may wish to hire a car with some friends you meet here. Popular tours include the world famous Kruger National Park, only 1 hour from here. Blyde River Canyon, God’s Window, stunning waterfalls and of course, wildlife viewing.

Suitable for

Couples
Singles

Typical day

Typical everyday tasks can include:
  • Collecting, chopping and delivering food for monkeys.
  • Cooking at weekends for volunteers
  • Hands-on care-giving of baby monkeys (baby season only), helping in our sickbay
  • Monitoring and report writing of monkeys around the Sanctuary
  • Cleaning monkey cages, washing feed bowls & plates and cleaning blankets
  • Assisting with introductions and rehabilitation of new monkeys.
  • Assisting with basic medical practices and administering medications.
  • Clearing vegetation for fire breaks, looking after the volunteer village.
  • Assisting with education outreach programs
  • Participating in fundraising, newsletters, we can also use graphic design skills

Each “Main Feed” involves the daily preparation and distribution of food to all of the monkeys in the sanctuary. As a volunteer, your duty would be to prepare the food bowls. You will cut, wash and share out the fruit and vegetables equally before distributing the food bowls to the vervets. Seed pods and fruits are also picked from our indigenous trees on a regular basis. 

Monitoring is a crucial and important job as you will monitor and observe each monkey within the sanctuary, checking for any injuries, stress or sickness - reporting information back to “base” to ensure the vervets are in the best of health. This task is done daily; you will usually have a 2-day to 3-day shift rotation whilst monitoring to provide continuity of observation. 


Program Requirements

Minimum Age
18 years
Language Skills
You need to speak English (intermediate level)
Health Declaration
required
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 07:30 - 16:30

Do you have any questions concerning this volunteer opportunity in South Africa? Volunteer World directly connects you with Vervet Monkey Foundation

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Free-time activities

There are also plenty of opportunities to visit local attractions such as the Kruger National Park or to go on adventures with other volunteers to local sites and site seeing expeditions.

Swimming
Climbing
Safari/Zoo
Hiking

Services

What's included?
Your fees go toward food, accomodation and much needed financial support
for the monkeys and the Sanctuary.
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.

No worries, Volunteer World supports you in raising funds, checking your visa regulations and travel insurance. We also assist you in finding the cheapest flights for your journey.
Accommodation

Volunteer Village life involves sharing a wooden cabin with twin beds with one other person. Alternatively, we have an individual private cabin with double bed for an extra fee. We have a natural, electricity-free environment at the Volunteer Village, though, you may take your electronics for recharging up to the cottage on occasions. You may wish to bring a small camping lantern for your cabin and definitely a head torch / torch. We provide mattress, table, pillow and sheets but please ensure you bring a sleeping bag.
This is home sweet home; the potential creature sightings are colorful lizards, snakes and birds. The village houses 4 showers, 2 eco-toilets, and a campfire; which is great for an evening under the stars or a braai (South African BBQ)!
The shower is on the whole able to provide hot water, but be aware cold showers are a possibility (refreshing on a blazing hot day)! Water in the area is scarce. The eco-toilet is a bush toilet with worms that do the composting. You don’t have to flush here!
We have recently added the addition of two private cabins outside of the village suitable for a couple or those who prefer a little privacy - please enquire within for fee.

Bedroom (Double)
Food & Beverages

All meals are animal friendly (vegan), breakfast is all help yourself from various cereals , toast, coffee and tea. Lunches and Dinners are prepared during the week with volunteers helping on weekends - tea and coffee are provided.

Internet Access
Good access at the project site
Costs
4 weeks (min. stay)
$790
5 weeks
$987
6 weeks
$1185
7 weeks
$1382
8 weeks
$1579
9 weeks
$1776
12 weeks (max. stay)
$2368

You can volunteer at the project site in Letsitele/South Africa between 4 weeks and 12 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. Vervet Monkey Foundation will tell you your final price during your application process.
Average Fees
$197/week
Deposit (20%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (80%)
Your final payment must be made up to 30 days before to the volunteer program starts. This payment is also securely handled by PayPal or credit card.

Get ready to volunteer in South Africa

Check out first

Visa Regulations
Depending on your nationality, you have to arrange your visa for South Africa. Please check the visa regulations for South Africa.
Travel Seasons
Find out the best time to volunteer in South Africa and receive information on weather and climatic conditions.
Living Costs
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Budgeting
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in South Africa.

What's next?

Airport
The nearest airport is Oliver Reginald Tambo International (Jan Smuts International) (JNB) in Johannesburg. We assist you to find cheap flights to South Africa.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for South Africa provides security and is a plus to have.
Vaccine Checker
If you are intending to volunteer in South Africa you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for South Africa.
Free-time
What can you do in leisure-time in South Africa while you are not working at your volunteer opportunity?
Packing List
Packing our bags is important to prepare your trip, but often turns into a last minute horror. Make sure you don't forget the essentials by creating a personalised packing list for your volunteer program in South Africa upfront.
Plot 35 California, Tarentaalrand, 0885 Letsitele, South Africa