Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The project is located on the outskirts of the town of Victoria Falls; a stone's throw away from the magnificent thundering waters of the Falls.
About the project
Over 200,000 lions used to roam the African continent, as recently as 1975. The latest estimates show an 80 - 90% population decline in the last 30 years. The end objective of the Victoria Falls' lion project, is the reintroduction of the offspring of captive-bred lions into the wild by means of a four-stage process, which you, as a volunteer, will learn more about during your involvement with the project.
This breeding and rehabilitation project is the World's first and is supported by leading ecologists in this field. We invite volunteers to walk and to work with African lions and to be involved in the in-depth research and data-collection activities. Spending time with the lions in the wild each day is an essential part of the cub's upbringing. If the cubs are to be released into the wild, it is important that they spend time in that environment. They need to adapt to it, learn from it, understand, observe, feel and smell the wild.
As a volunteer you will also work with the CCWA research team and National Parks' rangers on any number of conservation activities and teach about conservation in a local school.
On arrival at the Victoria Falls project, the following orientation will take place:
You will receive your volunteer's manual which includes information that will help with your integration into the project, as well as give you further tips for your stay.
Introduction to all the Project's senior staff and heads of departments
Familiarization with the work areas - including rivers, internal roads and tracks and some of the wildlife species
Introduction to the lions and cub enclosures
Briefing on how to complete data capture forms and enter data into the computer systems
Further information on the lion breeding programme and our ultimate objective of releasing lions into the wild
Familiarization with all your duties
Volunteer work and contribution
The involvement of volunteers on the Project is paramount to achieving our aims on all fronts. You can expect days to be long: but you will also be able to end each day knowing that you have given something back to Africa; having made a difference to the animals and people that you come into contact with.
Your primary task whilst on placement will be to assist management and their team of guides, handlers and scouts in all aspects of care for the animals in their charge; giving them the opportunities to develop their natural instincts in preparation for their release into the next stage of the program.
Research is a significant part of your role; collecting data not only on the development of the lions, but also joining our research team in the Zambezi & Victoria Falls National Parks.
You will also help us with our various community programs that may include conservation or health education as well as a number of other projects that you will told about on arrival.
To give you an idea of how your time will be split between the different aspects of the program, the following should be taken as an approximation:
Lion Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild Program 75%
Conservation work within the National Parks 20%
Conservation Education & Community Development 5%
Your daily tasks may include:
Lion Walks. Spending time with the lions in the wild each day is an essential part of the cubs upbringing. If the cubs are to be successfully released it is important that they spend time out in a natural environment. They need to adapt to it, learn from it, understand, observe, feel and smell the wild.
Since the start of this intensive lion walking programme, we have noted a marked increase in the lions' awareness of their natural surroundings, as well as an improvement in their hunting skills. The larger cubs are now able to take down smaller game species whilst out on walks, and these abilities are being enhanced each day whilst under the supervision of volunteers. These are invaluable discoveries, which have earned us further international support for our endeavours.
In addition to the walks, you will be involved in the care of the animals who spend the night in enclosures. They need feeding, cleaning, and occasionally veterinary care to ensure that they are kept in the best of health.
As part of the program, we conduct a number of research activities to better understand lion behaviour and ecology. The lion walks offer unique opportunities to observe lions close up in their natural environment with the data collected assisting us to make the best decisions for the animal's welfare and eventual release. Volunteers will assist our research technicians in gathering and analyzing this vital data. The research studies being undertaken whilst on your placement will vary depending on the needs of the project at the time; but may include looking at the development of hunting character traits, spoor sizes or mane growth. You will receive all the training you need in order to ensure that you are able to provide valuable input to this program regardless of previous experience.
Work in the National Parks: There is a vast amount to do to keep a National Park ecosystem healthy, and this project is blessed by having two unique parks right on its doorstep. As a volunteer you will work with the research team and National Parks' rangers on any number of conservation activities that may include some or all of the following, based on National Parks needs at the time of your placement:
Assisting in the development of a new waterhole and renovation of a tourist observation tower;
Camping out overnight to conduct a game census to see what animals come to drink. You may see herds of elephant and buffalo or maybe an elusive leopard.
Conduct surveys of tourist movement patterns within the Park to assist in better management of the area to reduce soil erosion from the numerous vehicles in the Park;
Conduct surveys of the wild lion population, tracking spoor (the signs left behind by an animal as it moves through the Bush, such as paw prints); taking photographs for identification; and recording important information so we can gain a better understanding of the species within the Park;
Carry out snare sweeps to remove the wires set by poachers to catch illegally animals that inhabit the Park;
Work with local communities to mitigate lion/human conflict.
Teach a conservation class. Volunteers will join our conservation education program visiting local schools to garner support for conservation through education. The syllabus was originally devised under the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) "We Care!" project and adapted to Zimbabwe by The Curriculum Unit of the Zimbabwe Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture. Lesson plans are designed to offer children a full understanding of their environment and to build an appreciation for the need to conserve what remains of the wild areas of Zimbabwe. Each lesson may focus on a specific species or introduce conservation methods. Learning is achieved through a mixture of classroom-based talks and discussion as well as involving the children in smaller groups and practical activities such as visits to the lion programme or to Victoria Falls.
You will be staying at our volunteer house, in the town of Victoria Falls (10 minutes drive away from Masuwe). You will share a room with no more than 2 other volunteers, and we can also arrange for couples or groups of friends to share rooms. The accommodation is simple and rustic but comfortable and completely suited to your needs.
The house, a 20 minute walk to town, has satellite television, a swimming pool and barbeque area and lovely green lawns!
Volunteers are provided with 3 meals a day. Breakfast is at the guides' quarters at Masuwe Safari area, where the lions are based and lunch is back at Hunters House.
Not just work...There are a huge number of optional activities and trips that are available to you, at additional cost, whilst on your placement. Here are just a few ideas:
On your time off why not take advantage of the multitude of activities available at Victoria Falls itself, Africa's "adrenaline capital"; there are helicopter or microlight flights over the Falls; bungee jumping; white water rafting; horse rides; elephant rides; game drives; gorge jumps; skydiving; canoeing and a host of other options. There are also day and weekend trips available to neighbouring Botswana.
Min age 17 - Max age 80
Good physical fitness
Motivation to work with animals
Full travel & medical insurance
Immunizations (please consult your doctor)
To apply for this program, see Lion Rehabilitation and Conservation