Whether you have always wanted to volunteer abroad, you have an interest in conservation or you're making some epic gap year travel plans, a lion rehabilitation program on the banks of the Zambezi river is a great place to start.
The bragging rights are pretty high on this one - how many people can say they spend their days hanging out with the King of the Jungle? Not to mention rehabilitating cubs, researching the behaviour of elephants and teaching local children about the importance of conservation. What better way to work abroad than split your time between kids and animals? Life will just be that much cuter.
Contribute to the conservation efforts of the iconic African lion whilst living in a UNESCO World Heritage Site
With lion populations estimated to have declined by an astonishing 80% since 1975, new approaches to lion conservation are necessary to ensure their long term survival. The estimated number of lions in Africa today is as low as 32,000. Lion populations have continued to decline, with up to 18 sub-populations believed to have existed in 2002 having now been confirmed as extinct.
Our partnered project team have established an approach to lion conservation that incorporates the needs of lions, the ecosystems on which they rely and the communities that surround them.
The African Lion & Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) have developed a responsible development programme, using African solutions to African challenges. Through working with local communities as an integral part of conservation, the benefits created by your actions as a volunteer will hopefully inspire local people to protect the wildlife that surrounds them.
You will join the team at their operation in Livingstone - Zambia's gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Victoria Falls. The project operates within the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and in the rural communities surrounding the area.
What it's all About...
This volunteer project forms part of the ground breaking 'Lion Rehabilitation Programme' which was launched by African Impact at Antelope Park back in 2004. In an attempt to offset the rapid decline of lion populations, the team have initiated a staged lion rehabilitation programme that aims to release cubs of captive bred lions in to appropriate national parks & reserves across Africa where they can one day have their own wild-born offspring.
The release programme has so far successfully released two prides in to fenced-wild areas and these prides are having wild-born cubs of their own. The two prides are located at Antelope Park in Zimbabwe and Livingstone in Zambia.
Your time on the project will be spent on the following key areas...
You'll take part in a number of research activities to better understand lion behaviour and ecology. Volunteers will assist research technicians in gathering and analysing crucial data obtained during the walks. The research studies that take place during your time on the project will vary depending on the needs of the project at the time but may include looking at hunting development, character traits, spoor (paw print tracks) sizes or mane growth.
You'll help to care for the captive founder breeding group of lions, and those lions awaiting release that all need constant care. You'll be involved in behaviour enrichment, enclosure cleaning and meat prep as part of your daily schedule.
(Apr-Oct) Just incase hanging out with the king of the jungle wasn't quite exciting enough you'll also be spending time with the local elephants, making sure they are in good shape, checking out who they're choosing to spend their time with and ultimately keeping them out of trouble in the community.
As a volunteer, you'll visit the local schools to teach the kiddos about taking care of their environment, appreciating what remains in the wild areas of Zambia and ensuring that they have a full understanding of the impact they can make in their community. You may even take your children on field trips to visit those lions you know and love.
A day in the Life of a Volunteer...
Here's an example of a typical weekday on the project. Remember that this serves as a guideline only and we ask that you remain flexible as animals rarely operate to our schedule.
7:30am - It's breakfast time at the base so stock up as you prepare for your day ahead.
8:00am - You'll split up in to 2 groups, one heading off to a nearby school to begin conservation classes and the other group will be cleaning or feeding the cubs. This work can also include conducting snare sweeps and litter picking.
12:30pm - It's lunch time and your chance to relax in the middle of the day.
2:30pm - Your afternoon duties will include behaviour enrichment for the lions so food prep, research with the pride, completing surveys or snare sweeps. If you're working with the schools there will also be time at least once a week for lesson preparation with support of the local team.
7:00pm - It's dinner time at the volunteer house. Venture off in to the town of Livingstone or chill out under the blanket of stars that fill the Southern skies, taking in all the sounds of the African bush.
Accommodation & Meals
The volunteer accommodation is simple, yet comfortable. You'll probably have a roommate or two so you won't have time to get lonely and if you're planning on doing this trip with friends then you'll all be bunked in together. Don't worry about missing your luxuries either, the house has hot and cold water and electricity. You will also be well-fed by the reserve chefs up at the house, for some real home cooking.
Age & Required Experience
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have a clean criminal background
- No specific experience is required but you should have a passion for wildlife and conservation.
Project Duration & Start Dates
This project is available from 2 to 4 weeks, the most common duration being 2 weeks. The start dates are every Monday.
5th, 12th, 19th & 26th September
3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th & 31st October
7th, 14th, 21st & 28th November
5th, 12th, 19th & 26th December
Project Support & Orientation
Throughout the duration of your project, you'll have the support and guidance of our experienced project managers and coordinators. They are all part of the support team who will provide 24/7 field support and assistance.
On arrival at the project, you'll go through a detailed orientation including:
- Introduction to all senior project staff and heads of department
- Familiarisation of your work duties and the work areas
- Briefing on how to complete data capture forms
You will be collected and dropped off at Livingstone Airport (also known as Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport) on the start date of your project. A project staff member will be there to greet you and transfer you to the volunteer base. Most volunteers connect in Johannesburg, South Africa and fly onto Livingstone from there.
- Airport pick-up and drop off from Livingstone Airport
- Orientation upon arrival
- All daily transfers to and from your projects
- Full board and lodging which includes 3 meals a day
- Laundry service
- Assistance at your projects by experienced staff and volunteer coordinators
Around 70% of your total fee goes directly back in to the project. The fee facilitates funding for items such as food for lions, management and maintenance of park infrastructure and the development of the lion breeding and rehabilitation program.
What's Not Included?
- All items of a personal nature
- Extra excursions
- Soft drinks and other food items not included in your meals
Where will you be?
Livingstone lies in southwest Zambia, a few kilometers from the Zambezi River and the border of Zimbabwe. The Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site that's home to one half of Victoria Falls. Your volunteer accommodation is located within the national park away from all the hustle and bustle of the city.
There is an abundance of awesome excursions you can do during your time off...make sure you see and do as much as you can whilst you're in such a stunning location!
Weather & Climate
May - August: These are the cooler months and temperatures can be very chilly in the evenings and early morning.
September - November: Hot and dry.
December - April: Days and nights get very hot and sticky. You'll need light clothes although there may be a day where the temperature drops. It's a time of heavy rain, especially between mid-November and mid-February.