Elephant Care and Research

South Africa

Join an active research team collecting data on African elephants to guide best practice management of captive elephants worldwide. Work hands on with the elephants providing care and enrichment. Live on the famous Garden Route which is ideally located to explore South Africa.

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Key Info

key info
  • Location: Western Cape
  • Start dates: Throughout the year - see role section
  • Duration: 3 - 12 weeks
  • Age requirement: 18+
  • Availability: Very limited spaces until 2017
  • Cost: From £995 / €1195 / $1345 - see fees table below

Project Information

Volunteer role: What will I be doing?

Volunteers contribute to all aspects of elephant research, education, husbandry and conservation, this creates an awe-inspiring experience. Volunteers’ main activities will be assisting with research, this depends on the research being conducted at the time but could include:

  • Monitoring and recording behaviour; including social interactions and feeding behaviour
  • Night time observations
  • Botanical surveys
  • Dung, urine and other sampling for analysis
  • Data input and analysis

Volunteer other jobs are varied but may include the following elephant care tasks:

  • Preparing food for the elephants
  • Making elephant enrichments
  • General maintenance e.g. mucking out pens, general cleaning, painting
  • Environmental education including visits to the children’s shelter to run eco-educational activities
  • Gardening; growing food for the elephants
  • Dung recycling projects (this helps to raise funds for the research unit)
  • Preparing milk bottles and feeding baby elephants (this will depend on whether there are any babies at the time)

Working days and hours

Volunteers normally work 5 days a week (Monday to Friday) with weekends off. Generally volunteers start at 6.30am and finish at 5.30pm.

Other volunteers

There are usually 8-12 volunteers at the project at any one time, with a maximum of 12.

Start dates

2016: 24 Oct, 5 Dec

2017: 6 Feb, 27 Feb, 20 Mar, 10 Apr, 1 May, 22 May, 12 Jun, 3 Jul, 24 Jul, 14 Aug, 4 Sep, 25 Sep, 16 Oct, 6 Nov, 27 Nov, 18 Dec

Volunteer reviews

Read about volunteer experiences and challenges in our South Africa Elephant Care and Research reviews.

Why are volunteers needed?

Volunteers help the park staff to feed and care for nine elephants which is no small task! Volunteers are an incredibly important part of the park and its research unit. They enable the park to include more individual elephants in their studies and to study these animals for longer periods of time, which allows for greater insight and understanding of this fascinating species.

Having volunteers to assist with the research has allowed the park to include additional projects into their schedule. The knowledge gained from this research adds to the advice they are able to provide for the optimal care and management of captive elephants. This is crucial for the wellbeing of captive elephants around the world.

Volunteers act as ambassadors for the park and its elephants by helping to spread the word about elephants and their research, welfare and conservation issues.

“Without volunteers, many of our research projects and husbandry duties like providing enrichment for the elephants wouldn’t be accomplished. By having trained volunteers in the field monitoring them we can see on a daily basis the changes in behaviour and even spot medical issues before they become problematic. They also show that people all around the world want to care and protect elephants.”Abi, Volunteer Coordinator

How is the Elephant Care and Research project making a difference?

The park began work in 1994 aiming to bring elephants back to the area after numbers had plummeted from 400-500 down to just 1. The park was the first captive elephant operation of its kind in South Africa.

The park provides a home to elephants in need, providing them with an improved environment, healthy diet, enrichment and access to veterinary care. The elephants are free to spend their days roaming within the 110 hectare park!

They highlighted the serious lack of research done on captive elephants in South Africa, particularly with respect to their welfare and husbandry, within their own unique environments. Consequently, in 2009 the park established the first captive elephant research unit dedicated to captive elephants.

The unit conducts and facilitates research studies and promotes ethical, non-harmful research of the elephants on site and at other parks across South Africa. This research aims to guide management of captive elephants to promote the best possible care. Information that is also relevant to wild elephants will be used to improve their protection and conservation. The park aims to achieve conservation through education.

Where will I be living?

You’ll be living in the park which is located near Plettenberg Bay which is on the famous Garden Route (a popular tourist route due to its great beaches and numerous attractions).

The volunteer house is on site and contains comfortable dorm style bedrooms. The rooms may be shared with two or three other volunteers on a same sex basis. Each bedroom has an en-suite bathroom with a toilet and shower. Volunteers have WIFI internet access at the volunteer accommodation. There is a fully equipped kitchen in the house for volunteers to prepare food and there is a dining area a living room where volunteers can socialise.

During your free time you are encouraged to explore the local area. You may wish to explore the variety of tourist attractions that the Garden Route offers, these include bird sanctuaries, game and nature reserves, Monkeyland, whale watching, bungee jumping, surfing, sky diving and many more.

What's Included?

Before you go:

  • Carefully selected and vetted volunteer project
  • Support from our friendly and highly experienced Pod UK team Single point of contact - Erin is your dedicated placement manager
  • In-depth Volunteering Guide on your volunteering placement
  • Travel information - visa, health and safety advice
  • Access to specialist travel insurance at exclusive rates
  • Recommended travel agency for flights and tours
  • Access to special deals and resources
  • Fundraising guide and support
  • Financial protection for monies paid to Pod

On your placement:

  • Animal research volunteering placement
  • Airport pick up (George) and return transfers
  • Accommodation - a shared room
  • Induction and training
  • T-shirt
  • Onsite support from local team
  • Support from Pod UK office by phone and email
  • 24/7 emergency back up
  • Incident Management and Emergency Response Plans

On your return:

  • Contact from your placement manager
  • Feedback scheme
  • Volunteering certificate (on request)
  • References (on request)
  • Member of the Pod community

Not included: Flights, travel insurance, visa (if required), food. Budgeting guidance is provided in our Volunteering Guide which we will email you when you apply.

Pod Volunteer is run as a non-profit organisation. Fee levels are set to match costs and any surplus monies are distributed to the projects we work with via the Pod Charity.
Price table
3 weeks £995 GB Pounds
4 weeks £1295 GB Pounds
Extra weeks £225 GB Pounds
Apply

Fees in currencies other than GBP are indicative only and volunteers are invoiced in GBP. For current exchange rates please see www.xe.com

2000+

hours of research conducted each year

"Pod is a no nonsense volunteer organisation looking to change lives"Cian

Erin

Pod UK Manager

Erin has visited the project, apply and you'll hear from her soon!

We look forward to receiving your application! There is no commitment by applying and we will send more information.

Apply

VOLUNTEER REVIEWS

  • South Africa Elephant Care and Research volunteer – Anthony

    “I had an awesome time and will definitely come back - the local people, guides, staff and fellow volunteers were all amazing. One of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences I've ever undertaken.”

    Read more volunteer reviews
  • South Africa Elephant Care and Research volunteer – Bastiaan

    “Having been able to contribute in the research and care of these magnificent animals fills me with pride and working together with other volunteers has been a tremendous joy. The weeks truly flew by.”

    Read more volunteer reviews
  • South Africa Elephant Care and Research volunteer – Kirsten

    “This trip was, amazing! Every one of my expectations were exceeded, and I can see now how others who have volunteered on this project fell so hard in love with the people, the environment and of course the Elephants.”

    Read more volunteer reviews

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AWARDS AND ACCREDITATIONS

  • Wall Street Journal
  • Best Volunteering Organisation
  • Year Out Group
  • Sunday Times
  • the independent
  • theguardian
  • DOFE
  • Right Tourism
  • Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust
  • Tourism Concern

POD VOLUNTEER

RESPONSIBLE VOLUNTEERING
Sustainable needs-based volunteering projects that have lasting and positive impact on the local community. Volunteers of all ages are needed to make a difference overseas.

Pod IS A NON-PROFIT ORGANISATION WITH ASSOCIATED CHARITY
Structured to minimise costs for volunteers and maximise benefits for the projects we support.

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