Leopard MonitoringSouth Africa

This award winning and Fair Trade Tourism certified conservation project focuses on the monitoring and conservation of leopards using remote camera trapping.

Volunteers work in a small group of up to 5 alongside a knowledgeable team of field and research staff. Getting out into the African bush on the back of 4x4 vehicles, you will help the team with their leopard monitoring activities as well as other wildlife you may encounter, including the Big 5.

You will have the chance to live and work on a reserve in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, surrounded by the African wilderness and its fascinating wildlife!

Help the local team conduct Leopard population surveys working alongside Panthera, the international wild cat organisation.

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Key Info

key info
  • Location: KwaZulu-Natal
  • Start dates: Throughout the year
  • Duration: 2 - 12 weeks
  • Age requirement: 18+ (groups also welcome)
  • Availability: Spaces available
  • Cost: From £1295 / €1425 / $1605 - see fees table below
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Project Information

Volunteer role: What will I be doing?

The work focuses on using remote camera trapping on a number of different game reserves. 

For each survey location the team drive to, volunteers may be involved in:

  • Setting up and taking down camera traps at different locations
  • Checking the cameras and positioned correctly (they may get knocked by curious animals!)
  • Changing the batteries and downloading the images to review back at camp
  • Clearing vegetation or making natural protection for the cameras
  • Transferring all the photos onto a computer back at camp and then sorting and categorising them using the computer
  • Helping to create identity kits for each animal
  • Recording other animals sighted during the drives and collating photographs of other priority species for monitoring purposes, such as rhino, elephant, lion, cheetah, African wild dog

The camera trap surveys are used to estimate the leopard population levels and changes over time. The stations are set up along roads, animal paths and areas that the leopards are likely to visit such as river beds. Each station has two camera traps, to record both the left and right hand side of the leopard for accurate identification.

The survey work has a direct impact on protecting the leopard population in South Africa. As leopards range very widely, when they venture beyond park boundaries they come under many different threats. This can include being hunted for their skins or being killed by farmers protecting their livestock. Unfortunately, the population has declined as a result of these high hunting levels.

Through the monitoring and data collected by the camera trap surveys, it has helped to advance leopard conservation and directly influences policy makers and laws on leopard hunting and control.

The surveys are conducted on different reserves in the KwataZulu-Natal province for a period of around 8 weeks at each location. The reserve the local team operate on is dependent on where there is a need for data collection on particular leopard populations. Reserves have included Ithala Game Reserve, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, Tembe Park, uMkhuze Game Reserve, Manyoni Game Reserve and iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

Endangered Wildlife Conservation role

The team are also looking for volunteers to join the Endangered Wildlife Conservation project

Typical day

Volunteers normally work 5 days a week with camera downloads on 4 days of the week, taking around 4-7 hours each day. After the camera trap sites have been visited and the photographs have been catalogued, you are free to relax at the camp on your days off.

Each 2 weeks volunteers travel back to airport and switch around for the next 2 weeks, picking up new arrivals and dropping off departing volunteers.

Other volunteers

There are usually 2-5 volunteers at on each reserve at any one time with a maximum of 5, allowing you to work closely with the wildlife team.

Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) award

This placement has been approved by the DofE as meeting the requirements for the Residential section of the Gold Award.

Local support

You will be supported by the local conservation and research team who you will work with and live alongside at the research bases.

Accommodation

Volunteers live on research bases which are located within the reserve the team are working on at the time. The bases are basic and functional but it’s an amazing experience as you are surrounded by forest, grasslands or bush, where you can enjoy the daily animal and bird activity in and around your new home!

SA EWC volunteer bedroom

Accommodation is basic but comfortable. Volunteers normally will share a room with 1-2 volunteers of the same gender, and there are separate shared bathrooms and a living/eating area. There is an outside seating area where you can sit at night under a blanket of stars. There is electricity, running water and flushing toilets.

Endangered Wildlife Conservation camp

There is limited WIFI at the bases so we recommend bringing an unlocked mobile phone and buying a local SIM card to access the internet.

Meals

Each base has a kitchen and ingredients are provided to prepare 3 meals a day. Volunteers normally help themselves to breakfast and lunch and either take turns or cook together for dinner.

Breakfast is normally porridge or toast. Typically lunch and dinner meals are rice/potato or pasta alongside meat or vegan substitute accompanied by cooked vegetables or salad. There is fruit available.

Vegetarians and vegans are welcomed and can be catered for, with beans, lentils, oatmeal and spinach available.

Location and free time

Volunteers work in small teams in the Northern KwaZulu-Natal region. The team conducts surveys rotating through a variety of reserves in the area, with each reserve having its own unique mix of wildlife that is encountered. Although the focus will be on the leopard population, the region is famous for having the highest biodiversity per square kilometre in Africa so you have the opportunity to encounter more wildlife than almost any other place you can visit in Africa! 

South African reserve

Most free time is spent at your research base during breaks between daily monitoring drives and in the evenings relaxing around a camp fire under the stars listening to the sounds of the African bush! There are also normally 2 days a week when you will not be scheduled to work on the camera traps so volunteers can use this opportunity to relax at camp.

If staying longer than 2 weeks, you will also get to spend some time in the local village / town on the fortnightly transfer weekends.

Travelling in South Africa before or after your placement

Popular activities in South Africa that you might like to combine with your project are:

  • Exploring the region which has a rich cultural backdrop, the traditional homeland of the Zulu nation
  • Visiting the nearby coastal towns of St Lucia and Sodwana Bay with whale watching, boat rides, snorkelling and scuba diving available
  • Travelling the beautiful coastline along the Garden Route
  • Visiting Cape Town and sampling some of the famous regional wines

For more information on South Africa and some of the things we loved when we visited there please see our South Africa country page. This also features all our other South Africa volunteering projects as you might like to consider combining this project with one of the others we offer to make a trip of a lifetime!

South Africa

Climate

There are hot and humid, rainy summers between October and April, and mild, dry winters between May and September. In the summer temperatures average around 30 degrees Celsius, but at times peak around 35-40 degrees Celsius. In the winter the mornings and evenings can be cold (especially on the back of a vehicle as you drive through the bush) but by midday temperatures are usually 20-25 degrees Celsius.

Dates

2019: 12 Aug, 26 Aug, 9 Sep, 23 Sep, 7 Oct, 21 Oct, 4 Nov, 18 Nov*

2020: TBC

* 2 week maximum duration on this start date

What’s Included

Included

  • Dedicated Pod Volunteer Specialist to support you
  • Accommodation - a simple shared room
  • Food - all main meals
  • Induction
  • Support from the local team
  • Support from the Pod Volunteer UK office by phone and email
  • 24/7 emergency back up
  • Volunteering certificate and reference (on request)

Not included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Vaccinations and medication
  • Transfers to / from the project
  • Living costs - snacks, drinks, laundry
  • Any tourist trips / activities you choose to do in your free time
Price table
2 weeks £1295 GB Pounds
Each additional 2 weeks £800 GB Pounds
Transfer fee £140 GB Pounds

Discounts

  • £75 discount for every additional project you book as part of the same trip
  • £75 discount if you have previously volunteered with Pod Volunteer 

Where the money goes - financial transparency

Your fee covers the overseas costs of volunteering and the costs of running our organisation in the UK, on a non-profit basis.  For more details and a breakdown of our costs please click here.

Book with confidence - financial protection

All monies paid to us are financially protected through The Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust Limited (ABTOT). 

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

Read volunteer reviews from the Leopard Monitoring project

Boris - 2019

"If you want to get really involved in nature and conservation, I think this would be the perfect first step for you. If you want to do something with wildlife, but you’re not 100% sure of what to do or where to begin, the team are a really good bet. It’s not about saving the world in 2 weeks or however long you’re going to spend there; it’s about being conscious  of the reality of what’s going on in Africa and how you can change something or contribute to a worthy cause. I learned a lot during my time with the team and feel that I now have the tools to spread the word and keep the wheel turning!"

William - 2018

"Possibly the best experience of my life. I learned so much, and it was something that will benefit my studies in biology. Seeing that there actually are other people with as much passion for wildlife as me, has given me new faith in the future of our planet."

Sandy - 2018

"Volunteering in South Africa with this program was definitely one of the best choices I’ve made in my undergraduate career, and I am truly grateful for having chosen such a phenomenal program that carries out real conservation."
 

6,460

cameras deployed over 10 years

"It was an amazing experience that will stay with me forever! Pod Volunteer provided the ideal amount of support and guidance"Satvinder

Iona

Pod UK Specialist

Apply and you'll hear from Iona soon!

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

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VOLUNTEER REVIEWS

  • South Africa Endangered Wildlife Conservation volunteer – Chris

    "Every morning we went in search for either lion, wild dog, or the cheetahs, and every morning and afternoon there was something different to chase"

  • South Africa Endangered Wildlife Conservation volunteer – Deb

    "An opportunity to work alongside wildlife experts, a chance to meet other volunteers from around the world, and have unforgettable wildlife sightings"

  • South Africa Endangered Wildlife Conservation volunteer – Tina

    "With each project you get to be part of real conservation, learning from amazingly dedicated and knowledgeable wildlife monitors"

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AWARDS AND ACCREDITATIONS

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