This volunteer programme does exactly what is says on the tin and more!!! The main focus is on the resident lion pride and their ecology on a fantastic reserve in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa. However, I learnt very quickly that monitoring these amazing creatures was far more rewarding them I had ever imagined. We learnt about the history, their diet preferences, the funny little habits and their very individual personalities. We got so much in-depth knowledge of about prides movements, social dynamics, habitat preferences and interactions with their entire environment. All this information plus so many outstanding photos and up close encounters.
Lions are an iconic African savannah animal which most of the visitors to this amazing country have a dream of seeing. On this volunteer project, volunteers are guaranteed to see these majestic beasts and on a regular basis. Not only that, but volunteers may get to witness some incredible encounters with other species and the ins and outs of pride life.
Now just when you though it couldn’t get much better, this project also collects data and monitors a whole array of other species via; direct observation, remote camera trapping and tracking. Species under their research include: leopard, cheetah, spotted hyena, rhino and elephant. So not only do you get to see lion, there is also a chance of seeing the other 3 species out of the "big 5" on the reserve! In addition, We also got our hands dirty and assisted with some practical habitat management tasks.
The work done by the project and indeed by the volunteers has a significant positive impact on the conservation policies and practices in South Africa. The data that volunteers and staff collect goes towards valuable wildlife management reports and well respected academic institutions databases. Conservation areas will be able to make decisions that affect the balance of ecosystems and help them to restore farmland to wilderness in a sustainable way.
Volunteer roles include:
- Determine and monitor predator numbers in the including lions, leopards, cheetahs and spotted hyaena.
- Monitor the feeding behaviour, prey selection, kill frequencies, and the ecological impact of lion and other predators in the reserve
- Monitor the social dynamics of the reserves resident lion population
- Monitor the spatial movements and territories of predators and mega herbivores in the reserve
- Habituate elephants and develop their identification kits
- Monitor the conditions of white rhino in the reserve.
- Collar and habituate resident leopards
All in all the volunteer work and general vibe at the Lion Ecology and Monitoring Programme as excellent and the work was indeed very rewarding. I was pretty tired by the end of it, but I came away with some new skills, an experience I would never forget, some new friends and some incredible photographs!
Further details are available from http://www.bluelizardadventures.com/volunteer/south_africa/lion-ecology-and-monitoring-programme.html