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LION RESEARCH PROJECT

Lions, up close and personal! Seeing a pride of lions in their natural habitat is amazing, but to study them closely, getting to know them and hearing them roar during the night, is the experience of a life time. The information gained from the research and monitoring is used to maintain a healty ecosystem and restore this reserve to its original state. The information is obtained through an intensive predator and wildlife monitoring program, which offers volunteers an incredible opportunity to learn about and contribute to conservation in one of the most diverse wildlife sanctuaries in South Africa. Why watch a nature documentary if you can experience real life in the bush?

The Project is situated in the non-commercial Selati Game Reserve with magnificent granite hills towering over the bush. It consists of just over 30,000 hectares, boasting the presence of elephant, rhino, leopard and sable antelope as well as other amazing antelope species, zebra and giraffe.

The research and monitoring program began in 2004 to assist the owners of the Selati Game Reserve to re-establish their land as prime wilderness areas. The project started when a pride of lions was first introduced. As Selati predominantly runs from the breeding of game, the lions were required to be monitored in order to ensure their impact was not exceeding their sustainability. The project also monitors the behaviour and health of the lions, as well as the predator-prey relationships. The data collected is primarily for reserve management purposes so volunteers help in keeping Selati's ecosystem balanced and sustainable. Besides the research on lions, other animals that are being monitored are elephant, leopard, cheetah, nocturnal animals such as porcupine and honey badger, and rare general game species such as sable antelope, grysbok, eland and mountain reedbuck.
Reserve management activities such as alien plant removal and road maintenance are also a priority, so volunteers will most likely get to experience the habitat and reserve management side of conservation as well.

Certain animals such as lions and leopards have been collared to track them and their movements. When (re)collaring is scheduled, volunteers are on hand and have the fantastic and unique opportunity to take part in this operation! Research of this kind plays an important role in the management of the actual and future conservation areas in South Africa.
The project is proud to announce that beginning in 2013, they are introducing an exclusive black rhino monitoring project where you and a guide will spend the day on a quad bike tracking black rhinos, an endangered species. The project is passionate and dedicated towards the conservation and protection of both black and white rhinos, which are under increasing threat from poachers for their horns. Rhino horn is more valuable than gold or cocaine and are illigally obtained to be shipped off to Vietnam or China where they are used as traditional medicine. Rhino poaching has increased exponentially since 2007 and both national parks and private game reserves are being targeted equally in this rhino war. The front-line against poaching is anti-poaching patrol teams, which you will learn about first hand while at the project. To further deter poaching and increase the protection of our rhinos, ALL of the rhino's in the reserve have been dehorned (please find more info here).
The black rhino monitoring project is an optional activity that volunteers can partake in for a nominal extra fee which solely goes towards covering the maintenance costs of the quad bike. The rhino monitoring activity is available throughout your stay on a rotary basis with other interested volunteers.

Volunteers will receive a full orientation and health and safety briefing, followed by continuous infield training in order to give them a basic understanding of the South African bush and field research.
Volunteers will help with the ongoing research by each taking an important role including map reading, GPS operation, data input and radio telemetry both on drive and back at base camp.
The presence of this project on the reserve also serves as an important deterrent to anyone who is trespassing. Volunteers will be active in the field playing a vital role in the monitoring of the animals' safety while having a great time, taking part in security activities such as night drives, sleep outs and koppie climbing. The more eyes and ears watching over the animals the better!

A day in the bush...

There is no 'normal' day but, as volunteers will be out in the bush tracking the lions (and other collared animals) twice a day, the project does run a routine that involves early mornings and late nights. Drives will leave at 5.30am in the summer and 6.30am in the winter, returning to base during the hottest part of the day for lunch, and then leaving base again at 3.00pm in the winter and 4.00pm in the summer, returning between 7.00pm and 8.00pm.

During your stay, you will have the opportunity to experience:
  • koppie (rocky outcrop) climbing where you can enjoy the beautiful landscape while keeping an eye on the animals
  • sleep out under the amazing stars, keeping the ears opened to listen to the unique bush sounds
  • bush walks with the ranger, including walks to see the lions on foot!
  • night drives to try to spot the nocturnal animals such as leopard, genets, civets, aardvarks, porcupines and much more
  • learning to identify and record the animals the data collected will be processed by both the volunteers and the staff
  • utilization of scientific instruments such as GPS and radio telemetry to locate and record the animals
  • reserve and farm management activities such as alien plant removal, road clearing and maintenance
In addition, once or twice per week, FGASA (see below) lectures on different topics (decided with input from volunteers) are organized, where you can learn about the different aspects of bush life from Arthropods to Animal Behaviour.

Volunteers come from all over the world, their ages vary from 18 to 75 and they all share a great passion for nature, animals and conservation! The activities are not overly challenging, but a reasonable level of physical fitness will be required, as the weather can become fairly hot and humid, especially during the summer months.
During you stay at this project you will be the real protagonist in helping to collect the data which forms the major part of the research, taking part in activities including:
  • Determine and monitor predator numbers in the reserve including lions, leopards, spotted hyenas and cheetahs
  • 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 lion population
  • Monitor the spatial movements and territories of predators and mega herbivores in the reserve
  • Habituate elephants and develop their identification kits
  • Collar and habituate resident predators and mega herbivores
FGASA: Field Guides Association of Southern Africa

The official training to become a field guide!
For the long term volunteers who would like to spend at least 8 weeks at the project, there is the possibility to be trained for the theory aspect of the Level 1 FGASA exam.

Included in the programme:
  • 2 FGASA classes per week covering all modules in the Level 1 curriculum
  • First aid course - one day certificate specific to the requirements of life in the bush (included in the price)
  • Basic game ranch management principles
  • Experience in walking safaris
  • Practical training in tracking and identification of various animals in the field
  • Use fo large calibre rifle, practical including 5 shots
  • 4x4 vehicle theory and practical, learning how to drive in different terrains
All volunteers choosing this option will leave with a Certificate of Completion of the FGASA Level 1 Modules.
For the volunteers that would like to take an extra step and attempt to gain their FGASA Level 1 qualification, the project will be happy to assist them through independent study and staff support while on the programme. The staff will help the volunteer with FGASA registration and will inform him/her about the dates of the assessments. This is a great opportunity to gain a certified game ranger qualification in South Africa!

Excursions

Whilst at the project, there will be opportunities to visit the attractions in and around the local area. The staff will help in the organization of these trips. It is possible to hire the projects' vehicle for some of the trips, as well as a guide. In the case of a longer journey, it is suggested to hire a car with one of the local car hire companies.
Click here for program costs

Accommodation:
Volunteers will live in a simple but comfortable farmhouse in a secluded location on the Selati Game Reserve. From the base, the view of the hills and plains is magnificent. There is no fence around base camp and wildlife can walk where ever they want. It wouldn't be the first time a hyena invited itself to a braai (bbq). So it's just you and the African wilderness!
The house can host up to 14 volunteers. Accommodation is communal with 2 backpacker-style bedrooms, divided between males and females. There is also the possibility to have a private room with a double bed. The bathrooms are inside the house and are shared by the volunteers. The camp is also provided with a communal lapa, braai (bbq) area, and a small pool.

This is a green project, running of solar power: this means that charging your camera e.g. can be limited at times depending on the weather and power requirements of the base, but generally the power is available 24/7. Wifi internet is available to volunteers with personal devices, alternatively the projects' laptop can be hired for e-mails.
The cold water from the tap is drinkable and piping hot water is supplied by a wood-fired boiler.

Volunteers cook for the group with provided ingredients and do the washing up according to a duty roster.
Laundry can be done privately, but the volunteers also have the option of having the housekeeper wash and dry personal items at a small charge.

Price Includes:
  • Accommodation
  • 3 meals a day (self catering, ingredients provided)
  • Tea, coffee, juice, fruit
  • All training for the research of the wild lions, and the research itself
  • Subject related field trips
  • a substantial donation to the project
  • Transport to and from the project
Not included:
  • Laundry, which can be done for a nominal fee
  • Personal expenses such as toiletries, excursions, internet use, etc
  • Rhino monitoring activity: nominal fee of approximately 20 euros per 4 weeks to cover maintenance costs of the quad bike

Group size: 1-14 volunteers

Minimum stay: You can stay from 2 weeks up to 12 weeks. We encourage you to spend at least 4 weeks at the project to get the most out of your experience!

We aim to give you as much information as possible on our website, but please feel free to contact us if you have any queries!

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