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Conservation Volunteer Placement Positions at UmPhafa Private Nature Reserve, South Africa

Action for the Wild

Salary: Paying volunteer


The UmPhafa Private Nature Reserve, situated in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, is a 5,000 hectare reserve comprised of three farms previously managed for cattle and encompasses a wide range of habitats from acacia savannah and bushveld to mountainous terrain. Due to previous agricultural practices much of the natural inhabiting species had been lost. The aim of Action for the Wild is to rehabilitate UmPhafa as an example of the regions previous natural condition.

Although some mammal populations remained and have thrived since the reserve was established, many more species have been reintroduced and UmPhafa is now home to a wide range of fauna including white rhino, giraffe, kudu, impala, common reedbuck, mountain reedbuck, zebra, blesbok, red hartebeest, waterbuck, nyala, warthog, aardvark and porcupine, to name only some. Small to medium sized carnivores such as black-backed jackal, caracal, serval, genet, and several species of mongoose are also common and recently staff have been picking up more and more signs of leopard!ction for the Wild is currently offering placements at UmPhafa Reserve, in particular to those seeking to gain experience before pursuing a career in conservation, although the programme is open to anybody with a genuine love of nature and the environment.

Volunteers helping build a hide on Umphafa 
Nature Reserve.

This will be so much more than the typical safari experience and as research assistants to UmPhafa's project coordinators, participants will have a fun, interesting, exciting and, overall, valuable time by playing a crucial role in the operation of the reserve by helping to collect valuable data necessary to make key management decisions. This in itself is much more fulfilling than simply visiting Africa as a tourist and research assistants will have the satisfaction of being close to the animals and knowing that their contribution is having a direct influence on the wellbeing of the fauna of UmPhafa Reserve.

This is an opportunity to gain valuable experience in the field and learn new skills from qualified staff members over a wide range of aspects involved in the running of a reserve. Days will be varied with duties including behavioural observations on game species which often involves stalking species such as rhino and giraffe through the bush at close quarters!! Participants will also be aiding with the other current research projects, such as small mammal trapping, setting up and checking carnivore tracking stations, and camera trapping of elusive nocturnal species in order to complete the species list of the reserve and to monitor populations. Depending on the time of the year there may even be the chance to see animals released onto the reserve!!

At certain times in the year, vegetation surveys will be an important undertaking and research assistants will learn the importance of particular plant species, their traditional/medicinal uses, and vital nutritional information of the various herbivorous species. Some general maintenance of the reserve's roads, fences and structures in also often necessary and assistance will be required in the construction of hides and research camps.

There are several other reserves nearby including a ‘big 5' game park which there will be the opportunity to visit as well as the chance to visit schools in order to promote environmental education to the local community.

As competition is expected to be high for these positions, placements will be offered following a successful interview process, which will be held at Colchester Zoo. The minimum age of prospective research assistants is 20 years by the time of deployment to UmPhafa. The minimum period of stay is 4 weeks with a maximum of 12 weeks and placements are available year round. After successful application, scheduled dates of deployment will be allocated based on the applicant's preferred month of commencement.

Wildlife on Umphafa 


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