Places where SA wildlife lovers can train and volunteer

Posted by Gabrielle Jacobs on 11 January 2019

Wildlife conservation is essential for protecting the country’s beautiful and often endangered resources.

As a result, college and training programmes which specialise in environmental studies are particularly important for the environment and improving career prospects for both young South Africans and global citizens.

The future and wellbeing of our resources lies in the hands of (extra-)ordinary people, and especially the future generations, so why not lend a hand or consider a career in conservation?

Supplied: Southern African Wildlife College.

Nature-lovers can volunteer at these organisations that have made conservation and eco-training their priority and passion:

Southern African Wildlife College

The Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) campus is based at the Kempiana Nature Reserve in Hoedspruit, Limpopo.

It offers short courses ranging from a few days to a few weeks, as well as ‘Youth Access’ courses which can be designed as bridging courses and which cover First Aid and leadership training among other practical and theoretical environmental education subjects. The SAWC also offers two year-long courses accredited with the Council on Higher Education.

The college’s Kruger K9 unit was the recent joint winner of the 2018 Kudu Award for its conservation efforts.


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Ponagatso Mogakane (right) and Dog Handler, Precious Malapane (left) an ex- Youth Access: Bridging Course student during Dog Unit visit. As we near the end of the year, it is good to look back on some of the progress and achievements that have featured throughout the year. In our Youth Access and Community Development department, four students from the 2018 Youth Access: Bridging Programme class have found employment at Timbavati Nature Reserve with one graduate student having found employment at SANParks. The first two students were funded by Timbavati Foundation, followed by the third and fourth students who were funded by the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust. Thank you to our generous sponsors. The department is also currently training 10 youths from the community around Mnisi Traditional Authority, who are being trained in Conservation General Assistant Skills Programme as well as foundational communication. @unitedforwildlife has funded the seven-week programme that came to completion on 14 December last year. #k9unit #youthaccess #conservation #conservationtraining #education #communitydevelopment #antipoaching #southernafricanwildlifecollege #wildlifecollege #community #antipoachingdogs #timbavatifoundation #hanshoheisencharitabletrust #unitedforwildlife #orijendog @orijenacanasa

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Established in 1968, the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) is dedicated to seabird rehabilitation. SANCCOB runs internship programmes throughout the year and offers a hands-on experience for committed volunteers and young people. Visit the SANCCOB site for more details.


Centre for Rehabilitation of Wildlife

KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) was founded 30 years ago and assists over 3,000 animals every year. Volunteers (from 16 years and up) are needed all year-round to help feed and care for hundreds of animals. CROW volunteers are welcome over the weekends or during the school holidays, but spring and summer are CROW’s peak seasons.

While the centre offers a year-long training programme in basic skills and rehabilitation, those with proficiency in other fields are welcome as well. CROW’s three to six-month internship programmes accommodate students (primarily graduates and post-grads) who need experience or would like to get experience in marketing, fundraising, PR and media communication-related fields.




Last year, the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), in partnership with the Department of Environmental Affairs, implemented the year-long Youth Environmental Services (YES) Programme in eight municipalities in the Northern Cape and Free State, wherein young people (18-35 years) were able to receive training in environmental matters in a work-integrated environment.

Apart from its eco-schools and education centres in KZN and Limpopo, WESSA’s volunteering prospects are broad and cater to various skills and careers. You can find out more about the society’s EcoCampus, international exchange initiatives, entrepreneurial development, and eco-journalism programmes.


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Celebrating the Big Five and Little Five! We’re appraising the many successes achieved by the andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve and Africa Foundation WESSA Eco-Schools project – an environmental education project that was launched in the Mduku area of Umkhanyakude district, Northern KwaZulu-Natal in 2016. Funded by Disney through the Africa Foundation (USA), the project targeted 210 learners from five rural schools – all participating WESSA Eco-Schools, South Africa – in the communities surrounding the Phinda Private Game Reserve. Over a period of nine months the project developed the learners’ appreciation for nature and increased their ecological knowledge, whilst a series of workshops equipped the teachers with the skills required to deliver effective environmental learning in the classroom. The cornerstones of the project were that learners and teachers had the opportunity to encounter the “big five”- elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard – and learn about the lesser known “little five” – elephant shrew, rhinoceros beetle, buffalo weaver, ant lion and leopard tortoise. The excursions to Phinda were undoubtedly a highlight for all! Disney Channel (DStv, Channel 303) has begun airing a special series of live-action shorts entitled “Eco Club”, which follows the learners as they participated in the programme – catch these every Saturday at 06:50AM (CAT)!

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Two Oceans Aquarium

The Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town offers a few volunteer programmes for ocean lovers. Volunteers need to complete a training programme before they can begin helping out. Ocean Ambassadors are required to be at least 18 years old and, like volunteers, need to complete the training programme in order to begin the job.

After clocking 45 hours’ experience on the Aquarium floor at the Microscope and Touch Pool exhibitions, volunteers have the opportunity to get more involved and also assist with the Penguin Volunteer Group and Two Oceans education programmes. One can even offer services as a volunteer diver (with the proper licence) to assist with feedings and cleaning of the tanks.


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YOUNG · BIOLOGISTS 👶🔬👶 With the generosity and support of @iandjltd, a new generation of #YoungBiologists has completed their training and volunteering, and can now celebrate their incredible accomplishments. 🦑🔬🦈 Find out what this course was all about and how your kids can get involved in other free courses at our Marine Science Academy. More information on our blog. ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• #2oceansaquarium #twooceansaquarium#aquarium #animals #capetown#southafrica #cityofcapetown#capetownvibes #meetsouthafrica#capetownbound #thisisafrica #weheartsa #biology #education #marinescience #snorkelling #children#school #opportunity #grateful #thankyouteami #school #graduate #yay

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SANParks Honorary Rangers

This dedicated group volunteers its time and skills to supporting conservation in national parks across the country. The Kruger National Park has had volunteers from the public since 1902, and today there are over a thousand rangers working in all 21 national parks, including the more iconic ones in Addo, Table Mountain, Agulhas and Kgalagadi.

Prospective members are required to first complete 50 hours of volunteering activity, including a 10-hour training course. Thereafter, volunteers are required to contribute a minimum of 50 hours’ work per year to maintain their honorary status.

Young people are not left out either; the Junior Honorary Ranger Programme is available for kids aged 12-18. After remaining in the five-year programme, emerging Juniors are eligible to become Honorary Rangers.


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Removing invasive species at #rietvleinaturereserve #sanparkshonoraryrangers #pretoria #012 #invasivespecies

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Various internship opportunities await students, graduates and entry-level job seekers at the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). Those already in the industry or studying towards a career in horticulture and nature conservation are able to gain work experience through one of the institute’s work-integrated learning programmes.

SANBI also offers bursaries for students interested in pursuing careers in related fields, and horticulture students are suitable candidates for the Kirstenbosch Scholarship, first introduced in 1966.


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The NBG crew: this is how we roll. #karoodesertnationalbotanicalgarden #worcester #plantenthusiasts #takingphotos

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Since 2011, the South African branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has offered a 12-18 month Graduate Internship Programme. WWF works with South African institutions and receives graduates across disciplines and beyond traditional ‘green’ areas of study. Interns have mentors and the programme has had a 90% success rate for interns transitioning into full-time employment positions, often with one of the organisation’s many conservation and corporate partners. Entry has already closed for this year’s programme, but keep an ear out for next year’s submissions.


South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance

Based in Plettenberg Bay, the South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance (SAASA) strives to improve the lives of caged primates, birds and other wildlife. The Alliance welcomes volunteers who wish to offer their time and skills, be it in more hands-on work like gardening, animal care and helping visitors, or assisting with administrative tasks and media communications.

SAASA has four sanctuaries in total: Birds of Eden Free-Flight Bird Sanctuary, Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary, and two Monkeyland primate sanctuaries, one in Plett and the other in Durban.

Working on Fire

Working on Fire is an Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) that recruits and trains young people to work across various integrated fire management services within communities across the country. The are over 5,000 participants in the programme, which is funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs. The programme, which has been around since 2003, aids in social development and is considered to form an ‘integral part of the future planning for the custodianship of South Africa’s natural environment’.

Wildlife ACT

Founded in 2008, this organisation is involved with implementing sustainable long-term monitoring and conservation projects. It mostly works with rhinos, cheetahs, leopards, lions, elephants, vultures, and African wild dogs. Volunteers aged 18-65 years as well as postgraduate research students can assist with its conservation and research projects. Volunteer programmes range in length, from a couple of weeks to an entire year, and the costs of volunteering go straight towards supporting Wildlife ACT, which is totally reliant on support from the volunteers.


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On 25 April, the #Hluhluwe monitoring team and volunteers assisted Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife vets and the #Endangered Wildlife Trust in the collection of genetic and research samples from 4 female #AfricanWildDogs. Our hard-working volunteers had the opportunity for a quick team photo before the dogs were loaded into their transport crates to be moved from Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park to Maremani Reserve in Limpopo, in order to increase genetic diversity of Southern African #WildDogs. An amazing experience to be involved in! Text by #Wildlife ACT Volunteer Sanne Diepstraten Photo by Wildlife ACT Volunteer Clara Garrachon #wilddogconservation #endangeredspecies #endangeredwildlife #wildlifeconservation #conservationnews #paintedwolves #huntingdogs #savewilddogs

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Featured image: supplied/Southern African Wildlife College

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