Volunteer – C.A.R.E. Baboon Sanctuary



Volunteers assist in the daily running of the Sanctuary as well as the rehabilitation program. Caring for animals requires patience, compassion and a calm demeanor. Volunteers should have a love of animals, particularly primates, a passion for nature, and a desire to protect and preserve our natural heritage. The physical aspects are not overly challenging, but a reasonable level of fitness is recommended. The Sanctuary is built on a slope and the weather can be hot and humid. A positive attitude, willingness to help and learn and a sense of humor are essential – volunteers should expect to be dirty and exhausted by the end of the day!

C.A.R.E. comprises numerous “hoks,” each holding a troop of 10-18 baboons. Situated in a nature reserve, the Sanctuary is visited often by a variety of wild animals including elephant, giraffe, antelope, snakes and spiders. A wild troop of 60 – 70 baboons live in the area, and spend a great deal of time at the Sanctuary interacting with the enclosed baboons. They sleep in the trees alongside the river overnight. They are unthreatening, but must be treated with respect.

The Sanctuary is run in a spirit of co-operation, and everyone is expected to give their best at all times. The project leaders require that you heed the advice/rules given for the safety of you and the animals. The animals are the top priority, irrespective of the day or hour. There are no set working hours – volunteers finish when everything is completed. Off-time is dependent on the number of volunteers at the Sanctuary and the well-being of the baboons.

The volunteers’ daily tasks include:

• overseeing the baby baboon “crèche”

• preparing and feeding formula bottles to the babies

• changing nappies and washing bedding

• playing with the youngsters

• observing and monitoring interaction between animals

• administering medicine to sick or injured animals

• maintaining records of animals, treatment and progress

• procuring, collecting and preparing the animals’ food

• cleaning and maintaining the facility

• checking and cleaning enclosures and water troughs

• filling the river and borehole dams


2 weeks and up. Most volunteers stay for 2-4 weeks, but longer is possible.


Training will be given in all aspects of animal care for this project. During your stay you will learn a huge amount about the baboons, as well as about the African bush in general.

C.A.R.E. accepts volunteers of 16+ years of age.  Volunteers under 16 years old are only considered when accompanied by a parent/guardian.  There isn’t a maximum age limit, though a reasonable fitness level is necessary.




The closest town to the Baboon Sanctuary is PHALABORWA – nearly 500kms from Johannesburg. Flights and buses are available from Johannesburg to Phalaborwa, and arrangements will be made to collect incoming volunteers from Phalaborwa (either airport or bus depot).

By Plane – Johannesburg to Phalaborwa

Flights leave from the domestic terminal at Johannesburg International Airport. The flight is ± 1hour, 15 minutes.  These flights are conducted by SA Express (www.flysaa.com).

By Bus – Johannesburg to Phalaborwa

Buses leave from the Johannesburg Park Station or the Midrand Bus Station ± 25kms from the Johannesburg International Airport.  To get to either station, you will need to organize transport with your hotel/backpackers or catch a taxi.

Translux buses depart Jo’Burg every day at 09h30, Midrand at 10h00 and Pretoria at 10h30, arriving into Phalaborwa at 16h50.  The Midrand bus is recommended for volunteers arriving on early morning flights as it provides as extra grace period.


Click HERE to find out up to date costs and requirements for volunteering with C.A.R.E. BABOON SANCTUARY.


Rustic accommodation with bedding is provided for 10 volunteers in a timber cabin with shared bathroom facilities, hot water and electricity. There is additional housing in caravans, tents and converted containers, with access to central bathroom facilities. Food is purchased in town once a week and prepared by the volunteers on a communal basis. The Sanctuary follows a mainly vegetarian diet. The accommodation and kitchen facilities are maintained and kept clean by the volunteers.

The Sanctuary has a land-line telephone which is reserved for sanctuary use only. Therefore, volunteers who want to regularly make/receive calls should consider carrying a cell phone as they do work from the high ground of the property. Local SIM cards and pay-as-you-go facilities are freely available, and text messages are the most reliable form of mobile communication.

C.A.R.E. does not offer a luxury holiday experience.  It is a unique sanctuary and those committed to working with us will have the opportunity to observe and interact with these gorgeous, cheeky, hilarious, loving primates. We guarantee you will leave with a greater knowledge and understanding, and a feeling that you have made a difference to the plight of the primates.


C.A.R.E. is a baboon sanctuary. But since it is situated in a nature reserve, C.A.R.E.is visited often by a variety of wild animals including elephant, giraffe, antelope, snakes and spiders.


The Sanctuary is situated on the banks of the Olifants River in the Limpopo Province of South Africa, bordering the greater Kruger Park area. Given its bushveld location, volunteers generally have the opportunity to see a wide variety of indigenous wildlife during their stay, either at the Centre itself or on excursions into Kruger National Park. During quiet times at the Sanctuary, educational visits to and from schools and public organisations are also promoted.

The Sanctuary is remote and there is no public transport to town. However, volunteers will have an opportunity to visit town (Phalaborwa – 30 minutes) every week or two in coordination with trips to collect food. Phalaborwa is small but has all the usual amenities, including medical doctors, supermarkets, restaurants, cinemas and Internet cafés.


The C.A.R.E. Baboon Sanctuary was established in 1989 as a sanctuary for all indigenous wildlife of South Africa. While no animal is turned away, the Sanctuary has specific expertise in nurturing and caring for primates, with an emphasis on the chacma baboon. The Baboon Sanctuary currently houses over 400 baboons and is the largest sanctuary in Southern Africa for orphaned, injured, abused or abandoned baboons.

Despite being listed as a CITES Appendix II “threatened” species, baboons are offered no protection under the law in South Africa. Baboons are shot and poisoned by farmers, illegally captured for sale as pets, utilized by traditional doctors for “medicinal” purposes, and vulnerable to such hazards as power lines, pylons, veld fires, habitat destruction and road accidents.

C.A.R.E.’s main intake is small, pink-faced baby baboons, generally orphaned after their mothers have been injured or killed. The Sanctuary also offers refuge to baboons released or confiscated from laboratories – allowing them to grow old with dignity. These baboons are often severely traumatized, having spent many years incarcerated in small lab cages being subjected to numerous experiments.

The C.A.R.E. Baboon Sanctuary has been a pioneer in primate care, and its rehabilitation program has gained respect within scientific and animal behavioral communities. C.A.R.E.’s success in rehabilitating hand-reared primates and releasing fully formed troops back into the wild has been well documented in numerous television programs on Discovery Channel and Animal Planet.

Despite these rehabilitation successes, releases are infrequent due to the difficulty in finding suitable release locations and the local authorities reluctance to issue the necessary permits.  Nature conservation officials sadly consider baboons and other primates in South Africa to be “vermin” as they compete with the farming industry.

The C.A.R.E. Baboon Sanctuary has been involved in several other well publicized events, including the first recorded instance of breeding Samango monkeys in captivity (a red data listed species), the rescue and relocation of hand-reared lions destined for “canned hunting,” and an inventive solution for rescuing a hippo which had fallen into a swimming pool.  Assistance has also been given to anti-poaching and drought relief efforts in the Olifants River area.

A non-profit organization, C.A.R.E. is reliant on the generosity of concerned individuals, including volunteers, and animal welfare groups for financial support. Although the baboon isn’t a glamorous species like the rhino or cheetah, the C.A.R.E. team work hard to ensure their long-term survival before it joins the ranks of chimpanzee and mountain gorilla as endangered species.

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