Volunteer – Makalali Game Reserve

EKOSINI

WHAT WILL BE EXPECTED OF ME?

The Makalali Game Reserve provides volunteers with a stimulating and practical experience focusing on wildlife monitoring and research projects, and a physical component through reserve management activities. Daily activities are interesting and varied, and may include assistance with some of the following projects:

•Elephant contraception: behavioural and range utilisation monitoring of the elephants.

•Lion contraception: behavioural monitoring of targeted females and range utilisation of the pride.

•Leopard monitoring: activity monitoring by traversing fixed routes within the reserve.

•African wildcats: long-term monitoring program to acquire data on the ranging, foraging and reproductive behaviour of released offspring in savannah environment.

•Species demography: identification and sexing of reserve individuals (lions, rhino, cheetah and elephant) and continuous monitoring of these populations with reference to predator/prey density, inter and intra-species relations and the maintenance of identification kits.

•Sex ratio analysis: establishment of repeatable routes to accurately record the sex/age ratios of herbivore species for the optimal ratio to increase productivity (in conjuction with annual game counts).

•MSc research: assistance with any Masters of Science student fieldwork and data collection.

•Alien vegetation & bio control monitoring: identification and mapping of alien and invasive vegetation within the river and reserve, spreading of biological and chemical agents, and follow-up monitoring of problem areas.

•Community work: Siyafunda provides support for the Holy Family Orphanage every 2-3 weeks.  This is a Catholic run HIV orphanage with approx 90 children under care. Volunteers are welcome to bring old clothes, school supplies or food during visits.

Through these collaborative research projects, volunteers make an important contribution to the “bigger picture” of conservation in Africa – monitoring biodiversity processes and addressing challenges created by the ever-increasing human population, specifically fragmented and isolated habitats.

An average volunteer week generally consists of: 2 elephant monitoring sessions, 2 lion monitoring sessions, 2 rhino/cheetah drives, 2 nocturnal drives (late evening to early morning) for tracking leopards and small predators, and bush clearing/erosion control. Volunteers will also have the opportunity to participate in bush walks and sleep outs within the Reserve.

HOW LONG CAN I VOLUNTEER FOR?

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

WHAT QUALIFICATIONS, IF ANY, DO I REQUIRE?

Training will be given in all aspects of the African bushveld, including wildlife conservation, tracking and research.

Makalali 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.

WHAT LANGUAGE WILL I NEED TO KNOW?

English

HOW DO I GET TO YOUR LOCATION?

The closest towns to Makalali are HOEDSPRUIT and TZANEEN – nearly 500kms from Johannesburg.  Hoedspruit and Tzaneen are approximately 70kms, or an hour away from Makalali.

Flights and buses are available from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit or Tzaneen.  Arrangements will be made to collect incoming volunteers from either the Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport or the Tzaneen Bus Station.

If you need to overnight in Hoedspruit either before or after your program, the Makalali staff can pick you up or drop you off at the Blue Cottages Guesthouse www.bluecottages.co.za

By Plane – Jo’burg to Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport

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 – Jo’burg to Tzaneen

Buses leave from the Johannesburg Park Station or Pretoria Bus Station.  To get to these stations, you will need to organize transport with your hotel/backpackers or catch a taxi.

Translux buses depart every day from Jo’Burg at 09h30 and Pretoria at 10h30, arriving into Tzaneen at 15h40.   For bus reservations, contact Veena at veena@apx.co.za – email her with your name, dates of travel and where you will be traveling to/from.  Volunteers need to arrive at the bus station at least 30 minutes before departure to pay for your bus ticket or the ticket will be forfeited.  Try to book your bus ticket at least a month in advance as they definitely fill up!

ARE THERE ANY COSTS INVOLVED TO VOLUNTEER?

Click HERE to find out up to date costs and requirements for volunteering with MAKALALI GAME RESERVE.

WHAT TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION, MEALS AND FACILITIES CAN I EXPECT TO BE AVAILABLE TO ME?

Accommodation comprises double rooms (volunteers to share) with en-suite shower/toilets, supplied with hot and cold water. There is a communal lounge and separate kitchen. Volunteers participate in the creation of menus, the preparation of meals and general upkeep of the Camp on a rotational basis. .

Meals are included. Vegetarian option available upon request before arrival.

WHAT WILDLIFE SPECIES ARE THERE?

Makalali is a Big 5 Game Reserve (lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros). However, African Wildcats, Cheetah and many other animals call the reserve their home.

WHAT ATTRACTIONS CAN I EXPERIENCE DURING FREE-TIME?

Volunteers will have the opportunity to participate in bush walks and sleep outs within the Reserve. Makalali is remote and there is no public transport to town. However, volunteers will have an opportunity to visit town approximately once a week (Mondays) in coordination with trips to collect food and pick up/drop off volunteers. The nearest town, Hoedspruit, is small but has all the usual amenities, including medical doctors, supermarkets, restaurants and Internet cafés.

IN CONCLUSION

The Siyafunda Conservation Initiative within the Makalali Game Reserve is a unique conservation program to expand South Africa’s green frontier by re-establishing the ancient traditional wildlife migration routes that linked the famous Kruger Park in the east to the lush Drakensberg Mountains in the west. One of South Africa’s premier privately-owned conservation areas, Makalali currently comprises an amazing 61,000 acres (including a 5,000 acre clean buffalo breeding camp) in the Lowveld region of the Limpopo Province of South Africa, a short distance from the world-renowned Kruger National Park.

Over the past decade, Makalali has reintroduced a variety of wildlife onto the reserve, including lion, cheetah, leopard, elephant and rhino, making Makalali home to Africa’s “Big Five.” In the process of relocating wildlife, Makalali has consistently contributed to conservation efforts to protect endangered species. Elephants were relocated from Kruger sparing them from annual culling.

Makalali’s research activities are fueled by the support of the reserve’s rangers, together with the Siyafunda volunteer program. The Siyafunda Conservation Initiative, located on the southern part of the reserve, was primarily established to assist with existing research projects and to provide reserve management with the necessary data needed to make well-informed decisions. The two most important ongoing monitoring and research initiatives conducted on Makalali are:

Elephant Contraception – Makalali recognizes the need for alternative methods of elephant population control other than culling and translocation; with the introduction of immunocontraception, a safe, effective and non-lethal biological control method now exists.  Since May 2000, Makalali has implemented an immunocontraception programme on their elephant population and 23 cows have been vaccinated to date. These cows are individually recognized by means of identification templates and photographs. Extensive records are maintained, including observations and reactions to the darting and their behaviour thereafter. To date, no unusual behaviour or side effects have been detected. As the Kruger trials proved the vaccine’s efficacy, safety and reversibility, the aim of the Makalali study is to determine the vaccine’s reliability in controlling population growth. Since August 2002, a 0% growth rate has been maintained indicating very promising applications for population growth regulation of elephants on small reserves.

Lion/Predator Management – In all small game reserves, a delicate balance between prey and predator species needs to be carefully managed and maintained because they exist in closed environments. The aim of this project is to produce a GIS based model that will act as a tool for correctly managing the predator population at Makalali. This project will allow one to determine the ‘carrying capacity’ of each large predator in the reserve and will also consider the possibility of introducing more predators into the system.

For more information on ENKOSINI ECO EXPERIENCE, please visit www.enkosini.org

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