Volunteer with the 'World-First' Reintroduction of White Lions in South Africa

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Volunteer in South Africa, or alternatively intern in South Africa, and form part of the conservation monitoring and tracking team, and have a rare opportunity to gain authentic field experience whilst making a valuable contribution to the long-term conservation of the white lions.  You can volunteer in a range of projects including Lion Monitoring, Anti-Poaching Activities, Scientific Research and Environmental Education.

You can join for 1 week up to 12 weeks all year round and we have places all throughout 2014 & 2015 available.

Individuals, groups, students doing research all welcome.

Cost for lodging in shared volunteer house, weekly trip for food & supplies, internet access, materials and training starts from £430

A lioness resting amongst the tall grasses of South Africa This huge male lion sits in the shaded open ground Observing lions whilst on patrol Another female comes to check them out A male lion protecting his territory Volunteers out on morning patrol Linda Tucker and Jason, Lion Ecologist, with the vet Linda Tucker with the vet Volunteers with vet Environmental education with local school children Environmental education with schools First set of white lion cubs White Lion Traditional dance Learning to hunt Three young cubs Volunteer lunch Volunteer house Outdoor fire pit

A conservationist monitors lion activityThe Project

Conservation volunteers can participate in a range of projects whilst on the programme, including:

  • Lion Monitoring
  • Anti-Poaching Activities
  • Habitat Management
  • Scientific Research
  • Community Development

The focus of the scientific aspect is on daily monitoring (dawn and dusk) of the two prides reintroduced to free-roaming conditions in their endemic habitat. The project offers an exclusive opportunity for suitable volunteers to form part of the lion conservation monitoring and tracking team. As such, volunteers need to be very dynamic and adaptable to the changing day-to-day needs of the project. Candidates have a real opportunity to gain authentic field experience, whilst making a valuable contribution to the long-term conservation of the white lions.  Opportunities for research students/lion conservation interns are also available - please email us for more details.

Volunteers helping with the healthcare of a lionessProject Details

Lion Monitoring

Lion-tracking using telemetry
GIS mapping
Recording lion behaviour
Veterinary care of lions (*)


Anti-Poaching Activities

Fence maintenance and fence patrol with the security team
Dawn, dusk and midnight security patrols
Study of anti-poaching techniques (*)


Habitat Management

Bush thinning
Erosion control
Gabion construction
Alien plant control
Lion Predation Activities
Supplementary feeding (during boma bonding)
Boma clearing
Game capture and release (*)


Scientific Research

Predator / prey study
Data capturing of research information


Community Development

Community activities including: nature walks and hikes through the mountains, community involvement, playing football
Working with local schools including: language and culture swap, White Lion Poetry Exploration Project, Drumming and Traditional Dancing
Eco-Educational programme (*)
Organic food-growth programme (*)
Eco-Construction of dwellings (*)
 
(*) when available.

Please note: As a serious reintroduction project, hands-on contact is avoided in the best interests of the animals, except when tranquilised for veterinary treatment or the fitting of radio-collars. Please be cautioned that cub-petting and animal habituation to humans is associated with captive breeding (making reintroduction unlikely to succeed), and often, unfortunately, with “canned” (unethical) hunting activities.

Extra Activities for Conservation Volunteers

Some extra activities conservation volunteers can undertake during free time could include: Game-drive in neighbouring reserves, On-foot wilderness walk at neighbouring reserves, Day-trip to Kruger National Park, Day-trip of panoramic route including visitor sites such as God's window, Pilgrims' Rest, Hazeyview etc., Visit to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Protection Centre, Visit to the Khamai Reptile Park, Visit to spectacular waterfalls in the area, Visit to the Cotton Club, African silk factory, Hot air balloon rides and River-horse out-rides. Please note that these are at your own cost.

Two white lions sitting in the openBackground

This programme is run by a South African based non-profit organisation with a dual conservation and community objective. On the conservation side, they have been implementing the White Lion Protection Plan™, which includes the world-first reintroduction of White Lions back to their natural habitat in the Greater Timbavati region, and their long-term survival there. On the community side, they have initiated eco-educational programmes, cultural revival programmes and social upliftment initiatives in an effort to ensure that this rare White Lion heritage is protected in perpetuity.(*Tsau! Is a San / Bushman incantation for Lion.)
 

As an organisation, they respect the cultures of indigenous peoples, and their spiritual beliefs. It is recommended (although not imperative) that volunteers read the book, Mystery of the White Lions, before joining the programme. This book was written by the Founder of the programme, Linda Tucker, and is based on 10 years of primary research with indigenous elders and scientists. It considers the mythological/ legendary aspects of the White Lions, as well as the scientific. Volunteers are given the choice of engaging more deeply in the cultural/spiritual aspects of the White Lion heritage; furthering scientific pursuits; or simply enjoying the wide spread of activities.

 
The White Lion Trust's research objectives are based on those of the IUCN. In 2002, when the White Lion Trust was first established, there were no known White Lion individuals remaining in the wild in the Greater Timbavati and this had been the status for the past decade. With a critical need to supplement the White Lion gene in the wild, the White Lion Trust launched its world-first White Lion Reintroduction Programme. Today (2009) the Reintroduction Progamme can be considered successful as the founding pride hunts self-sufficiently and is reproducing without human intervention.


Recent news: After nearly 14 years of technical extinction in their natural endemic habitat, three snow white lion cubs were born to the project in the Greater Timbavati region. These cubs were (June 2009) released with their pride, to become self-sufficient in their natural habitat at the Tsau! Conservancy.

2014 & 2015 Dates & Costs

11th November to 9th December 2014
9th December 2014 to 6th January 2015

6th January to 3rd February 2015
3rd February to 3rd March 2015
3rd March to 31st March 2015

 

You can join from 1 to 12 week periods year round. 5 places available per month. All volunteers can start on any Tuesday within the dates above or any other Tuesday throughout the year.  Please email Victoria.McNeil@workingabroad.com to confirm exact dates and availability. If you start/leave on another day than Tuesday, there will be an extra pickup/drop off cost.

 

 

Costs
The cost for 1 week is £430, 2 weeks is £680, 3 weeks is £930, 4 weeks is £1,080, 5 weeks is £1,305, 6 weeks is £1,530, 7 weeks is £1,668, 8 weeks is £1,880, 9 weeks is £2,093, 10 weeks is £2,180, 11 weeks is £2,380 and 12 weeks is £2,580*. This cost includes accommodation, personalised training by qualified members of the conservation and management team, cooking and laundry facilities, weekly trip to town for food & other supplies, internet & e-mail access and WorkingAbroad Projects support and backup. This cost excludes flights, food and travel & medical insurance. It is mandatory for you to take out travel and medical insurance for the duration of the project. *Please note, that rates do fluctuate according to the currency exchange rate with the South African Rand (ZAR).

Lodging, Food, Travel, Health, Timbavati Region

The volunteer house on the white lion projectFood and accommodation:
You will stay in ranch style house that accommodates 8 volunteers. There are shared utilities, including two bathrooms with two showers/baths. There is a communal kitchen complete with stove, oven, refrigerator, and freezer. All utensils, dishes, sheets, and towels are provided. The volunteer house has electricity, but the showers are cold showers. You will have access to the internet once a week at the Tsau main office. Two volunteer coordinators reside in the house so you will always be taken care of. They are there to make your experience unforgettable and to answer any questions you may have. Meals are communal style. Each participant will cook dinner one night.

Inside the conservation volunteer house in South AfricaEach participant will contribute R200.00 (£15) a week for communal grocery shopping. There will be a weekly town trip to purchase groceries and supplies. Transport related to any additional (non-WLT) activities is not included; independent shuttle/car hire companies are available from the nearest town (Hoedspruit) at your own expense. 

Conservation volunteer requirements

  • Age between 19 and 90 years old.
  • Interest / field of study: conservation, environmental science, wildlife management, ecology or wildlife biology, wildlife journalism, wildlife photography, veterinary science, animal behavior studies, animal communication, cultural / community development, alternative disciplines in science or ‘sacred science’; or fields related to the aforementioned.
  • Personal qualities of flexibility and adaptability.
  • Self-sufficiency: as a member of the conservation team, volunteers prepare their own meals and are responsible for their own ‘house-keeping’.
  • Self-motivated: a carefully structured full programme is provided each week, but volunteers need to be adaptable to some programme changes depending on variables in the running of the project. Free time is also factored in, and volunteers need to be independent and mature enough to make constructive use of such recreational time.
Conservation volunteers alongside park rangersPlease note: this project is not intended / ideal for ‘gap year’ students. Student volunteers need to be hard-working, emotionally mature, have an openness to personal growth; and a willingness to benefit from the unique opportunities and challenges of this valuable project which is breaking ground both scientifically and culturally. Of course, the real value and appreciation of the experience remains the responsibility of the individual.
 

All field data collected will contribute to research being done by the Lion Ecologist for a PhD study on White Lion Reintroduction, Ecology and Adaptation to their Natural Environment. For appropriately qualified individuals, research topics may be available. Topics include: data analysis; lion behavioural ecology; feeding ecology; spatial dynamics; reintroduction methodology; and predator-prey dynamics, thereby making a valuable contribution to the WLT’s ongoing efforts to have the White Lions protected through scientific research. For more details, please email: Victoria.McNeil@workingabroad.com

Getting there
You can fly to Johannesburg from most parts of the world. Volunteers either fly JHB to Hoedspruit (SA Express; expensive at up to GBP220 return for 1hr flight) or more commonly get the City to City Bus (Translux; GBP15 each way for the 6 hour trip). You are then collected from Hoedspruit / Eastgate Airport or the bus stop in Hoedspruit.

Health
It is recommended that you obtain some vaccinations and medication before coming to South Africa. You should see your GP or visit a travel clinic at a suitable time before arrival. Tell them where you are going and they can tell you what vaccinations are required and what medical precautions you need to take. The Timbavati Region is a malarial area, and prophylaxis is recommended (especially in the summer months of Oct to April). We provide mosquito nets in the rooms, but please bring sufficient supplies of medication or personal items you may require, as not all products/drugs may be able in South Africa.

The nearest hospital is in Hoedspruit, approximately 35km from the Tsau! Conservancy. There is also a medical centre with doctor, dentist, optometrist, physiotherapist and chiropractor in Hoedspruit.

 
There are plenty of other species in the Lion ConservancyPassport and visa
A valid passport with at least 2 blank pages in it, is necessary to enter South Africa. Since visa requirements vary from country to country, please check with your local embassy as to whether a visa is required to enter South Africa.

Dangerous animals
Every precaution is taken to ensure the safety of all volunteers on our programme, but volunteers must be aware that there are dangerous animals such as poisonous snakes, scorpions, spiders, as well as lion, leopard and spotted hyaena.

Facilities, Amenities
In Hoedspruit, the following are available: medical centre, pharmacy, three large grocery stores, bush clothing stores, banking facilties & ATM’s (Visa / Electron/ Maestro), restaurants, internet café, camera store, and general wholesaler (bedding, linen, crockery, cutlery).

The Timbavati Region - Geography and Climate

Geography
The Timbavati Region is located in the Limpopo Province of South Africa, bordering the world famous Kruger National Park. It is at the centre of the Kruger 2 Canyons Biosphere Reserve, the third largest biosphere (conservation region) in the world. The nearest town is Hoedspruit.
 
Climate
The Timbavati Region is situated in a summer rainfall area of South Africa. The climate is typified by a summer wet season, which is roughly confined to the period from October to March, with the majority of precipitation occurring from December to February. The remainder of the year tends to be dry, with rare occurrences of precipitation.

Temperatures tend to be high during the day, but they drop at night by 10 to 15ºC. A mean daily maximum temperature for the wet season (October to March) is 32.6 ºC and the mean daily minimum temperature is 20.5 ºC. The mean daily maximum temperature for the dry season (April to September) is 28.4 ºC and the mean daily minimum temperature is then 10.8 ºC.

Interactive Map & Background

Below is an interactive map showing the location of base camp:


 

Historical PerspectiveYoung white lions relaxing

More elusive than the African leopard, rarer than the legendary Snow Leopard of the Himalayas, and as white as the polar bear of Alaska, the birth of these three cubs is a momentous occasion that heralds a new era for this rare lineage.

There are only an estimated 500 white lions worldwide - in captivity. Regarded by African tribal elders as the most sacred animal on the African continent, this rarest of rarities have been hunted to extinction in the wild by trophy hunters and poachers who pay astronomical sums to shoot a white lion for pleasure. They have also been hunted in captivity in a notorious malpractice known as ‘canned lion hunting.’ No law protects them from being wiped off the face of the earth.


10 Facts about White Lions

  • White Lions are not albinos, but a genetic rarity unique to one endemic region on the globe: the Timbavati region.
  • The Genetic Marker that makes White Lions unique has not yet been identified by science.
  • The White Lions are currently classified under the general species classification Panthera leo (CITES Appendix II), and can therefore be hunted or traded into extinction. The Global White Lion Protection Trust therefore aims to gain specific classification for the white lions as genetically distinct, so that this rare phenotype may be protected.
  • The earliest recorded sighting of white lions in the Timbavati region was in 1938. However, the oral records of African elders indicate that these unique animals survived in this region for many centuries.
  • The unique white lion gene is carried by certain of the tawny coloured lions in the region, and white cubs occurred in numerous prides in the region.
  • Since their discovery by the West, white lions and those lions carrying the unique gene have been hunted, and forcibly removed from their natural endemic habitat.
  • The last adult white lion was seen in the wild in 1994, after which time they were technically extinct in the wild.
  • The idea that white lions are genetically inferior to ordinary tawny lions has not been scientifically tested.
  • The idea that White Lions cannot survive in the wild due to perceived lack of camouflage has not been scientifically tested. Preliminary results from our research has shown that the Founder Pride of white lions hunted as effectively as the tawny lions Jason Turner studied in the Timbavati itself (Turner & Vasicek in prep.).
  • Currently, there is no law nationally or internationally that protects the White Lions from being wiped off the face of the earth.

A pride of white lions in the grass
White Lions Released into the Wild - June 2009 - in the media

A pride of 5 white lions (mother, mate and 3 cubs) were released back into the wild early June 2009 - check out the media coverage below, including photos of volunteers in action.
 

Telegraph - Earth Picture photo gallery of rare white lions
Daily Mail - Family of white lions prepare to leave captivity
Mirror - White lions back were we belong
Telegraph - White lions return to the wild in South Africa



 

Volunteer Testimonials

ex-Lion Conservation Volunteer Krista Wolfenden gives feedback on her time with the Tsau! project

Conservation volunteer and Project Manager in the Lion conservancyMy time a Tsau! Conservancy was amazing. I learnt so much in such a short time, from how a non-profit organization expands its projects, the difficulties they face in properly protecting their animals, to the basic facts about the native animals found in South Africa. I could have been there for years and not learned everything. The people that worked there were some of the most interesting people I have ever met and made me realize all the different paths my life could take. This experience made me realize that animal conservation and wildlife management is something I could definitely pursue for my career and I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to discover this.



Katherine Marriott-Lodge from the UK, who was a volunteer in South Africa in August, gives her feedback on the Tsau! Project

A volunteer sitting on the rocksI had an absolutely incredible time with Linda, Jason, Celia, Wolfgang and the rest of the team there at the Global White Lion Protection Trust. From the moment I was met by Celia and the volunteers who were there already I really felt part of the team. My aims when I went there were to learn about the project and the white lions themselves and also to help, I wanted to do something where I could leave and feel that I had done something to help.

Being there, in fact, helped me so much as a person. I did all the hands on work I could and was allowed to really get involved in the actual labour needed to make a project like that run, from painting fence posts green, to digging water holes, to cutting reeds in the river beds. I also got to go to local schools and interact with the children there. All of this, I can honestly say contributed to the most fantastic experience of my life.

Additionally to this, I was able to get to know the 2 prides of lions that they have there, the Royal Pride and the Akeru Pride. They all have such individual personalities and from going on morning and evening checks most days I really felt that I got to know them. They are such amazing creatures with the best spiritual presence. Jason was absolutely fantastic at teaching us about the prides and explaining the next stages and aims of the project. Jason has so much knowledge and passion and he is more than happy to share it with everyone. I learnt so much from him and am very grateful for the time he gave us.

One amazing part of my time there was when Linda invited us to attend a picnic down by the river with some of the guests that were staying at TSAU for a workshop. Linda is so passionate about the project and she spent so much time explaining the geographical significance of the Timbavati in relation to the spirit of the White Lion. Linda made me feel very welcome and valued as a volunteer over there, and I certainly did not want to leave.

Celia and Wolfgang were fantastic volunteer co-ordinators. They tought me so much about everything over there and made me feel so confortable and safe. Celia is so knowledgeable and again she took so much time to talk to us about the lions and about how she came to be involved with the Global White Lion Protection Trust. She also gave me some amazing cooking tips, and she is the best cook I have ever known! Celia also gave up her own weekend to take us on a camping trip into the mountains which was incredible. I really got to know both Celia and Wolfgang during my time there. Wolfgang is an inspiration and also taught me an awful lot. My great memories of Wolfgang include him cooking a braai not long after I arrived and working with him at the new property at Joweni.

While I was there, I also got to go to the Kruger National Park, on an Elephant ride and on a Boat Trip in the Blyde River Canyon.

I leant so much from everybody I met at TSAU and will never forget the experience. I was terrified going to South Africa on my own but as soon as I got to the Timbavati I felt so at home that when I left I was devastated. I now cannot wait to volunteer for them again in the future!!!

I wish I could reel off the whole diary that I kept whilst I was over there, because it is impossible to identify the best part of the whole experience for me. I thoroughly enjoyed every part of it. The only criticism I have is that I didn't go for longer.

I would like to thank all at the Global White Lion Protection Trust for allowing me to experience their work and for making me feel so involved and welcome there. I miss you all!

Kim Budge, one of our lion conservation volunteers, details her experience on the Tsau! White Lion project

I had great time at the Tsau! A good balance between spiritual and practical experiences. A great place to reflect on the greater meanings of life and have lots of deep conversations. The lions are amazing and the people working there inspirational. I also had the opportunity to visit the three schools they have close ties with and meet some of the local Shangaan people, including Sarah the shangoma for the White Lions. I also went on excursions to Kruger, the Blyde River Canyon and Elephant riding as well as a night camping at Mariepskop. The bushveld is a truly magic place and it is what I most miss about not living in SA. Going to Tsau! has reinforced my desire to become more involved with nature conservation charity work.

British Volunteer Neil Hollingworth gives a "Monitors Report" entitled "Day of Freedom" on 15th December  at 6am alongside Head Lion Ecologist, Jason Turner

Focal Lion/lioness: Mandla
Activity: Courtship with consequences

Laid in the shade of a small bush, Mandla panted steadily in the muggy heat. It was midday and the majestic White Lion was content with his world and his territory. His pale eyes opened and looked around and then closed into slits as his massive body rose up and down with the gentle rhythm of his breathing. He was nearby the perimeter fence of his territorial boundary and all was good. Suddenly his head jerked to attention and his senses were alert. Still and scanning he had detected the presence of a change to the serenity of the day. There at the other side of the fence a beautiful tawny lioness emerged from the green and lush bush and walked regally to the fence without a sound and stared across at this King of lions.

Mandla rose from his rest and stood tall, his senses still on high alert. This was not normal; there had never been any lions in this part of the land. Where was she from? What was she doing there? This was a new event, this was unheard of. He slowly stepped towards the fence; he stood tall and elegant and stared into the lioness’ eyes. For a moment there was silence and all that could be heard was sound of the bush in the searing heat as these two beasts stood and faced each other at each side of the fence. Mandla issued a loud roar which prolonged for a while and tapered out into the chuff, chuff, chuffing noises so distinct of the lions. The lioness turned and began to pad up the fence line, Mandla followed. She was looking at him affectionately, admiring this huge male for the handsome beast that he was. They padded side by side up the fence and the lioness slowed down and stopped. She held her head low for a while and again they stared at each other. She looked like she was smiling at Mandla and Mandla was beginning to fall for her charms. She knew it
too and just to make the intention clear she wandered over to the grass that lined the dusty fence path and rolled onto her back playing affectionately, swiping the air with a paw. A second roar emitted from Mandla as he paced around the other side of this impenetrable high voltage fence, wanting to get closer to this playful and pretty female and see what she was about.

Two white lions fightingIn the distance way down the line of the fence another lion could be seen moving swiftly up the slope. It was Zirah. She headed rapidly in the direction of Mandla with the heat waves rising making her figure shimmer in the distance. As she got closer Mandla detected her presence but his eye was on the new feline. The feline rose to her feet as Zirah was now in view but her presence did not bother the stranger for she knew she was safe behind the fence. Zirah moved in behind Mandla weighing up this infiltrator and staring angrily at her. Who was she to court her mate? What right did she have to be there? Mandla strutted some more in front of the tawny and roared once more and Zirah pushed her way forward letting her presence be known. Suddenly Mandla was infuriated with Zirah’s presence, he turned round and roared at her and Zirah cowered and bared her teeth at him. But the situation was too severe for Zirah to be put off by her mate’s act of open infidelity. She was not going to give up that easily.

The playful lioness was not so happy with Zirah’s presence and now stood up and walked away back from where she had come, still in full view and she kept close to the fence enticing Mandla to follow. Mandla did so and stood tall and dominant as he padded side by side with Zirah in pursuit stalking the tawny intently. Suddenly Mandla decided that Zirah was interfering far too much. He rounded on her and gave a warning tap with his powerful paw and Zirah cowered respectfully but let it be well known she was not happy, and she bared her teeth at him. But Mandla was the king, he had seen a new mate and wasn’t about to be told by his disrespectful mate that he was in the wrong. With Zirah told her place, he swung back round again to continue the courtship with the delectable feline who had come looking for him.

Lions patrol either side of the fenceHe found the feline had changed direction and was moving away and so he deftly followed like the male that he was, attracted by this beauty. But Zirah was still not giving up. She didn’t like the situation and kept a good check on the female closely behind Mandla. On they went following the stranger in tandem. Mandla wasn’t going to give up this female easily. His whole natural instinct was to mate with this newcomer, but Zirah knew this was trouble, she knew this wasn’t right and that the tawny should leave before things got worse. She wasn’t going to give up easily and let Mandla win. Suddenly Mandla turned on Zirah once more. He was aggressive, stressed and annoyed at Zirah. He wanted the female and Zirah was just getting in the way. Zirah cowered once more, letting Mandla think he had the upper hand. But even now she wasn’t going to give in. Mandla turned once more and resumed his intent on the other side of the fence. He began to pad quickly now to catch up with the tawny, she was heading towards the bottom of the hill where the fence reached the intersect of 3 properties and where the tawny could go no further. Zirah followed keeping a very careful eye on the situation. Suddenly she decided all was not well. She had left her cubs unprotected to come and see what all the noise was about. They were vulnerable. If there was a lioness, then there may also be a lion nearby and if he were to reach the cubs they would be in grave danger of their lives. She instantly made the decision to leave Mandla to his fate. The cubs were her priority, Mandla was just asking for trouble and she was not going to let her cubs be in any danger at all. She spun round and paced rapidly back up the fence line and headed back towards her cubs. Would they be OK? Would they be in peril? She needed to know. Mandla stayed behind and continued to eye up the tawny lioness. Then he roared so loudly and a new sense of something was in the air. The roar was louder and aggressive this time, something was different. Then it became clear, a large tawny lion with a deep black main had appeared at the tri-section of and interchanges that were marked by the perimeter fences. But the tawny male was not with his lioness, he was stuck on the Kapama land looking through the fence at his defiant female on the intermediate land, and she was looking through the other fence at the interesting new White Lion male, showing off his superior build. The tawny lion was not happy. He called to his unfaithful mate seemingly trapped in this no-man’s land that neither male could reach. His call was pitiful, not aggressive as if he was sad that she was not interested in him but in this opponent. The tawny female was not bothered. This was interesting; she could find a new man. She was wanting to know more, see if she could find a way through to this King of the White Lions.

To be followed by Part II

A conservation volunteer next to a watering holeSimone Elena Blomsterberg, from Denmark, was a volunteer in South Africa from October 1st to November 16th

I had an amazing 7 weeks at Tsau! and the stay has changed my life and me. I can’t imagine people being able to go back to their old way of life after the experiences I’ve had. I read a lot about the program and the Trust before I went to South Africa, but nothing prepared me for the way it touched my very soul. I connected with the people, the nature and especially the lions in a way that’s deeper than you can ever imagine. You have to experience it yourself. You have to feel your own heart skip a beat as these majestic beings walk towards your vehicle with their elegant yet lethal features. I’ve never before in my life felt completely exposed until I had eye contact with Zihra or Mandla for the first time. It’s like they see right through your mask and defenses. They see the real you! But at the same time none of the lions are judging you, merely observing. It’s a breathtaking experience to have been offered the privilege of seeing these angelic creatures in their natural habitat. I never have and never will experience anything like this.

Every day started with the early morning lion check. Never before have I enjoyed getting up at 5 in the morning. It never got boring to sit and observe the lions. I never could tell who my favorite was, because they all have different personalities. There’s Mandla who’s a king of kings, yet a bit clumsy and cute. You have Nebu, Mandla’s daughter, who’s cheeky and very self confident. You really can’t do anything but absolutely love her. They all had one thing in common though. They were all simply amazing. This one morning our vehicle was parked in between Mandla and a male lion from the neighboring reserve, “Kapama”. Each of the lions was a good 80 meters away, but their roaring still made the vehicle shake. It was fantastic to experience this verbal battle between two kings. Eventually both of them got tired and flopped down on the spot. We used to call it “flat cat” when the lions were just lying there, so relaxed you could hardly see them breathe.

We also did these enlightening workshops. We did this workshop on dreams with Linda. It was amazing and it really opened my eyes to the possibility of our dreams being more than just random images from our sub consciousness. And in total contrast to this, the social life off all the involved people was maintained with several gatherings, e.g. a braii at the Farm Manager Abel’s house. A braii is the South African name for a barbecue. We also had some amazing nights out at the local bush pub called Jos Mac’s. I think I left an everlasting impression on Jason, Xolani and the other volunteers that night. One of the days Wendy took me and another volunteer out to see a couple of the local schools. When we arrived all the kids from a nursery school came out to greet us. These kids were 3 years old and they started chanting “Amandla Awethu” (“Power to the People”) and were flipping us off. All the time they had big smiles on their faces. They had no idea what the gesture meant. They were so cute! They were all over us when we were allowed to enter their playground. They sung for us and recited poems. I’m not how much they understood of the things they were saying. After that we went on to a public school were the students did some poetry reading and songs for us as well. After wards we went to a privately funded school. All these three schools lay right next to each other, but yet they were so different. Here there were more poems and songs. Most of them were about the white lions. Their English was so good; actually it was better than a lot of Danish grownups’. I felt very privileged to get a glimpse of the local community.

I went to South Africa because the University of Copenhagen (I’m from Denmark) had just denied my application for the bachelor of veterinarian science. I was out of a job and I felt like I needed to explore the world and see what other options it offered a 19 year old girl like me. This trip to the white lion project in South Africa has changed so much in me and it will forever be a part of me. Already before I left Tsau! I was talking with Jason about coming back. So far I’m planning on going back next year, and until then, I’m going to do some voluntary work here in Denmark, to create awareness of the project and its goals. The nine lions of the Tsau! project will forever be in my thoughts and in my heart.

My name is Nikki Wilkinson I’m a 25 year old student from Exeter University studying Bsc Hons Conservation Biology and Ecology. As part of my course I had to undertake work experience in an area which interested me, it has been my dream to work with big cats in the wild so when I found the opportunity to intern at the White Lion Trust I raised the funds immediately.


My month long experience of living in the bush and working with such an organised, professional and well-equipped organisation was incredibly educational-both in an academic sense; learning from the staff there and also in a very practical sense. The practical side was 24/7 from walking the land conducting anti-poaching patrols to tracking and observing the lions I was always learning.
 
The majestic white lions are just the highlight of the wildlife in the reserve, from giraffes down to geckos there is an abundance of wildlife there. To protect the white lions you must protect the entire ecosystem and as an intern I was given the opportunity to become involved with conservation issues such as erosion control and implementing management strategies for hoof-stock in a drought year.
 
I was also able to undertake my 3rd year research project at the trust and they were very accommodating with any requests for information and did everything possible to ensure I was getting the data I required.
 
The staff at the trust are brilliant and hard-working, the facilities are adequate and my experience participating in a world-first re-introduction project whilst gaining practical experience in conservation and wildlife management will be invaluable in my future career.
 
I would like to take this opportunity to thank The Clare Nunn Travel Fund who sponsored my flights and also a big thank-you to Linda Tucker, Jason Turner and all the staff at the White Lion Trust who made my internship so enjoyable!
 
Roars and Chuffs,
Nikki Wilkinson.


 
My time at Tsau! is one that will stay with me forever. I was lucky enough to stay with the White Lion Trust for two and a half months where I carried out a behavioural study for my final year’s dissertation at university.
 
Each day I woke up to the sounds of the white lions and went out to observe two of the world’s most handsome boys – Regeus and Letaba. At first I couldn’t tell the difference for the life of me between the two brothers, although Letaba did remind me of a certain famous, English, footballer…As time passed though (too quickly) their differences became more and more apparent, and fascinating. Regeus was by far the pretty boy who always knew when the camera was on him and where to pose, grooming himself at every given opportunity. Letaba was the bread-winner; more than often he provided a meal for the two and lost out his share to his brother, and he always managed to get himself injured in some bizarre way or another. The two were in separable, they patrolled together, (showing the neighbouring lions who was boss!) hunted together, played together, slept together, roared together; it was heart warming. Whenever apart Letaba would call and search so solemnly for Regeus, whereas Regeus was far more concerned with defending his territory against his tawny neighbours.
 
Often my favourite times were in the evening. When the brothers were first released we observed them 24/7, in shifts. Although sleeping in the vehicle wasn’t very comfortable (and made certain people very scatchy), stealing Jason’s rusks and watching the ghostly white figures move through the night made up for it. It was then that mischievous side of the two brothers came out. Often they would breeze right past the vehicle, middle of the night when you’re half asleep and not expecting it, and you’d have heart failure … unforgetable. Sometimes though they did the usual teenage thing and collapse for a lazy night of roaring, lying flat on their sides! The strangest Leo behaviour I’ve ever seen or heard of!

Unbelievably and unfortunately my 9 weeks flew by, and after another heavy night at Sleepers I had to leave. Although I was so sad, miserable to leave! I was so grateful at the same time to have been to such a beautiful and magical place. I had been waiting for so long to see the white lions of the Timbavati ever since reading Chris McBride’s book as a little girl and Linda Tucker’s book last year. They were more beautiful than I could have ever have imagined, and I genuinely feel they helped me become more at peace with myself and life.
 
I’m currently sat at a computer at university and am looking at a photo of Zihra (THE most stunning lioness in the world). Although I’m back on my mud-island home with a tonne of work to do I can’t help but smile because of the memories I have, and I know one day I’ll return to the Timbavati, hopefully forever.
 
Rae Kokes

 

How to Join

If you are interested in joining our lion conservation volunteer project in South Africa, you will need to fill out the online application form (you can also print it out and send it to us by post) – to secure a placement on the project, please complete and submit the form including two references and your deposit of £180. If for some reason, your application is declined, we would reimburse this deposit fully. However for those who are accepted, 25% of the full amount needs to be paid right after you have been confirmed on the project, with the remainder (75%) to be paid one month before departure. Once your place is confirmed, you will receive a pre-departure package with all detailed information on your project, the Timbavati Region, suggested items to bring etc.
 

 

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