Join a Long-Term Conservation Project in Botswana with the Fastest Land Mammal in the World

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Volunteer in Africa, taking part in a long-term cheetah conservation volunteer project to preserve this magnificent animal - the fastest land mammal in the world! You can gain relevant conservation field experience whilst volunteering on this programme in Botswana.

You can join for 1 month periods and we have places available in 2014.

Individuals and students doing research welcome.

Cost for lodging, transport to/from Maun airport and throughout your stay, all training and programme materials is  £1743 for 1 month.

Releasing a cheetah back into it's natural habitat Educating the local community about cheetah protection A volunteer setting up a camera trap Caught on camera! Two more volunteers with hyenas in the background One of our volunteers helping to collect cheetah scats A volunteer radio tracking cheetahs A volunteer learning from San bushmen how to track cheetah Volunteers helping with community education Relaxing in the early evening Ghanzi camp team life Volunteers helping to educate local children at one of the bush camps The camp's livestock, along with the guard dogs Volunteers helping on nature walks with local school children A spectacular sunset from the camp site Ghanzi volunteer accommodation in the bush The communal camp area for all volunteers Camp bedrooms, where volunteers stay during their visit

The Project

Volunteer for the survival of the cheetah in Africa

Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) population size and range have declined dramatically over the last century (in both cases 90% or more), making the cheetah Africa's most endangered cat species.  The species is further threatened due to loss of habitat and prey, isolated populations, a diminished gene pool, and human persecution.
 

Botswana contains the second-largest remaining population of free ranging cheetahs in the world. Estimated at around 2,000 individuals, this represents approximately 20% of the world population. However, cheetah populations are not safe and their future is by no means secure.  They often have difficulty surviving inside protected areas such as National Parks and reserves, as they are often out- competed by stronger predators, such as lions, leopards, and hyenas. Consequently, a majority of Botswana cheetahs are found in marginal and agricultural lands where they come into conflict with rural farming communities. The species' long-term survival in Botswana is, therefore, dependent upon conservation management of these areas.

The Cheetah Project

Cheetah Conservation Botswana (CCB) aims to preserve the nation's cheetah and other wildlife through strong community outreach and education programs informed by high-quality scientific research. The primary threat to cheetah and other predators comes through conflict with humans, particularly those living in rural areas.  Cheetah and other large predators are often persecuted by farmers who view them as a threat to their livestock. By working with farmers, rural communities, and school groups we can help to reduce, mitigate, or prevent conflict and therefore help local communities preserve their natural flora and fauna, including predators like the cheetah which have an integral role to play in landscape ecosystems.
 

The project began in January 2003 in the Mokolodi Nature Reserve near Botswana’s capital (Gaborone), and now has grown to include two other field bases in Jwaneng and Ghanzi. The Ghanzi Research Camp is the base for CCB’s research team and also hosts the Tiisano Education Bush Camp where school groups and others come for weekend- to week-long conservation education programs and workshops. The research team works to assess the status, distribution, and behavior of cheetah in Botswana ecosystems, focusing on areas where there is potential conflict with humans. The research team also works alongside CCB’s community and education outreach staff, providing up-to-date information and monitoring the success of our own outreach activities.

Tracking for cheetahCheetah Conservation Volunteer Activities

We run a small and intimate cheetah conservation volunteering programme taking only two volunteers each month. This means our volunteers get to experience a wide range of our conservation activities.

Duties may include:
• Assisting to prepare for and to conduct education bush camps and other conservation workshops for school children
• Assisting in visits to local farmers to discuss methods of predator control and livestock management
• Conducting various biodiversity surveys
• Data collection and input; creating or maintaining spreadsheets and databases
• Camp maintenance activities like fence mending, painting, etc
• Helping to service and maintain motion-activated cameras placed at field research sites
• Reviewing, classifying, and cataloging photos from motion-activated cameras
• Monitoring and tracking the activities and movement patterns of cheetah and other wildlife within the district
• Assisting in the capture, collaring and release of wild cheetah for research purposes

Camp life is varied and we try to make use of the skills and interests of each of our individual volunteers. We encourage you to make suggestions of how you may like to help and use your particular skills to full advantage (e.g. teaching, public relations, computer skills, camp maintenance).
 
Learning tracking skills from San BushmenPlease note that we do not hold captive cheetah at our research base nor can we guarantee contact with wild cheetah in the field. We capture wild cheetahs only rarely for research, rehabilitation, or relocation purposes – you would have to be very lucky to experience such activity during your stay.

Additional optional activities

While staying in Ghanzi, additional optional activities may be booked on arrival at an additional cost. These include rhino walks, San ‘Bushman’ (the indigenous people of southern Africa) cultural activities and game viewing.  To get to our base in Ghanzi you will travel through Maun, the gateway to the famous Okavango Delta. We recommend you allow time either before or after your experience with CCB to enjoy the wonders of this amazing region.
  
 
 

Background on Organisations Involved

 

Environmental education in the communityMokolodi Wildlife Foundation, Gaborone

A is a non-governmental organisation promoting wildlife conservation, the propagation of rare and endangered species and environmental education for the children of Botswana. It runs Mokolodi Nature Reserve, where the main base of CCB resides. This 7,000 ha reserve is home to a wide variety of African wildlife. It also has a successful white rhino breeding project. Over 12,000 school children visit the reserve each year and income from tourism subsidises disadvantaged schools. This reserve is CCB’s main site for administration, fundraising and education.

Jwaneng Game Reserve, Jwaneng

Run by Debswana Diamond Company. As an agreement with the government for utilising the land for diamond mining they purchased 20,000 ha of indigenous bushland for the protection of the biodiversity of the area. The reserves cheetah population is monitored through spoor tracking and motion cameras. CCB’s community and education programmes are organised from Jwaneng.

Teaching children about the cheetahTiisano Farm, Ghanzi

Owned by ‘People and Nature Trust’ (PAN) a registered trust in Botswana that runs programmes for rangeland rehabilitation and sustainable semi-arid grazing lands livestock management. PAN owns 3 farms which make up Tiisa Kalahari of which CCB are based upon the Tiisano farm. You will be based here for the duration of your stay. The site is unfenced and wildlife including small – medium sized antelope, warthog, cheetah, leopard, brown hyena, small carnivores, porcupine, aardvark and a huge variety of birds, reptiles and insects utilise the area.  

 


 

Volunteer for the survival of the cheetah in Africa2014 Dates & Costs 

1st to 30th April 2014 - 1 place
1st to 31st May 2014 - 2 places

Any questions, please email: Victoria.McNeil@workingabroad.com 
 

Volunteers at sunsetCosts
The cost to volunteer with Cheetahs in Botswana for one month is 1743 GBP, which covers all project costs, excluding food. Accommodation, transport during your stay (including transport from and to Maun airport), all training and supervision, Working Abroad Projects backup and placement support, are included.

The airfare to Maun, travel/medical and cancellation insurance, passport and visa costs, food and personal expenses (such as telephone bills, socialising or medical expenses) and optional excursions (as listed above) are not included within this price. It is mandatory for you to take out travel and medical insurance for the duration of the project. In general, you can travel from your home country to Maun via Johannesburg in South Africa.

Lodging, Food, Health, Requirements

Accommodation & Food
Our conservation volunteers will be accommodated in their bedroom in a small wooden chalet (or possibly a tent) on the Tiisano farm, 20km from Ghanzi town centre. There are shared bathroom and kitchen facilities, and an office (with limited internet access). Volunteers are responsible for doing their own laundry by hand.

Cooking facilities are available, but the purchasing and cooking of food are the volunteers own responsibility. You can expect to spend $150 – 300 (US dollars) on food per month. Cleaning tasks are shared by staff and volunteers. It will be possible to travel to the local town weekly for grocery shopping and all basic foods and fresh meat, fruit and vegetables are available.  

 

Volunteer with vet and cheetahConservation Volunteer Requirements
If you are 21 years or older and are able to speak English, you can join the programme.  You must be in good physical condition and be willing and able to tolerate temperature extremes and the minor difficulties of field life i.e. insects, lizards and other small creatures. While every attempt will be made to make your stay as comfortable as possible, it will be rustic compared to what you are used to. You must be available for at least 1 month.  You must be prepared to sign an indemnity form prior to arrival. This relieves the project of any legal responsibility should anything happen to you in the course of duty. You should have a positive attitude towards working and living within a multicultural group and respect the views and ways of others. We require our volunteers to be hard working and self motivated, but also patient and self-entertaining as the camp is isolated from the nearest town and there is little external entertainment. Mostly we require a flexibility and sense of humour as fieldwork in Africa can often be a little frustrating.
 

Health
It is recommended that you obtain some vaccinations and medication before coming to Botswana. 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. Ghanzi is normally a non malarial area, however cases of malaria do occasionally occur. If you are planning to travel to the North of Botswana you should bring the necessary anti-malaria treatments with you. Please bring sufficient supplies of all other medication you may require, as not all drugs may be available in Botswana.

The nearest hospital is approximately 22kms away in Ghanzi, so there is time to get you there if anything happens! The research coordinator and community officier are first aid trained and a first aid kit is supplied at camp.

Cheetah releasePassport and visa
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after the time of arrival. Visitor’s visas are issued at Botswana’s international borders, including airports and are valid for up to 90 days. Please ensure that you ask for the correct number of days or even ask for extra days if you are unsure of your plans. They will often only give you a 30 day visa at the airport or border, unless you specify how long you wish to stay. If you are staying longer make sure you get the days you need.

Dangerous animals
Being an arid area, the greatest danger to you is from snakes and scorpions, especially at night around the campsite. Such incidences happen very rarely but it helps to be aware. 

Interactive Map & Background

Below is an interactive map showing the location of the project:

 

Botswana's Geography and Climate

Botswana is bordered by Zambia and Zimbabwe to the northeast, Namibia to the north and west, and South Africa to the south and southeast. At Kazungula, four countries - Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia - meet at a single point mid-stream in the Zambezi River. The area of Botswana is approximately 581,730 square kilometres and is about the size of France or Kenya.

Botswana's climate is semi-arid. Though it is hot and dry for much of the year, there is a rainy season, which runs through the summer months. Summer days are hot, especially in the weeks that precede the coming of the cooling rains, and shade temperatures rise to the 38°C mark and higher, reaching a blistering 44°C on rare occasions. Winters are clear-skied and bone-dry, the air seductively warm during the daylight hours but, because there is no cloud cover, cold at night and in the early mornings. Sometimes bitterly so - frost is common and small quantities of water can freeze.

Volunteer Testimonials 

 

Marie-Soleil (Canada) wrote about her volunteer experience...

I spent all the month of October 2013 volunteering for Cheetah Conservation Botswana at the research camp with another volunteer, Valerie from Australia. What a life changing experience! I never thought I could fall in love with the sand of the Kalahari, but I did. There is something almost magical about that corner of Africa... During this trip, I helped the staff on a few different things: cheetah spoor tracking, office work, maintenance work, etc. Valerie and I had the chance to do some activities, like meeting San Bushmen people during a walk to learn about their culture, visit a Bushmen museum and go on a night drive to see some wildlife. I am grateful CCB staff took their precious time to take us on those activities!

Life sometimes was difficult in the camp, mainly because of the heat (I come from Canada, so I am not used to that heat!). Local people say that October is called «suicide month», because it is the hottest month in the year! However, it was always worth it, because of the smiley patient staff and because I knew my help was very welcomed. The unique wild beauty of the Kalahari, it's infinite night sky with the milky way smiling at us every night, the cry of jackals around the camp at night, the sight of kudus jumping away from invisible danger, all those things were also worth the few difficulties. I must say that I was lucky enough to see briefly 5 cheetahs (a mom and 4 cubs) when I was on a farm, going to change batteries in a camera trap. What an exciting sight!

 Volunteer John releasing a cheetah

John Crowe, from Canada, describes his experience on the programme last Summer

Released cheetah with volunteer JohnMy time volunteering in Botswana with the cheetah conservation was amazing probably even one of the best months of my life! Everybody was so easy to get along with and the local people of Botswana were the nicest people Ive ever met. The whole month was incredible, the very first weekend I was there we were able to catch and tag three male cheetahs. I got to help out in the ghanzi show, and do some amazing stuff that I would never have the chance to do here in Canada. I thank you so much for the opportunity to go to Botswana and work with the CCB. Ever since I could remember all i wanted to do was work with cheetahs in africa and I finally got the chance, thanks again.

John Crowe

Another volunteer in BotswanaAnna Richardson writes about her time volunteering in Botswana - March

I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to volunteer at CCB – I look back with so much fondness at my month here, as it really was an incredibly rewarding experience! Any initial fears I had were quickly put to rest by the wonderful team who made me feel welcome from the very beginning. The work itself was varied and I learnt many new things relating to wilderness conservation – spoor and cheetah tracking just to name a few. The accommodation definitely exceeded my expectations and there were some great activities on offer outside of CCB, which gave me an opportunity to get involved with the local community. Anyone with an open mind, a relaxed and positive outlook will find this a really fulfilling experience. Thanks for the wonderful memories - I hope to be back one day. I couldn’t speak more highly of CCB, keep doing what you’re doing!

Chantal Mira d’Ercole writes about her time as a volunteer on the programme - July/August

Ghanzi, the land of the small people…


Botswana, Okavango, Kalahari…I encountered these beautiful names full of promises, of As and Os a few years ago and images like bushmen chasing with bows and arrows but also death-looking snakes like the black mamba had piled up in my mind. What I expected to find in Ghanzi was not the prestigious Big Five but the more discreet wildlife, the world of smaller, lesser animals you usually overlook on a safari. There, I heard the yelp of jackals at night and mistook the sound of an ostrich by day for the threat of a leopard. I admired the delicacy of a spider that lurked on the office shelf overhead, playing hide and seek with me. I was surprised by the desperate, excruciatingly shrill scream of a baby frog when Gizmo, the camp cat started “playing” with it one evening.

The cameras we had set around the camp revealed a funny ballet of playfully jumping kudu, stalking wild cats, hurrying along porcupines loaded with their quills and wading warthogs and I treasured being their guests on the camp… I met the wide-eyed boomslang and admired its delicate, bright green shape –The fascinating Serpent!

Many times, I saw the explosion of colours of the lilac-breasted roller taking off from its wire along the dirt road to Ghanzi or the green lightening of a bee-eater.

The night were crisp and illuminated by the occasional shooting star and the steady, benevolent gaze of the Southern Cross. I wondered what elation the first October rains would trigger on the long, waving yellowed grasses of the quarry and could imagine the dry, seemingly dead thorn trees spreading their claws toward the sky and the blessing of the first drops…

I had come for the cheetahs and was moved by Duma and Letoatse’s fragility and grace when we reached Mokolodi. The same fragile dignity had been exuded by the San people who displayed their ancestral dances, singing and hand clapping to us in Trail Blazers. ..
On the reserve, we met the awe-inspiring rhino face to horn without the protection of steel –a humbling experience-and heard the growling of the werewolf-sounding male wild dog while feeding his cubs…so much for fatherly bravery!

At sunset, we trotted along among wildebeest and kudu, the three hills of Mokolodi looming in the distance. ..All these encounters with nature unexpected and priceless , made while or after raking dead leaves, scrubbing droppings, twisting wire, painting walls, driving to distant farms… in the name of the cheetah.

As precious the encounters with the Batswana, the two-legged people, who were always ready to share a word and a beaming smile!
Small, invaluable things that made up “my” beloved Botswana!
Thanks to all of you!
Chantal Mira d’Ercole

Beckie Garbett spent two months from July to August as a Research Assisant volunteer

I spent 2 months as a research assistant with CCB at the Ghanzi camp. What a truly amazing experience! No 1-day was like another, from radio tracking to setting motion cameras to scat analysis to trapping cheetah! Lorraine the research coordinator and Max the community education officer made it home from home, alongside my trusty fellow volunteer Jane the crazy ozzie, I’ve made life-long friends and shared memorable experiences.

It was a pleasure to be part of the Ghanzi team and to experience first hand the hardships & triumphs of CCB. I gained a true picture of the human-animal interaction issues and what it means for the survival of cheetah in Botswana.

It was hard at times to feel passionately about the conservation of wildlife and to be in an area so accustomed to shooting anything that threatens livestock, i.e. the farmers livelihood. But at the same time its what makes the experience real and only emphasises the “grey” areas of life that distinguish the importance of being able to understand the big picture and to work for a joint solution. CCB excel in this and I have every faith that their work will reap its rewards over time.

Alongside work life and the mountains of knowledge that the staff provide, there was the opportunity to visit Gaborone, Moremi Game Reserve (Okavango Delta), & I was also lucky enough to be able to visit the Wild Dog Research Camp (also in the delta) for a few days. Fabulous wildlife spotting (some a little more up close & personal than desired!) and a taste of the highlights of Botswana, not to mention the ooodles of culture you have right on your doorstep in Ghanzi, with the Kalahari San Bushmen and the extensive history of the farming community.

I undertook my placement with CCB with a view to returning to Africa to live & work…..somewhere! on completion of my wildlife management degree. I feel it has been an invaluable experience and would readily return to Ghanzi should a position with CCB arise!
I met some truly unforgettable & inspiring people and feel privileged to have had the opportunity to be a part of the Ghanzi community and the amazing work that CCB undertake.

Jane Quick gives her feedback on her time volunteering on the project

The two-month that I spent as a research volunteer at the Ghanzi camp were the best two months of my life. Having a life-long passion for animals and conservation meant that working for Cheetah Conservation Botswana was a dream come true. It was so rewarding for me to be a part of something that I care about so much – the protection of threatened species.

As soon as I flew into Botswana I fell in love with it. The landscape, the culture and the people all amazed and delighted me. It was like it held some kind of magic lure.

The first night I stayed at the Ghanzi camp I heard loud noises outside my window. Upon inspection I found a herd of Greater Kudu browsing on the trees outside my hut. In the eight weeks that I spent there in the bush, I would also find hyena scent marks on my way to the office, run into a jackal on my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, find cheetah tracks on an afternoon jog and on a visit to Mokolodi, nearly walk into a “crash” of rhino on my way to the kitchen. I expected a lot of things before I went on this adventure, but I was not expecting the simple joy that I would get from experiencing the little things that Botswana had to offer. A flock of Hornbills making a ruckus in a tree outside our office; an aardwolf getting confused in our spotlight and walking right up to our car; or the sound of hyena calling as you fell asleep. I certainly didn’t expect to find so many wonderful people and form such great friendships as I did with the crew from CCB and with the people of Ghanzi.

I experienced and achieved a lot of great things while I worked as a volunteer for CCB. I found it very rewarding to care for the two orphaned cheetahs we were housing and provide them with new enrichment. I got a kick out of spoor tracking; finding good cheetah habitat and then capturing the face of a beautiful cheetah on a camera trap. I loved teaching the local kids about predators and how to live in collaboration with wildlife and the environment. I even enjoyed (though on some unnatural, geeky, science-nerd level) the so called ‘yuck stuff’ – scat samples, prepping diets for the cubs and assisting with necropsies on two cheetahs unfortunately killed by a car. Most of all I loved meeting the people of Ghanzi. To experience a day where you meet a person who hates cheetahs and wants nothing more to put a bullet in every one they see, and to leave them with a greater understanding of cheetahs, their ecology, their behaviours and perhaps even a little bit more sympathy for this threatened “pest” – that is what made this trip for me so rewarding. I hope that CCB continues to receive the wonderful support they receive through donors, sponsors and volunteers so that they can continue the great work that they conduct in Botswana, which is so very valuable, but unfortunately so far from over.

Cheetah Conservation Project Volunteer 1st June to 1st July - Craig Milne, an Environmental Science student from the UK gives his feedback on his time volunteering in Botswana:

CCB is undoubtedly a brilliant project carrying out vital information about the cheetah in Botswana and it was a genuine honour to be a part of it. The work carried out is never too stressful and we learned many new skills.
 
Botswana is nothing like anything most people will have ever seen. It is very arid and dry – even in the winter it can get very hot. The temperature when we were there was acceptable – albeit very cold at night time. The country is very culturally rich and tradition is very important to the local people. It is a natural haven for all different types of wildlife and every day you are able to see animals everywhere. There is everything from dense bush to very open savannah. It was a very nice change from what I was used to and I very much enjoyed it.
 
Positives: relaxed atmosphere, friendly managers, stunning views and wildlife
 
Negatives: very changeable temperatures – at night its very cold, during the day its very hot, very long flights and drives to get there and around to other parts of the country, unless you can get along with your fellow volunteers it can seem lonely - at times – you are in the middle of no-where!
 
I genuinely can't think of anything that can be improved – everyone was always willing to explain something, everyone was friendly etc. our living quarters were perfectly adequate – we had all the cooking utensils and the toilet and shower were better than I could ever expect. Day to day living at the camp was an experience not to be forgotten – being in the middle of a desert area with nothing but wildlife all around is a really amazing feeling. In the evening times when it is dark there is nothing to be heard except the animals and looking up, the sky is lit up by stars. The camp we stayed in was, although basic, more than adequate for our desires. The chalets we stayed in are comfortable, the kitchen was spacious and had everything we needed. Free time was spent mostly sunbathing during the day and sitting round the camp fire in the evening times chatting.
 
Since this trip I feel that I have definitely benefited, both mentally and physically – being on the other side of the world and in an alien environment opens your eyes to many things and makes you realise what is important.
 
Recommendations for the next group – you will be nervous when you are going there, its only natural but come day 4 or 5 you will be into you routines, come day 14 you will wonder where the first half of your trip has gone and day 30 you wont believe its over – take advantage of everything you are offered, regardless of how you are feeling always do the work, you never know what you will see out there – every day is different. Take nothing for granted it is a once in a lifetime experience.
Many thanks, Craig
 
 

How to Join

If you are interested in volunteering with Cheetah Conservation in Botswana, 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 £150. If for some reason, your application is declined, we would reimburse this deposit fully. However for those who are accepted, the full amount needs to be paid one month before departure. Once you have been accepted, you will receive a Volunteer Information Package with all detailed information on your project, Botswana, suggested items to bring etc.
 

Apply Now

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