Wildlife Monitoring in Protected Areas
Since the beginning of the year, I've been working with volunteer groups, spreading my time between the Balule Nature Reserve located within the Kruger National Park and the Dinokeng Game Reserve, just north of the Gauteng province. Two protected areas, each with its own unique ecological dynamic, separated by nearly 500 kilometers, yet both with one major similarity. Both reserves employ the advanced approach to South African conservation of dropping fences between both national and private nature reserves, merging protected areas, thereby greatly increasing the roaming ranges of South African wildlife.
The Voluntourism Conservation Model
The voluntourism model has drawn a bunch of criticism in recent years (with good reason!), but when legit, its a great way to bring in much-needed funding for conservation projects.
It also brings people together from all over the world to experience the African environment, learn about South African wildlife, and provide conservation managers with valuable data for decision making and ecological management planning.
The work involves wildlife monitoring and research. Data is collected from bird point counts, game transects, and predator surveys. The data is used to monitor animal distribution, population growth rates, habitat use, changes in the ecosystem, and overall habitat condition. Other than data collection, we also get our hands dirty with some ad-hoc reserve work. This could be anything from road maintenance or alien plant removal.
Working in the African bush is incredibly rewarding. Volunteers learn about nature and the animals we work to protect whilst gaining some valuable bush skills and experience. And while it involves hard work in the hot African sun, we also enjoy incredible views, amazing sunsets, down-time with new friends, and daily encounters of majestic African wildlife, big and small.