Website Durham University

We are looking for volunteer field assistants to help with ongoing research as part of Durham University’s Primate & Predator Project based in South Africa.

There are positions available at two study sites. The first position is based within the Soutpansberg Mountains, which has an abundance of all five species of South African primates: chacma baboon (Papio ursinus), vervet monkey (Chlorocebus aethiops), samango monkey (Cercopithecus mitis
erythrarchcus), thick-tailed bushbaby (Otolemur crassicaudatus) and southern lesser bushbaby (Galago moholi). A major objective of our research is to examine the behavioural ecology of predator-prey interactions focusing on diurnal primates and their predators as a model system. Chacma baboons, vervet monkeys and samango monkeys are all the focus on ongoing research at the site, but volunteers are mainly involved with work on samangos and vervets. Volunteers will work alongside an experienced team of
field biologists and may be involved in the following tasks:

1. Behavioural observations of habituated primates through full day follows
and collection of standardized behavioural and demographic data from our
study groups.

2. Experimental titrations of predation risk based on giving-up densities
or predator detection experiments using predator models.

3. Habituation of new groups, sometimes tracking via VHF receivers to
maintain contact.

4. Monitoring of primate groups via GPS collars – you may play an important
role in setting and monitoring traps, tracking via VHF receivers, data
download, and collar retrieval.

5. Phenological transects and vegetation plots to estimate primate food

6. General data entry.

7. Volunteers may also have the opportunity to work on the predator element
of the project and engage in camera trapping.

The second position is based at a research centre in Alldays, conducting research on the human-wildlife conflict stream of the project. This project investigates the scale and nature of human-wildlife conflict and crop raiding on commercial farms in the area, as well as assessing local perceptions and tolerance towards wildlife ‘pests’. We are currently testing strategies for mitigating wildlife conflict. Work here will focus
on the chacma baboon and vervet monkey. Volunteers will work alongside an experienced team of field biologists and may be involved in the following tasks:

1. Evaluation of primate crop raiding mitigation strategies, mainly through
behavioural observations of primates on farms.

2. Vegetation transects within crop fields to assess crop damage.

3. Primate group counts.

4. Camera trapping to assess primate populations and crop raiding across

5. Environmental education.

6. Data entry.

As the project involves a social anthropological aspect, assistants will be expected to interact with local farmers, communicate positively, and have knowledge of the project so that it can be conveyed and promoted.

The precise activities will vary depending on our requirements at the time. Please get in touch if you have specific interests in particular techniques or aspects of our research, since not all activities will be ongoing at all times.


We are looking for volunteer research assistants with the following experience:

1. A background in biology/zoology/ecology or related field and an interest in the behaviour, ecology and conservation of primates and other mammals.

2. Be physically fit, and capable of undertaking fieldwork in a mountainous environment, in hot temperatures at certain times of year. You should be able to comfortably cover 10-15km per day (often more) over rough and often steep terrain and capable of carrying a day pack these distances while collecting data. You will often be doing this alone.

3. Capable of working well as part of a team, under the authority of field research coordinators, and be a valuable team member.

4. Reliable, responsible and motivated when it comes to following research protocols and methodologies, and an ability to work at unsociable hours when necessary.

5. Relevant experience of the project?s field techniques and of working in southern Africa is desirable but not essential.


No salary is provided, and you will need to cover your own food and accommodation costs at the research station. Accommodation costs are currently 4000 to 4500 Rand a month, dependent on the site. All research equipment will be provided. Volunteer research assistants will also be responsible for their own airfare and travel to South Africa and medical/travel insurance.

Support provided for internship/volunteer positions (travel, meals, lodging):

Shared rooms are available at each site, equipped with hot showers, flush toilets, gas stoves, fridge, tapped water, washing machine, solar power, and electricity (220V). Trips into a local town for grocery shopping are also provided. Accommodation fees are paid directly to the research site and not the Primate and Predator Project.

Term of Appointment:

Positions start immediately. We are looking for volunteers who are able to commit for a minimum of 3 months, although positions may be held for up to 12 months or longer, depending on availability. Priority will be given to those who are able to stay longer. Volunteers able to contribute for a minimum of 6 months may take on additional responsibilities, including data analysis and publication where appropriate.


To apply, please submit a CV and covering letter to the project email address ( outlining which project you would like to join, your suitability for the role and relevant experience, and the duration and timing of your availability. Please also include contact details for two referees. Applications will be accepted until positions are filled.

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