Elephant Orphanage and Community Outreach
This project in Zambia takes a holistic approach to conservation. We believe that sustainable and long-term conservation can only succeed if people in general, but especially those living around protected areas, realise the benefits of conservation and are fully involved in the conservation efforts.
We have got five volunteer opportunities in three locations in Zambia:
The Elephant Orphanage Project (EOP)
The EOP is caring for orphaned elephants from around Zambia and releasing them back out into the wild when they are able to look after themselves. In addition, we collect research data on the behaviour of the orphans.
- Research Volunteer – (April through November) 2 per month at the Lilayi Elephant Nursery located near Lusaka. Assist in the study and collection of behavioural data on the elephant orphans; staff capacity building; help care for the orphans, preparing their milk bottles, cleaning their stables/boma, collect branches, and assist in enrichment/play ideas for when the orphans are in their boma.
- Research Volunteer – (April through November) 2 per month at the Kafue Release Facility (Camp Phoenix) within Kafue National Park. Assist in collecting behavioural data on the orphans, inputting and handling data and assist in report writing; literature searches and reviews; staff capacity building; assist in enrichment/play ideas for when the orphans are in their boma; use camera traps to develop a field guide for the area as well as creating an ID kit for the wild elephants in the area.
- Media and Marketing Volunteer – (April through November) 1 per month at the Kafue Release Facility (Camp Phoenix) within Kafue National Park. Photograph the orphans in the boma and on bushwalks, plus the staff and surroundings; frequently post updates on GRI’s social media; blog writing; ‘behind-the-scene’ diaries; writing adoption reports on the individual elephants; staff capacity building; and help the research volunteers when needed.
Community Outreach Volunteer Programme
The Community outreach programme works with schools, clinics, and women’s groups to address the drivers of wildlife crime and inspire better management of natural resources.
- Community Empowerment Volunteer – (all year round) 2 per month located at Mukambi Camp within Kafue National Park. Assist in providing teaching support at primary schools; help to develop a GRI conservation curriculum; facilitate activity workshops for children; and provide capacity building for women’s empowerment groups.
- Community Health Volunteer – (all year round) 2 per month located at the Mukambi Camp within Kafue National Park. Volunteers work in local health clinics and assist in screening patients, building the capacity of local staff and delivering public health trainings to nearby communities.
There is no experience necessary to be a volunteer other than a keen interest in wildlife conservation. There is a volunteer supervisor in all three locations who will be helping the volunteers as well as giving the appropriate training. If volunteers have any relevant experience and can build up the capacity within the GRI staff that of course would be a plus but not necessary – we try to tailor each volunteer experience to the specific volunteer.
- Work at the Elephant Orphanage Nursery or Release Facility
- Conduct behavioural observation research on orphaned elephants
- Assist in enrichment/playtime ideas for the elephant orphans
- Use camera traps to develop a field guide of the wild elephants in Kafue NP
- Empower local communities through teaching of new skills
- Assist in conservation education within local rural schools
- Work in health clinics and assist in the screening of the patients
- Photograph the elephant orphans in their daily activities, update our social media sites, and share their stories through adoption reports.
The activities will differ according to which programme the volunteer will work with. Volunteers have to be very flexible as various situations arise, for example, if there is an orphan rescue to undertake, these events will take precedent over any previously scheduled activities.
Elephant Orphanage Project activities include studying the orphans’ behaviour and collecting and inputting the data. Volunteers will be collecting branches and help in creating playtime/enrichment ideas for when the orphans are in their boma. They will make the milk bottles for the orphans and help with cleaning the boma.
If the volunteers have particular skills or knowledge (like computer or photography skills, or knowledge on ecology, conservation, or alike) to build up the capacity within the project staff that would be fantastic as well. At the Release Facility in Kafue National Park we have an exciting project going creating a field guide for the area and creating an ID kit for the wild elephants in the area using camera traps. One volunteer per month, the Media and Marketing Volunteer, will be in charge of creating frequent social media updates, photographing the elephants, their keepers and the surroundings, and writing ‘behind-the-scene’ diaries as well as adoption reports on the orphans.
Due to the nature of our work whereby we aim to release the elephants back into the wild, we try to minimise the contact between the orphaned elephants and humans, with the exception of their Keepers who care for the elephants around the clock and form close family-like bonds with the elephants (which is essential to their emotional recovery from their initial traumas).
Any handling of the elephants is kept to a strict minimum as part of our policies to promote the successful release of the orphaned elephants back into the wild. As a volunteer you will be joining the elephants into the bush and boma to study their behaviour and collect data and to generally help out, but we ask that you keep a 10-metre distance from them.
Community Outreach Volunteers will be working with the local community via schools, clinics and women’s groups. The Community Empowerment Volunteers might be providing teaching support at under-served primary schools and facilitate teacher training workshops as well as activity workshops for children. They will help in developing the project’s conservation curriculum and assist with mitigation strategies in relation to human-elephant conflicts. Volunteers will also help in expanding the capacity of the several women’s groups already established around Mukambi Camp.
The Community Health Volunteers will be screening patients and taking vitals in local clinics. They will help design public health literature and posters, deliver important disease prevention messages and advise communities in general on how to improve their health and wellbeing with a focus on WASH and food security programs. If volunteers have got skills or knowledge to pass on to the project staff to build up their capacity that would be a bonus.
Volunteers will be staying in tented camps in all three locations. Usually each volunteer gets their own tent but might have to share if the need arises. The camps are basic but well established with some home comforts, like a seated toilet and a hot bush shower – which really makes a difference after a long hot day in the dust.
There is a small kitchen in each camp where volunteers can cook their food over a gas cooker and sometimes there will be cook outs around the campfire. Refrigeration is limited so the diet is predominantly vegetarian. GRI provides food for three meals per day, but the volunteers are welcome to supplement with some comfort foods like chocolate and crisps. Clean drinking water is available in all the camps.
There is no electricity on any of the camps, although we do utilise solar power to charge phones and laptops, and power the lights. However, our solar system is not extensive so charging facilities are limited (particularly in cloudy weather) and will prioritise the project communications and work necessities. We employ full-time staff in all the camps in various capacities, including for security, so the camps are never unattended.
As we are in Africa there is always the possibility of encountering wildlife, both big or small. On arrival all volunteers are given clear safety briefings to minimise any dangers. All management staff have basic first aid qualifications and all camps has a fully comprehensive medical first aid.
Age range: 18 and above. We do allow in certain cases 17-year olds with parental consent.
Group size: 2-4 volunteers
- Lilayi Elephant Nursery is based in the outskirts of Lusaka.
- Camp Phoenix at the Release Facility is based in the southern part Kafue National Park, about 7-8 hours drive from Lusaka.
- Mukambi Camp is based in Kafue National Park, towards the middle, about 4-5 hours drive west of Lusaka.
Our volunteer placements are 21 days. The Community Outreach Programme are all year round while the Elephant Orphanage Project is April – November.
Elephant Orphanage Dates for 2018:
Start – End
3rd April – 24th April
1st May – 22nd May
29th May – 19th June
27th June – 17th July
7th August – 28th August
4th September – 25th September
2nd October – 23rd October
30th October – 20th November
Community Outreach Dates for 2018:
Start – End
10th April – 1st May
7th May – 28th May
5th June – 26th June
3rd July – 24th July
1st August – 21st August
28th August – 16th September
25th September – 16th October
23rd October – 13th November
20th November – 11th December
The cost is $2500 for the 21 days.
All projects run from the Monday morning on the starting date, to the Friday afternoon of the finish date. Participants can book a minimum of one two-week slot, or multiple slots, up to three months (six slots) maximum.
|11 January||22 January|
|25 January||5 February|
|8 February||19 February|
|22 February||4 March|
|7 March||18 March|
|21 March||1 April|
|4 April||15 April|
|18 April||29 April|
|2 May||13 May|
|16 May||27 May|
|30 May||10 June|
|13 June||24 June|
|27 June||8 July|
|11 July||22 July|
|25 July||5 August|
|8 August||19 August|
|22 August||2 September|
|5 September||16 September|
|19 September||30 September|
|3 October||14 October|
|17 October||28 October|
|31 October||11 November|
|14 November||25 November|
|28 November||9 December|
The costs to participate in one of the projects is USD $2,500. This will be used to cover the costs of the volunteers during their stay and the remainder will be donated to the project for which the volunteer has been committed.
Included during your stay at GRI:
- All project-related transport costs
- Accommodation of the volunteers during the period of the project. Volunteers will stay in tents at the Lilayi Elephant Nursery, Release Facility in Camp Phoenix, or at Mukambi Camp
- Three meals a day (the volunteers help prepare the meals)
- The documentation required to apply for a work visa
- Experienced staff support, training and supervision
- Two working t-shirts per volunteer
- National Park Entry Fees for Kafue National Park if the volunteer stays at Camp Phoenix or Mukambi Camp
- Local staff whom prepare volunteer accommodations, maintain the grounds, and secure the property is safe and secure
What’s not included
- Plane tickets to Zambia
- Medical Insurance
- Business Visa (we will provide the necessary documents to obtain the visa)
How to get to the project:
- We will pick you up at the airport or hotel within Lusaka on the project start date.
Are the dates set or flexible:
- In order for the volunteer supervisors to be able to plan their time we do try to stick with the set dates, though we can be a bit flexible in certain cases.
Is it always 21 days or can it be shorter/longer?
- Given that it takes a few days to learn the ropes of the jobs of the volunteers (especially in the EOP where the Behavioural Observation Study done on the orphans is used for research and hence needs to be conducted in a certain way) plus the long transport time to two of the camps (for instance the Kafue Release Facility is 7-8 hours drive away so it takes two days of driving to get there and back) we do like that the volunteers come for the full 21 days. However, in certain cases we do accept shorter term volunteers and the cost is then calculated accordingly.
$2500 seems like a lot of money – why is it so expensive?
- Yes, $2500 is a lot of money but it also covers a long period of time, 21 days. Most holiday destinations would cost a lot more for the same time period for accommodation plus food – and with us you get an amazing experience, you get to make a real difference, plus you learn a lot about elephants, wildlife conservation, and so much more.
Elephant Orphanage and Community Outreach
Linking People & Conservation
The African Conservation Foundation is an award-winning charity focused on protecting Africa's endangered wildlife and their habitats. We build local capacity for long term sustainability of projects.