Elephant conservation volunteering
Sleep under the stars and get directly involved in this rewarding adventure in rural Namibia to conserve desert-dwelling elephants. Collaborate with rural communities, track the elephants and engage in projects that minimise human-elephant conflict in this water scarce country.
Where: Damaraland, Namibia
Immersed in the vast desert landscapes of Namibia, you will be actively involved in conservation efforts that protect one of only two desert-dwelling elephant populations in the world!
COMMUNITY CONSERVATION PROJECTS
A key activity of this experience is collaborating with local communities to protect water points that have been damaged by elephants. Due to drought, conflict emerges when elephants damage community structures to gain access to water, often having significant impacts on people and their livelihoods. You will be involved in building thick walls around these water sources, or creating new waterholes, to allow the elephants to drink at the same time as protecting community pumps and water tanks from further damage.
Learn about tracking desert-dwelling elephants and collect important information about different herds and their behaviour. In order to prevent conflict, monitoring the movements of elephants is crucial for understanding areas with increased elephant activity and exposure to humans. Elephant patrols are also important for documenting births, deaths, GPS locations and developing identikits for each individual elephant. All data is captured into an online database that further informs conflict management and conservation efforts.
The key focus of this experience is on the desert-dwelling elephants of Northern Namibia. They are not a subspecies, but a unique population that has adapted to their extreme desert environment through learned behaviours. There is only one other population of elephants like this in the world, found in Mali. While learning to track the elephants and monitor their behaviour, you will have the unique opportunity to observe these gentle giants. You may also be exposed to other wild animals while you are conducting elephants patrols, including giraffe, zebra, kudu, ostrich, oryx, hyena and hundreds of beautiful birds.
You will be exposed to the wide open, wild spaces of Africa! The stark beauty of Namibia is captivating, with its golden sands, dry riverbeds and utter remoteness. This is a place of quiet, where the night sky seemingly goes on forever. You will have sleep outs every night! Sometimes you will sleep outside of villages and when you are on patrol, you sleep in a new place every night, ending up wherever your tracking takes you. This is an experience of a lifetime! Learn the real challenges of conservation, balancing the needs of people and wildlife in a harsh environment where resources are scarce. Engage with local communities to understand their challenges and learn first-hand how to track and understand elephant behaviour. Skills like cooking over a fire are an added bonus!
Base camp is located north of Swakopmund along the Ugab River. Here you will be sleeping on a treehouse platform, under the stars, and overshadowed by the red cliff faces of the valley. Here you will share simple ablutions and showers and have access to a common area for eating and relaxing. This will be your base between main activities, where you will return for a much-needed shower. While working in the communities and while on elephant patrol, you will be ‘wild camping’, where facilities are basic and you can experience the magic and sounds of wild Africa. If the weather requires it, tents will be provided. All meals are provided and cooked over the fire as you learn to live a nomadic lifestyle! Opportunities to relax during the midday heat are provided and the evenings are spent around the campfire.
OBJECTIVES & IMPACT
Youth 4 Conservation partners with a non-profit, award-winning, organisation in Namibia which works with the conservation challenges of desert-dwelling elephants on a daily basis. The bulk of their activities are funded through the participation of volunteers in their programme.
Thus, we have established a collaboration to expose youth to real conservation challenges on the ground, highlighting the need to understand human challenges in addition to protecting elephant populations. This is a powerful opportunity for young people to engage in contemporary debates and to meaningfully impact on human-wildlife conflict.