When thinking about Africa the first thing that comes to mind is its incredible wildlife and the vastness and beauty of the country. The “BIG 5“ are majestic animals who are living in this exotic wilderness and have long held the captivating power over our imaginations.
Seeing them in their natural surroundings surely creates memories of a lifetime. The “BIG 5“ are elephants, rhinos, buffalos, leopards and lions. The term, BIG 5, now used in most tourist and wildlife safaris, was first coined by big-game hunters, and refers to the most difficult and dangerous animals in Africa to hunt by foot. Their horns and furs are seen as trophies, to be taken home and displayed there. While once a popular sport amongst African hunters, Africa’s Big Five have become recent targets for wildlife conservationalists. Today, numerous laws are in place to combat population decline, and many national parks offer protection. Yet, the challenges across Africa’s plains have not been completely eradicated. This article will explore what challenges Africa’s animals face today, and how to protect the incredible variety of wildlife remaining here. Also have a read on how you can make an impact and support as a volunteer on a Game Reseve in Africa.
Today’s Threats to African Wildlife
Illegal Poaching to Extinction
Although animal protection laws are in place regulating both legal and illegal hunting, some animal species are still under the threat today of being overhunted to extinction. To protect animal species such as the Ethiopian Wolf or Mountain Gorilla, it is important that laws are properly enforced, allowing these animals to live freely in their natural habitats. In order to achieve this, rangers should be properly trained, along with their dog-sniffing counterparts, to track down illegal poachers.
Private breeding farms
Due to incredible amounts of money some people are willing to pay to hunt an animal like a lion (50.000 US Dollar is quite usual) the greed for quick money arises. Private breeding farms nurse the Big 5 to make this happen for paying customers. Unfortunately, besides in Botswana, there currently is not a complete ban of hunting in Africa.
Unfortunately it is still believed that medicine like the horn of a rhino helps. It is important that this belief is recognized as detrimental to the survival of the species.
Disappearance of living space
The modernization of Africa brings positive as well as negative consequences. The sales of wooden products of course helps bring to wealth to those who rely on the land. However, detrimental environmental consequences cannot be overlooked. For 28 cut trees only 1 gets replanted. The effects of this are quite drastic. Minerals in the soil are disappearing, climate change increases, water supply is reduceded and also the supply of foods is threatened. This of course also reduces the space for the animals and the chances to live there. The results are tragic in a region that also is depending on agriculture. It is important to look for another approach so that there is a chance natural resources will remain for years to come.
Growth of population
Todays exponentially growth of the population in Africa leads to a depletion of wildlife. The reason is, that so called bushmeat is very popular with a lot of Africans and this impacts the overall number of remaining wildlife as these animals are hunted illegally. 14 wildlife species are currently endangered like giraffs, gnus, warthogs, grevy zebras, and some more.
GET ACTIVE AND MAKE AN IMPACT – YOUR WORK AS A VOLUNTEER IN A GAME RESERVE
An overall sustainable future development is important for Africa – not only for animals but also for humans to both have a future perspective to live side-by-side and not competing with each other. Right now a lot of humans depend on depleting natural resources. The rich wildlife and nature resources of the country should be recognized as a unique attribute worldwide, and as such, important to protect. While there is a path for the people to open up to potential markets like e.g. building eco-friendly lodges for tourists or selling sustainably produced goods instead of cutting down trees for wood delivery there is some work that can be done to especially focusing on protecing the wildlife directly and now.
Your work in a Game Reserve
Within todays realities it is absoultely necessary to have protecing areas for the African wildlife where its diversity can further prosper and animals are taken care of. This work is done in so called game reserves. They are often increadibly big in size so they represent the natural habitat of the animals living there. Passionate rangers, veterinarians, scientists and volunteers do their daily work here – they monitor the animal popolation, take care of animal health and do their research to develop future perspectives to even improve the living conditions for animals living here. The list of potential intiatives is long and supports the overall goal to create and maintain a future perspective for a rich and diverse flora, fauna and animal wildlife. As the needs of a Game Reserve always depend on current requirements and projects, please keep in mind you will support tasks as needed by the time you arrive. To give you an insight what volunteers on a Game Reserve generally actively participate in, have a look on their long term projects so you get an idea, what their daily work consists of:
Long Term Projects:
Game Monitoring: No matter if it is a rhino, an elephant or predator; regulary monitoring of animals helps in animal identification and information collection regarding family structure. With this information, feeding and spatial ecology can be determined. The data helps to base future decisions for the Game Reserve.
Game Count: Anual Game Counts are important to determine the capaticy of the Game Reserve. Counting these animals helps to decidehow the ratio between predator to prey should look like and to get information about how animals are moving on and off the reserve.
Animal Rehabilitation: Injured animals, which have been found inside or outside of the reserve, are nursed here. The overall aim is to release them into the wilderness again once they have recovered. A nursing team takes care of these animals and also makes sure to create awareness and knowledge about these problems. This is a good way to get a valuable insight into the challenges of wildlife management and human-animal-conflicts.
Camera Trapping and Telemetry Trapping: The use of camera traps captures visual material about the animals of the Game Reserve which is then used to make management decisions. manage the reserve best. Some wild animals like cheetahs and leopards are really hard to observe, so tools like telemetry trapping help tracking them.
Restoration and Rehabilitation of Reserve Landscapes: The need to return the once pristine landscape to its original splendor makes it necessary to remove old fence lines and renaturate overgrazed land.
Research Projects: The main idea of setting up research projects is to maintain the Game Reserve and make it last for the future. To do so local and international research, and its results, are used to gain data about less common animal species. In the past for example, foreign plants were introduced with the result that these have to be removed again to keep the natural biodiversity the land has to offer and also to protect from fire threats and keeping water ressources.
Community Projects: A Game Reserve also needs to support the local and impoverished community.. Education is key, but also very practical approaches like a vegetable gardening, recycling projects or building classrooms are essential for a sustainable future for both animals and mankind.
General tasks: This can include game capture and other wildlife veterinary work, orientation and nature walks, assisting in night and anti-poaching patrols, game monitoring in the morning etc.
Besides getting active in the Game Reserve as a volunteer you might also get the chance to learn about specific topics more in detail through talks like:
- Introduction to Wildlife Conservation in South Africa
- Monitoring of Wildlife
- Understanding Ecosystems
- Wildlife tracks and signs
- Parasites and Disease in Nature
- Anti-Poaching Methods
- Veterinarian’s Role in Conservation
- and much more…
If you want to know more about the whole tour which contains this wildlife project as part of it please have a read here, on what we have planned for you to get your authentic Africa experience