ZooLab's Volunteering Trip to Mankwe Wildlife Reserve
ZooLab's ambitions go beyond the UK. We want to support well organised conservation efforts wherever we can, like the Nkombi Volunteer Programme which highlights the issue of poaching in South Africa.
ZooLab have built up an excellent relationship with Mankwe Wildlife Reserve, a 4750 hectare reserve situated in the North West Province of South Africa, approximately 5 km’s east of Pilanesberg National Park.
Visiting Mankwe gives ZooLab staff the chance to discover the fascinating flora and fauna of Africa. The intention for our first trip in 2017 was to gather information and resources for our workshops, whilst gaining an insight into the conservation issues faced here. For the staff who have visited turned into something so much more.
Rhino numbers across the world are falling dramatically, a big part of this is due to poaching. After spending the week with Dr. Lynne MacTavish and the rest of her team at Mankwe, hearing their stories and understanding the daily struggles that come with protecting this endangered species from the dangers of poachers, our team all felt compelled to take action and raise awareness of the issues faced which could easily bring both the black and white rhino to extinction.
Every year we send a team of staff across to volunteer and learn more about the plight that the Rhinos face. It truly is a life changing experience for all involved.
ZooLab's 2019 Volunteering Trip
In August, we sent four of our rangers - Anna, Lilian, Lydia and Tristan - to South Africa where they spent two weeks volunteering with the Nkombi Volunteer Programme in Mankwe Wildlife Reserve. We wanted them to immerse themselves in this unique ecosystem, whilst experiencing first hand the conservation efforts taking place to protect the wildlife residing in the reserve.
To say our intrepid explorers had an adventure would have be an understatement - their time was spent spotting rhino, on bush walks and game drives, taking part in bush burns (a controlled burn that can act as a barrier to a wildfire by reducing available fuel sources) and patrolling the reserve on the look out poachers (to name a few activities).
Visit our YouTube playlist to watch our vlogs of the trip!
Ranger Reflections - Anna French
"Going to South Africa was an incredible experience. I have always dreamed of seeing animals such as giraffe, zebra and warthogs in their natural habitats - this trip did not disappoint. While in school studying for my degrees, I would always learn about the importance of camouflage, predator and prey behaviours, habitat and population management - at the reserve I saw all of these practices and theories put to action.
I didn't know that giraffes had spots not only camouflage but to help thermoregulate their temperature as well. Zebras are striped to protect them from predators as it is more difficult to pick out an individual. There is basically a reason as to why every single animal is the way they are - I found that fascinating! It was an amazing adventure and really reignited my love for all things nature!"
Ranger Reflections - Lilian Arroni
“It was really nice to be there again at Mankwe Wildlife Reserve - it is a beautiful place with amazing animals. It is great to connect with the other people there - the volunteers, groups and the specials. My favourite thing about volunteering with Nkombi Volunteer Programme is the feeling like what I am doing is actually useful and important for both conservation and the reserve.
My highlight of the trip was getting really up close to the rhinos while we were on the truck - we were literally a couple of metres away from them! It was their choice to walk up to us - it felt like they knew we were good people from the reserve and not there to hurt them.”
Ranger Reflections - Lydia Smith
"South Africa was one of the best experiences I've ever had. Seeing all the animals in their natural habitats and being able to get close up to some of them was amazing. Meeting the sassy orphaned zebra, Mbez, was so cool! Although, the giraffes had to be my favourite animal of the trip.
Meeting the anti poaching team and witnessing what they do every night was really inspiring, they really care about the rhinos and want to change things. It's very sad that they have to trim the horns to protect them, but that is the only way of saving them from the black market and being poached.
On top of the trip being amazing, I made some great friends."
Ranger Reflections - Tristan Bruce
"It was just amazing to get up close to the animals there especially to be able to stand so near to the rhino. It was interesting to learn that they trim the horns (they don’t call it dehorning) because the horn is worth about $250,000 and that is all the poachers are after. Since they started doing it they haven’t had a problem with rhino poaching since 2014. The main problem now is people poaching the Warthogs for their meat.
Personally I found learning about the tracking fascinating too. Learning about what leaves what footprints, what can affect the tracks and how to tell how long ago they were made.
It was the people there too that really made the trip. Lynne, Brendon and Mel were always really happy and willing to answer any questions we had. The staff at the camp were always really cheerful (the chef Deno taught me to say dumela which is good morning in Sotho).
It was amazing too just to be right in the middle of it all. When I went to make a cup of coffee in the morning there was always Impala drinking at the dam water in front of the camp and at night time the animals came right inside the camp (we had a waterbuck right outside our windows one night)."