Elephant Care & Research in South Africa

Volunteer to monitor animal behaviour and contribute to important research


1-12 weeks


from £895


Western Cape


In brief

The Elephant Care and Research project studies the biology, behaviour and husbandry of their elephants with the aim of enhancing the welfare of captive and wild elephants throughout South Africa.

Volunteers work closely with the elephant herd who live in the park to provide care and enrichments for them. You will help the team to monitor the elephants throughout the day, gaining important insights into all aspects of the elephant’s life which contributes to vital research for the magnificent species.

Volunteer role

Join the local expert team to care for and research their herd of 10 African elephants, which includes relocated elephants, orphaned calves and elephants rescued from situations such as culls. The elephants live in a 110 hectare park where tourists visit daily to interact with the elephants on educational elephant tours, feeding and walks.

Volunteering offers a unique insight into elephants and the chance to work closely with these magnificent African elephants who are in vital need of conservation.

Volunteers staying 1 week focus on caring for and learning about the elephants, while those staying 3 weeks+ receive additional training and familiarisation on the techniques needed to observe and study the elephants, allowing them to get more involved in their research and welfare.

All volunteers receive elephant information and talks and are involved in a range of tasks, including:

  • Helping look after the elephants – preparing their food, changing their sawdust bedding, and mucking out their living areas
  • Field observations of the elephants – during the day and at night
  • Walking with the elephants
  • Data entry
  • Making elephant enrichments to encourage wild foraging behaviour
  • General maintenance – cleaning of elephant pens, water troughs and other areas, maintenance and painting
  • Making elephant dung paper to sell to raise funds for the project

Volunteers who stay for 3 weeks + may also help with:

  • Monitoring and recording the elephants’ social interactions (how they interact with each other) and behaviour (grazing, drinking, playing, dusting and walking)
  • Monitoring and recording interactions between elephants and tourists
  • Dung collection and analysis for health checks
  • Data analysis
  • Environmental education with the community
  • Helping to grow food for the elephants
  • Weekly monitoring of the zebra herd who live in the park

Typical day:

There are usually 6-10 volunteers at the project at any one time, with a maximum of 12.  Volunteers normally work 5 days a week with weekends off. Generally volunteers start around 6.30am and finish at 5.30pm with breaks and lunch. In your first few days you will be given an introduction to the volunteer role, research and the elephants.

Volunteers staying 3 weeks + may also take part in specific weekend, early morning or night roles, such as night time elephant observations.

For volunteer staying 1 week on Friday evening they join the team for a traditional South African braai and on Saturday morning, they can participate in a breakfast walk with the elephants. From Friday afternoon to their departure, volunteers can interact with the elephants.


Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) award

This placement has been approved by the DofE as meeting the requirements for the Residential section of the Gold Award.


Interested? Then make an enquiry.

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