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Research volunteer at the Elephant Field Station

As a pioneer research volunteer, you can help Bring The Elephant Home (BTEH) with research projects focusing on elephant and human wellbeing in South Africa. Tasks vary from elephant behaviour monitoring, elephant identification, educational and community programs, as well as tasks related to communication, data analysis and running a conservation NGO. We look forward to your application. You can find all you need to know on this web page.

Will you join the pioneer group?

Bring The Elephant Home is now recruiting max 9 pioneer research volunteers to help develop the program, collect and analyse data, thereby making a valuable contribution to elephant conservation and community engagement. As a pioneer student, you will focus on developing key activities for future interns, elephant research possibilities, and educational and community programmes. During your stay, you will have a unique opportunity to connect with local people and learn about elephant behaviour and conservation challenges.

Where: Kariega Game Reserve, South Africa

When: November 10-30, 2021

Student tasks

You will help to develop and test all activities, which may vary from:

  • Tracking wild elephants.
  • Recording elephant behaviour.
  • Developing an elephant identification kit and database.
  • Developing an African elephant workbook and facilitating elephant educational programs at local schools.
  • Helping to facilitate participatory community workshops and conducting questionnaires to collect data on the value of elephants and the reserve for the neighbouring communities.
  • Data analysis, discussions about interpretation, contributing to a research article.
  • Developing the program for future interns in collaboration with local partners. 
  • Other tasks to support elephant conservation: (social) media, website, graphic design, etc.

Other benefits

  • Regular game drives (at least 3 times a week) with expert guides.
  • A visit to Addo Elephant National Park.
  • Endless possibilities to emerge yourself in nature, form meaningful connections, and observe natural animal behaviour. A highlight will be a sleep out under the stars with the sounds of wildlife around you.
  • Besides many opportunities to observe elephants, you will be exposed to numerous other species such as lion, rhino, buffalo, giraffe and zebras.
  • Experience at an international conservation organisation.
  • Network opportunities: Developing and testing programs in collaboration with local partner organisations.
  • On days off (one day per week), there are plenty of opportunities to explore the nearby coastal area: hiking, canoeing, spending time on the beach, going on a marine safari (in November you have a chance to see Southern Right Whale and Humpback Whales, as well as dolphins, penguins, and seals) (additional trips at own expense).

Pioneer research volunteers qualifications

The most important requirements are that you are passionate about elephants and people, and motivated to make a real change. As this is the development phase of the field station, we welcome people who:

  • Are independent, have great team-spirit and dependability
  • Have an optimistic and flexible attitude
  • Have the ability to think in terms of creative and practical solutions.
  • Speak and write English proficiently
  • Are aged over 21 years old
  • Preferably have a drivers licence

We welcome a maximum of 9 research volunteers with different skills and experience useful for all activities. A few examples of skills we value: science (e.g. social, animal behaviour or environmental), communication, GIS, (conservation) education, community engagement, graphic design, video editing, social media, app development, database management, and more.

Time commitment

  • Preference for students who can commit to 3 weeks full-time
  • Arrival on Wednesday November 10, departure on Tuesday November 30, 2021

Not ticking all the boxes?

If you are super motivated but not sure if you can meet all the requirements, you might be able to help us reach our goals in a different way. Please contact us with your ideas and we can discuss options.

An introduction at arrival for this position will be provided. You will work together with the other pioneers (maximum 9), partners, and local communities. You will work closely together with Antoinette van de Water, founder of BTEH. Vera Praet, the first intern of BTEH in South Africa, and an active member of BTEH’s volunteer team, will be the volunteer coordinator and available for questions and assistance.

Location and accommodation

We will be staying at the Kariega Conservation Center at the border of Kariega Game Reserve.

  • Shared accommodation with the other pioneers.
  • Boma area with a campfire, braai, and rockpool.
  • Comfortable living room, kitchen, office, and workshop space for all our conservation discussions, program preparation and other activties.

Program costs

3 weeks: 1.200 euros ($ 1,450).

  • This includes shared accommodation, coffee/tea/water, (limited) internet access, elephant monitoring game drives on Wednesday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday, all research and community engagement activities, cultural exchange, conservation discussions, and a once in a lifetime African bush experience. Coordination by Antoinette van de Water and the manager of Kariega Conservation Center.
  • The costs exclude flights, land transfers, insurance, vaccinations, food, and personal expenses (e.g. local SIM card, activities on days off, snacks, etc).
  • We can provide all applicants with personal fundraiser pages so you can raise financial support for your contribution to elephant conservation and limit your personal costs.

Application and selection process

  • You can apply through this form.
  • In case of any questions, please contact us at [email protected]
  • After the application, we will contact you with more information about the next steps. We will make a selection of suitable applicants and inform you personally. 
  • Before we can confirm your stay, we would like to have a video call to get to know you better, talk about your preferred activities, and decide which tasks would suit you. 
  • As soon as possible after meeting you we will confirm whether you can join the program.

Please express your interest as soon as possible!

Mission of Bring The Elephant Home

Elephants are disappearing as they are struggling for their survival in many parts of the world. As a direct result of human action, there is a chance that we will lose a species that plays a key role in some of the world’s greatest ecosystems. To save this magnificent species from extinction, BTEH aims to create a world in which people and elephants live together in harmony. This goal is pursued by combining community participation, education, research, capacity building and practical action to realise positive change.

Questions or suggestions? 

We are very interested in any suggestions to make our program better. Please contact us at [email protected].

Interested in our future volunteer and student program in South Africa?

Are you not able to join as the pioneer group, but interested in joining the program later as a student or volunteer, let us know at [email protected] and we will send you information when the program is up and running.

Pictures by Liesbeth Sluiter and Antoinette van de Water.

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