Conservation volunteer: Take a break from the old routine


It’s Monday morning. The alarm rudely wakes you from your sleep.  You drag yourself from bed. You mentally prepare for the daily grind of school, or work. You question if this is all there is. You wonder how you’ve somehow found yourself in the nine-to-five spiral.

Work. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

This is not what you wanted from life. You wanted to make a difference. But, you don’t know where to start. You worry you do not fit the stereotype of a volunteer.

Sound familiar?  Continue reading “Conservation volunteer: Take a break from the old routine”

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New Beginnings


We are fortunate enough to be the very first interns into this new program, having done 3 months at GVI before being placed here with Anton and Harriot to take part in work experience. They were kind enough to come and pick us up from our previous accommodation 9 hours away and drive us to our new accommodation at
Umkhumbi Lodge. Continue reading “New Beginnings”

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Save the Impala Fundraiser

By: Victoria (Tori) Gray


At the end of last week us 4 interns were joking around with Harriot about wanting to get another pet…on top of the pet python we already take care of in our room! She told us these obviously cannot be kept as pets, but we could try and save some impala from being culled that she had heard of. She reckoned each were around 100 pounds to be saved and could then be brought to our conservancy. We were immediately interested and wanted to find out more details. When we reached out to the “impala guy”, of the 20 that were originally available, there were now 7 left and were going to be culled at the end of the next week if we didn’t buy them. He said he would give us a deal on the 7 impala: all for 8,400 rand (or around 500 pounds). We happily took on this fundraising challenge to save the impala!
After setting up a Go Fund Me page, we needed to start brainstorming some challenges to make people’s donations worth their while. Our first challenge was more physical: a race down the driveway carrying 30-kilogram sandbags. The second challenge, also physical but at the same time advantageous to our work here: a 2 hour-long plastic picking competition. Part of our work on the conservancy is to clear plastic from a previous non-environmentally-friendly pineapple farmer who decided to dump TONS of plastic on the conservancy in a landfill amongst living plants and animals. By collecting this trash off the ground, we are helping to save this ecosystem. The third and final challenge is unique but entertaining nonetheless: eating 5 edible plants (finishing and swallowing each and every bite).
When we first opened the Go Fund Me page for donations, we were hesitant that we wouldn’t make the money in time to save the impala in a week’s time. We shared it on multiple social media platforms, e-mailed to friends and family, and really tried to get the word out as much as we could! After 2 hours of fundraising, we had reached our goal. We were absolutely beside ourselves- we couldn’t believe that we were able to raise enough money to save the impala in only a couple of hours! A big “Thank You” to those who donated- we are so very grateful for each and every donation made towards saving these impala. Soon Ukuwela Conservancy will have 7 new male impala introduced. I can imagine they will be quite happy amongst fellow impala and other antelopes!



Forms of Conservation!

Today we were involved in clearing a path through a densely wooded area on Unkhumbi’s property. To make this path we had to go through first with machetes chopping down all the grass on the trail. We also had to chop down any trees that hung too low and obstructed the path. Following the machetes, another person came through with a shovel to scoop up any plants deeply rooted in the soil. Finally, another person used a rake to crape away everything that was left leaving a beautifully clear trail behind them. Continue reading “Forms of Conservation!”

The Importance of Camera Traps

Over the past weeks with Wild Volunteers I have learned a lot of important tools that can be used for conservation. One of the most beneficial tools is camera traps. The way these devices work is by a sensor that triggers movement and captures an image or video of the moment. There are different types of camera traps, but the current and most common one uses infrared for sensor movement.

Continue reading “The Importance of Camera Traps”

Diverse South Africa


South Africa is a very diverse country geographically, thus creating fauna and floral diversity. There are nine different biome zones in South Africa each with very specific characteristics. After spending three months with GVI at Karongwe Private Game Reserve, located on Limpopo, travelling to Umkhumbi Lodge in KwaZulu-Natal was very interesting as there was a big environment change. Karongwe is located on the savannah, a place where the grass layer is dominant. There is not much humidity year round except when the rain season comes. On the other part, Umkhumbi Lodge and its surroundings are located on the Indian Ocean Coastal Belt, a place where the vegetation and humidity has a more tropical appearance. Continue reading “Diverse South Africa”

A week of firsts…


My first week here has been a steep learning curve.  It has been so different to what I have experienced in my first three months in South Africa at Karongwe Private Game Reserve.  Last week I woke up to a house full of twenty-something people at 4:30am to go out on a research drive, this week I roll out of bed at 7:45am to shovel down some breakfast and get out the door with my three other pals to go tackle the day.  I am still far more tired at the end of our days here.  It’s full on here and go go go! Continue reading “A week of firsts…”

Owls & Mice

By: Victoria (Tori) Gray

This week we were introduced to the two stunning Western Barn Owls at the lodge, Fat Owlbert and Muhammad Owli, and the two beautiful Spotted Eagle Owls on the conservancy, Kludd and Igor. Over the last few months since being in South Africa, I’ve come to love and appreciate birds far more than I ever would have expected. Continue reading “Owls & Mice”

  Is wildlife a product like your sofa?

By Cyrille Tchesnakoff

What picture first comes to mind when you think about wildlife?
A typical response: A rhino, standing picturesquely under an acacia, on savanna grassland.
To complete the perfect picture, let’s take it one step further. Let’s paint a warm red sun, setting on the African horizon. It is a powerful image, particularly as the rhino is such an iconic and charismatic species, and one that is facing extinction.  Continue reading ”  Is wildlife a product like your sofa?”

Duck diaries – What the duck?!

On our first day as interns, we were introduced to a couple of feathered friends named Doris and Delilah. These orphaned ducklings were handed over to Umkhumbi lodge from the local vets. It is now up to us to raise and rehabilitate them.

But, exactly what type of ducks they are remains a mystery. No one at the lodge has ever seen their kind – even bird specialists are left scratching their heads.

Our only hope in identifying them is to wait until they molt their juvenile feathers and enter the basic plumage stage – as adults, their fully matured feathers should help provide us with vital clues.

For now, however, we concentrate on giving them the best start in life.

When they first arrived at the lodge, the pair were just two days old and weighed around 36g.

They were a month old when us interns met them, and putting on weight fast –
Delilah weighed in at 250g and Doris at 284g.

They have been in our care for just over a week now and are growing by the day. Delilah now weighs 416g and Doris weighed 427g. On average the pair are putting on 25g a day!

Currently, Doris and Delilah are fed on a diet of grains which they have been on since they were born. Now they are getting bigger, we can start feeding them some treats such as fresh veg and fruit to bring some variety and excitement into their diet.

Each morning, we clean out their pen, replenish their food and water and exercise them with a swim in the sink – something they absolutely adore.

Over the past week, we have incorporated a few toys into exercise time, in the form of rocks and pebbles. They enjoy inspecting these with their beaks – tossing them around here and there – splashing us in the process!

Our next idea is to introduce some tennis balls to the water, a new unfamiliar object for them to investigate and play with. This, we hope, will help encourage natural behaviour,

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