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Wildlife Conservation and Rhino Research in Uganda
Spend a few weeks participating in this exciting, hands-on program to positively contribute to wildlife conservation and rhino research in Uganda. Volunteers play a valuable role in helping with the goal of campaigning for long-term survival of rhinos and other wildlife species through a variety of project activities, including guiding, data collection, tracking and monitoring, educational programs and more!
Are you ready to make a valuable contribution and meaningful difference in helping to bring rhinos back to Uganda?
Until the early 1980s, two species of rhinos were present in Uganda: the Eastern Black Rhino and the Northern White Rhino. Black Rhinos were common in the North and North-Eastern areas of the country, however all of these animals were shot by poachers during civil unrest in the 1970s and early 80s. The last rhino in Uganda was seen in 1982.
The Rhino Sanctuary this program is based at was established in 1997 as an NGO and is in a protected area with the sole mission to bring rhinoceroses back to Uganda. This is done through the protection and repopulation of the wild rhino species in the country, with the ultimate goal of reintroducing these animals back into Uganda’s National Parks.
Program goals, objectives and functions include:
To provide high-quality education programs for schools and tourists about endangered rhinoceroses
To inspire conservation action in the Ugandan community (through newsletters, radio shows, wildlife clubs, workshops with stakeholders, etc.)
To create conservation activities for nearby communities (producing crafts, drama groups, etc.)
To campaign for long-term survival of rhinos and other wildlife species
To promote the reintroduction of the rhinoceros to protected areas within Uganda
To promote breeding programs to ensure the long-term viability of reintroduced rhino populations
To establish programs in conjunction with the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC), district governments and local communities to ensure the protection of rhinoceros populations from poaching
To build national support for the protection of rhinos in Uganda
To conduct fundraising campaigns and generate funds in support of translocation, protection and management of the reintroduced rhinoceros populations
Project Activities: Rhino monitoring, animal tracking, bird and reptile identification, frog patrol, fence and general sanctuary maintenance, problematic plant removal, small animal rehabilitation, animal behaviour data collection, vegetation studies, school outreach and activities, plus other duties as required
Project Availability: This program is available from January-May and October-December. Volunteers must arrive on a Monday and depart on a Sunday.
Project Duration: 2-4 weeks. Note: Longer placements may be available. Please contact CISaustralia for details.
Working Hours: The work week is 6 days. You will receive 1 day off per week to be able to do your laundry, rest, etc. This day off may not necessarily be over a weekend. If you need a specific day off for religious or other purposes, please let your CISaustralia Program Advisor know.
Location: Nakitoma Village, Nakasongola, Central Uganda
Excursions: If you would like to participate in any excursions or cultural activities (at own expense), these should be undertaken outside of working hours, likely before or after your program dates. Our on-site staff can assist in providing advice.
Support: 24-hour on-site support from our Site Coordinator, Project Leaders and Continent Site Director (in Cape Town)
Minimum Age: 18+
This exciting hands-on experience gives individuals the opportunity to complete practical work place hours; gain knowledge; build local and global networks; build conservation, communication, technical and cultural skills; collect data and help conserve these magnificent animals while working with dedicated and highly experienced rangers and local staff.
Some top highlights include:
Getting up close and personal with a large variety of wildlife
Participating in many varied project activities
Learning from amazing rangers and staff who are dedicated to bringing rhinoceroses back to Uganda
Being able to identify and track various birds, reptiles and mammals
Positively contributing to the goal of the long-term survival of rhinos and other wildlife species
Opportunity to explore the country’s diverse landscapes and abundant wildlife – such as the source of the Nile River, the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains (Africa’s tallest mountain range) and the immense Lake Victoria (the continent’s largest freshwater lake)
Day 1 (Monday): Arrival Travel to project site and settle in
Day 2: Orientation Learn how everything works and operates at the project site
Day 3-6: Field Work (See ‘The Volunteer’s Role‘)
It’s important to maintain a completely flexible attitude as things can change, and usually do! You will be expected to work different hours depending on your day’s shift, but normally the day starts 9:00am. The Program Coordinator must be kept informed if you wish to leave during your roster/shift.
Day 7: Day Off The work week is 6 days. You will receive 1 day off per week to be able to do your laundry, rest, etc. This day off may not necessarily be over a weekend. If you need a specific day off for religious or other purposes, please let your CISaustralia Program Advisor know.
Day 8-13: Field Work
Day 14: Day Off (or Departure Day) Your last evening on the sanctuary will be allocated to doing a small test, completing a review form and receiving your certificate. The test and review form assist in keeping this project as beneficial as possible to volunteers. Your certificate will state all the activities you completed during your program.
The Volunteer's Role
This volunteer program has been designed for those studying wildlife conservation, botany, guiding, game ranging, wildlife management, geology and/or zoology – or simply for anyone wanting to contribute to conservation! This exciting hands-on experience gives individuals the opportunity to complete practical hours, gain knowledge, collect data and simply help conserve these magnificent animals while working with dedicated rangers and staff.
The program welcomes interested volunteers to help work together to ensure the survival of rhinos and other animal species in the wild. Volunteers play a valuable role in helping with the goal of campaigning for long-term survival of rhinos and other wildlife species through project activities – including guiding, data collection, tracking and monitoring, educational programs, etc.
Volunteers will be involved with a range of different activities. Depending on the length of your program, time of year and individual interests, skills and requests, you may be doing certain duties more than once. If you have specific requirements you need to fulfil for your university, please inform us so we can do our best to include it in your program. For example: teaching in a primary or secondary school, a certain amount of local community work, etc.
Rhino Monitoring Due to the ongoing epidemic of rhino poaching, it is vital that rhinos are monitored 24/7. Shifts are 12 hours starting at 7am and ending at 7pm. Volunteers work a portion of the shift – 4 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon. During these shifts you will be required to track the rhino allocated to you as well as keep an up-to-date spreadsheet of the rhino’s behaviour and activities, which will be entered into a database.
Bull Rhino Tracking & Location This is a rather strenuous duty. Bull rhinos roam extensive distances and need to be located on a daily basis. This duty involves finding a specific rhino’s track and then locating him wherever he is within the sanctuary. Full shifts normally take 8-12 hours (unless you and the tracker are lucky!). Volunteers work a portion of the shift – 4 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon.
Animal Tracking & Bird Identification There are many different animals on the property and identifying them is important. You will be shown how to identify antelope, birds, reptiles and mammals. You will also be shown how to identify the different spoor (tracks/prints) and shown the most common birds of East Africa and their calls, as well as their nesting habits and preferred habitats.
Reptile & Frog Identification Areas on the sanctuary are screened in order to find and identify reptiles, frogs and any other insects living in that area. Anything interesting found is photographed and entered into a species list database.
Well-trained guides take tourists and visitors to see the rhinos on foot. Volunteers shadow the tour, giving an opportunity to learn more from the guides and understand what visitors experience at the sanctuary.
Fence Check & Maintenance
Volunteers clean any undergrowth under the fence line and do full perimeter checks to ensure all fences are powered and solar panels and batteries are in full working condition. This helps to identify any rhino that may have broken through the fence and any poachers trying to get in.
There are many areas where maintenance is needed. For example: erosion on the fence line, painting, building, fixing rhino holding pens, road maintenance, cutting back bushes, etc.
Problematic Plant Removal
It is important to know and remove problem plants (invasive species) from the sanctuary, as they become a challenge for other plant and tree growth where rhinos and other wildlife feed.
Vegetation Studies (Feeding Patterns of the Rhinos)
It is important to do studies of what the rhinos are feeding on, where they are feeding and when they feed. This will help to create better feeding grounds for the animals and a suitable area/place to stay.
Small Animal Rehabilitation Poaching is rife in Africa and the bush meat trade is growing. The sanctuary has a rehabilitation program for baby animals and birds that are rescued from local poachers or found abandoned due to their mothers being killed. Volunteers have the opportunity to help feed the babies and nurse them back to health. Once they are eating enough on their own to sustain themselves, they are released back into the wild.
School Outreach & Activities Volunteers help educate students on animal conservation and wildlife in general, assist in teaching, playing games and puppet shows. Painting playground equipment and classroom walls is also conducted from time to time. Note: this activity can only take place during school terms.
While there are no excursions included on this program, there are a number of cultural activities and places of interest volunteers can choose to visit on their own (at own expense). These should be undertaken outside of working hours, likely before or after your program dates. Our on-site staff can assist in providing advice.
Uganda is a landlocked country in east-central Africa and remains one of the safest destinations in Africa. It is about the size of Great Britain and populated by dozens of ethnic groups. Its diverse landscape encompasses the source of the Nile River, the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains (Africa’s tallest mountain range) and the immense Lake Victoria (the continent’s largest freshwater lake). The country’s abundant wildlife includes mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, hippos and many rare birds.
The project site is located in Central Uganda, about a 3-4 hour drive from Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Kampala is a friendly and safe city with welcoming locals, excellent restaurants, interesting markets, dozens of small parks and public gardens, a cinema, a couple of theatres, large supermarkets and a scenic promenade along the shore of Lake Victoria. It may be worth spending time in Kampala either before or after your volunteer program.
Some places of interest in Uganda include:
Jinja – The Source of the Nile River and a short drive from Kampala. There are lots of places to stay, and for those of you brave enough, you can try white water rafting and other outdoor adventure activities.
Ssese Islands – Camping, site seeing and beautiful white beaches on the shores of Lake Victoria.
Lake Mburo National Park – Covering 256km sq, this is the only National Park to contain an entire lake. It has the largest number of impala and is only one of two parks that have zebras.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – A 6-hour drive from Kampala, this park is a renowned mountain gorilla sanctuary and is famous for gorilla trekking.
Kibale National Park – Home to the largest community of wild chimpanzees, Kanyanchu Tourist Centre is the flagship site for wild chimpanzee trekking. Kibale Forest has over 13 species of primates including the chimpanzee.
Fort Portal – Town with lots of lovely places to stay and wonderful views of the Rwenzori Mountain range (or “Mountains of the Moon”).
Queen Elizabeth National Park – One of Uganda’s oldest National Parks and home to a large array of wildlife (elephants, lions, hyenas, hippos, etc.). On the famous “Kazinga Channel” trip you can see the largest number of hippos and birdlife in Uganda.
Murchison Falls National Park – With a stunning 43m-tall waterfall and views, this is another great place to visit, especially for the hippos.
Sipi Falls – Stunning falls with amazing views of the Karamoja plains.
Volunteers will stay in a comfortable family lodge. The rooms are same gender, twin share and are fully supplied with bedding, mosquito nets and lighting. Both bath and beach towels for the pool are provided for you. Bathrooms are shared and have hot water showers and flushing toilets. All water in the bathrooms is safe and Bilharzia-free as it is pumped daily from a borehole (water well). The accommodation is equipped with a pool, a bar and restaurant. Wi-Fi is available to stay connected with your family and friends (fees may apply).
You are expected to keep your room clean and do your own laundry (bring washing powder with you). Your laundry can be done by a staff member for an additional fee.
All meals will be provided to you while on the sanctuary. Any dietary restrictions will be taken into account, so please make sure you inform us of any requirements. Note: There is nowhere on the sanctuary to purchase snacks, so we suggest you bring your favorite snacks with you as there are no shops located in the area. You can purchase in Kampala at the start of the project. Drinks, sodas and water are available for purchase at the sanctuary bar.
Application deadline is 60 days prior to commencement. This program is available from October-May and is closed from June-September. Volunteers must arrive on a Monday and depart on a Sunday. Volunteers can apply for independent dates or apply to join a 3-week group program (limited places available).
Do it, it is a great chance to see the various behaviours of rhinos that you probably won’t see by just going on a safari. Also all the staff are very friendly, helpful and welcoming. It is also a good opportunity to talk to local workers that I don’t think I would have experienced as a general tourist.
Wildlife Conservation and Rhino Research in Uganda