Contribution starting at $3,595
Exported from Streamline App (
12 days (avg. $300 a day) Includes accommodations, food, and all related research costs
Wildlife & Ecosystems

Conserving Threatened Rhinos in South Africa

Northwest Province, South Africa, Africa Map it
Lead Scientist
Activity Level
Single Rooms possible
Couples Rooms possible
Wilderness Camp
Chef-prepared meals
Special diets accommodated
A dehorned white rhino (C) Alex Kallend
A view of the volunteer accommodations from across the reserve (C) John Lecher
Earthwatch volunteers observe rhinos in the distance (C) Lynne MacTavish
Earthwatch volunteers help collect camera trap data (C) Melissa & Blake
A large white rhino (C) Alex Kallend
A view from the research vehicle down a dirt road (C) Ashley Junger
A volunteer analyzes an insect specimen (C) John Lechner
A dehorned white rhino (C) Alex Kallend
A view of the volunteer accommodations from across the reserve (C) John Lecher
Earthwatch volunteers observe rhinos in the distance (C) Lynne MacTavish
Earthwatch volunteers help collect camera trap data (C) Melissa & Blake
A large white rhino (C) Alex Kallend
A view from the research vehicle down a dirt road (C) Ashley Junger
A volunteer analyzes an insect specimen (C) John Lechner

Rhinos are believed to play an important role as “ecosystem engineers.” Help scientists to understand their impact on the environment to help conserve and manage rhinos in South Africa.

A large white rhino on the reserve

On the black markets in Southeast Asia, rhino horn is reported to be worth more than gold. As a result, widespread poaching has decimated rhino populations around the world, including in South Africa – home to three-quarters of the world’s rhino population. The situation is urgent: if poaching continues at its current rate, it is estimated that rhinos may become extinct within the next 20 years. But what would this mean for the ecosystems they support?

Help researchers to study the impact of rhinos on their environment and how it could be affected by their disappearance. This work will help researchers and policy makers to understand their functional role as an ecosystem service engineer, which may help to better protect these animals. You will also assess the impact of current management approaches to conserve rhinos and reduce risks to their populations. For example, how does de-horning impact rhinos’ behavior and their relationship to other animals?

Observe rhino daily either from a game viewer or on foot while observing many other species of South African wildlife – study rhino behavior, record their positions, monitor their feeding habits, and assess their relationship to their environment. Through these activities, you will inform efforts to conserve and manage rhino populations in South Africa.


A Typical Itinerary

  • Day 1: Meet, travel to field site
  • Day 2: Orientation, training
  • Days 3-7: Vegetation surveys, rhino monitoring , bird and mammal surveys
  • Day 8: Recreational day excursion to a nearby National Park
  • Days 9-10: Vegetation surveys, rhino monitoring, bird and mammal surveys
  • Day 11: Research wrap-up, farewell gathering
  • Day 12: Departure



When you arrive, the researchers will conduct an orientation and brief you on the work you’ll be doing. Field work will begin on the second day, where you will be involved with:


Earthwatch volunteers install a camera trap (C) Georgann Meadows
Rhino monitoring and behavior

Find and record locations of individual rhinos to assess their geographic distribution; observe and record their behavior.

Earthwatch volunteers monitor wildlife from a research vehicle (C) Melissa & Blake
Rhino species associations

Survey birds and mammals to assess their species richness and populations in areas where rhinos are and are not present.

Earthwatch volunteers take vegetation surveys (C) John Lechner
Vegetation surveys

When the animals move off of foraging sites, record the vegetation in the area to assess habitat use.


In the evenings, you’ll head back to the field station for dinner, an informal talk by the researchers, and time to relax.

Field conditions and research needs can lead to changes in the itinerary and activities. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.





5 Reviews on this Expedition

If you have been on this expedition, others considering attending would love to hear about your experience.
Sara Buchan | November 19, 2018
I promise you that every wild and praising superlative you can think of applies to this trip. I have such admiration for Dr. MacTavish and her team. We were so well looked-after, and getting a breakdown of the field data we were gathering and what it meant to the project really made me feel I was indeed contributing in some small way to some very important work. The area is beautiful - we saw SO MANY animals apart from the rhino, and will never forget walking behind a small herd of them in the late afternoon, or our excitement at spotting different bird species, the good food, the good humour and laughs, and how incredibly brave and committed the team is at the reserve. Please support this project if you can, and please Earthwatch keep backing Dr. MacTavish and her crew. And thank you for being the conduit to such brilliant experiences. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Virginia Rogers | August 22, 2018
This was a really well-organized trip, with a wonderful blending of education and very concrete activities where you really were able to collect data and support the research effort, all combined with great camaraderie and an incredible warmth toward all the animals and all of us. I learned a ton. On the last day, they had miraculously collated all our data and provided a slide show reporting on the results. Just amazing! Kudos to the team for all the logistics planning and making this such a memorable experience!
James Remley | July 10, 2018
My first “Conserving Endangered Rhinos” was in February 2016 and my second in June 2018. This expedition is all about the rhinos with a strong influence from wildlife conservation, personal education, international economics and politics, South African law, hip pocket research and fun. Lynn MacTavish is a strong, hardworking, smart, passionate leader. The opportunity to work with Lynn, her father Dougal, Charles, Matthew, Luke and the rest of the staff is worth the trip. It’s a great atmosphere, focused on the rhinos; it’s casual and safe. Living condition are fine, food is great and plentiful, social atmosphere is interesting, especially if the team is broadly international. On my first visit we had people from six countries and that made for some great conversation around the fire at night. The chance you take is relative to the team that joins you. One team was fantastic and one was very good – people on both teams made deep impression on me, all were interesting and interested people. Earthwatch is quite an organization, I only wish I had found it 20 years ago. Where else can you get up early in the morning, eat a hearty breakfast, hop onto trucks and drive into the bush to find rhinos. And when located you stay with them and gather and record interesting behavioral data. And the next morning you’ll be anxious to do it all again. A couple of recommendations: make sure you like dogs and cats – they live here. Arrive at Johannesburg the day or evening prior to the rendezvous – it’s just good for you and your team. Join a team which will have researchers from Brighton in attendance – that presence provides a larger experience. Join an expedition that will assist with the trimming of rhino horns, it is an emotional life time experience to monitor the breathing of a rhino, keep it cool with water, cover its eyes, collect dung samples; then give it a hug, see it wake up and return to its normal behavior. One last suggestion, you’ll only be at Mankwe once in your life; absorb as much as you can and resist distractions of things you can do at home and when you get home, you will have grown personally and socially. Sadly, we had a number of young people who had a cell phone in their hand much of the time; we missed their presence and they missed a lot of stuff. Those last hugs from Lynn and Dougal were real tough; knowing that I won’t be back.

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