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

Conserving Threatened Rhinos in South Africa

Location
Northwest Province, South Africa, Africa Map it
Lead Scientist
Activity Level
Moderate
Accommodations
Single Rooms possible
Couples Rooms possible
Wilderness Camp
Food
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

Rhino populations are declining at an alarming rate. Help scientists to understand their behavior and habitat preferences and optimize approaches to help conserve and manage rhinos in South Africa.


Rhino populations are declining at an alarming rate. Help scientists to understand their behavior and habitat preferences and optimize approaches to help conserve and manage rhinos in South Africa. | EarthwatchOn 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.

You’ll join scientists in a wildlife reserve in South Africa to create a robust anti-poaching plan to protect the reserve’s population of white rhinos. You’ll help collect data on rhino locations, behavior, and habitat use. This work will allow researchers to best understand where rhinos are most likely to be found within the reserve—information critical to effectively protecting these unique animals from poachers. Additionally, you’ll help reserve staff practice their responses to poachers in “simulated poacher incursions,” allowing them to test and compare methods of locating poachers within the reserve and find the fastest method to responding to poaching threats. These data will allow scientists to update the reserve’s current management approaches to reduce risks to rhino populations. Beginning in 2023, volunteers will also help to address questions such as: Are sound deterrents that emit high frequencies effective at keeping rhinos from entering areas of high poaching risk? How do rhinos respond to the warning calls of other bush 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 GPS locations, and monitor their feeding habits. Through these activities, you will inform efforts to conserve and manage rhino populations in South Africa. 

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A Typical Itinerary

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

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HOW YOU WILL HELP

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:

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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.

Assess different methods of locating poachers within the reserve, including on-foot and drone-based surveys.
SIMULATED POACHER INCURSIONS

Assess different methods of locating poachers within the reserve, including on-foot and drone-based surveys.

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

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

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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.

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FEEDBACK & QUESTIONS

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10 Reviews on this Expedition

If you have been on this expedition, others considering attending would love to hear about your experience.
Seth Nelson | December 5, 2021
Working with rhinos is an exhilarating experience. They are graceful yet filled with brute force but can be as gentle as the camp cat, Tubby. Poaching of rhino horn is deadly and horribly brutal. The long term study being conducted by [Earthwatch Scientists] Lynne, Melissa and others will help better understand rhino behavior and, with luck and hope, prevent extinction.
Marcia Woodland | December 1, 2021
This Earthwatch research experience was amazing! I arrived a little nervous, not knowing what to expect, and was quickly oriented to the site, the scientific project, and the importance and urgency of the effort to conserve the endangered rhino. The passion for the rhinos was infectious, and I felt I was part of something very important. We were quickly trained in basic observation and tracking skills, and started right in making a contribution. By actually doing research in the field, we learned so much about the wildlife and environment. I know I gained much more than I would have on a traditional safari, where you are just an on-looker. Here, we were actually a part of the project. Lynn shared her passion for the rhinos, a mission to which she has dedicated her life! Melissa taught us so much and inspired us to work hard! Penny was wonderful and enhanced our experience with her knowledge of plants! I never imagined that I would be fascinated by dung beetles or carry a blob of steaming rhino poop to the car to collect samples! The entire trip was filled with amazing experiences, and we learned to know and love the individual rhinos! Also, because the reserve lacks apex predators, we saw an amazing diversity of antelope species - many more than we saw on the subsequent traditional safari that was focused on "the big five." Earthwatch projects are a reward way to travel
Gayle Vassar | November 25, 2021
"There is no safe place in this world for the rhino." Those words, spoken by lead PI Lynne MacTavish, set the stage for the work being done on the Mankwe reserve in South Africa. How can one protect these grand creatures when their horns are highly sought on the black market? Does trimming the horns so they won't be targeted by poachers impact their quality of life? Are there techniques to detect and stop poachers before they can accomplish their deadly goal? Where do rhinos gather throughout the day, and is there some way to use that information to create safeguards against poaching? Working with the team at Mankwe wildlife reserve, I and my fellow volunteers gathered data to help answer these questions. Every day was filled with wildlife sightings, but this was more than a photo safari - this was dedicating our time to collect information that may make it possible for the majestic rhino to survive. The PI and other team members enthusiastically shared their wealth of knowledge about wildlife management, and the flora and fauna of South Africa - it was better than any college course, with real-time applications. Now home, I keep thinking of the rhinos we 'met,' and the surreal beauty of the vast African landscape. It was an experience that will stay with me for years to come.

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