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

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This Earthwatch project has added safety measures to allow for responsible fielding of volunteers and field staff at this time.

COVID Ready

This project has added safety measures to allow for responsible fielding of volunteers and field staff at this time.

Those measures include

  • Proof of vaccination requirement
  • Decreased overall team size to allow for physical distancing
  • Face mask requirements
  • Single accommodations
  • Adjusted transportation arrangements
  • Increased cleaning and sanitization

When reading the Online Expedition Briefing, please keep these adjustments in mind.

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.

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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 , 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

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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.

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.

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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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