During your time at Askari you will spend time observing in the field and collating many different kinds of data. You will learn the skills needed for data capture techniques and also receive training to use the research equipment such as GPS consoles and when needed, radio telemetry equipment. The data you collect contribute to a huge variety of projects and monitoring both on Pidwa and with other research and conservation organisations. Herbivore counts and predator monitoring are essential for management decisions on the reserve while data collected during the brown hyaena project are being used in Askari’s own scientific publications. Furthermore, much of the data you assimilate will contribute towards projects and research being carried out by fellow conservation organisations.
‘Project Impisi’ began in 2010 when 5 brown hyaenas were translocated to Pidwa Wilderness Reserve. Although classified as ‘Near threatened’ (lower risk) by the IUCN, brown hyaenas are often the victims of both deliberate and incidental persecution by commercial stock farmers and traditional healers. Additionally, one of the biggest threats is the continued deterioration of their natural habitat. The hyaenas were rescued from farmer’s traps and their arrival marked the beginning of a ground breaking study at Askari with potential implications for the improved conservation of brown hyaenas. To date, no brown hyaena relocations have been successfully monitored. Our research aimed to be the first of its kind and discover whether translocation could be the key to reducing hyaena/farmer conflicts across their range. The study covered two main areas, the translocation itself and also general brown hyaena ecology. The field work was completed in 2012 and the project was a huge success. Results are now being analysed and the findings written up in conjunction with the University of Bristol, UK. Askari will be publishing the research once complete.
As part of our commitment to cheetah conservation, Pidwa has reintroduced 5 cheetahs onto the reserve since 2009, the most recent female in July 2017. All new cheetahs are fitted with a radio collar and their initial survival and progress is closely monitored by the Askari team. The data collected are then used to assist continued cheetah conservation efforts in both the Lowveld and South Africa by contributing to the EWT (Endangered Wildlife Trust) Cheetah Metapopulation Project. The project aims to develop a national metapopulation management plan for cheetahs in smaller, fenced reserves and one of the key aspects is to ensure adequate gene flow among fragmented sub populations. Life history, survival and breeding data are collated for each reintroduced cheetah and wherever possible, DNA samples are taken to add to the nationwide genetic database. Askari sends data for all reintroduced cheetah and has also contributed two samples to the genetic database.
Data collected by Askari contributes to the Vulture monitoring project, part of the EWT (Endangered Wildlife Trust) Birds of Prey Programme. The project aims to ensure the survival of all vulture species throughout the southern African sub-continent and monitoring is an important part of this to determine if conservation activities are being successful. Data on vulture nesting sites and other raptors on Pidwa are collected by Askari and passed on. Sightings of tagged vultures are also reported to the project by the Askari team.
The Southern Ground-Hornbill is a flagship species for the savannah biome classified as Endangered (IUCN) within South Africa. With their numbers still in decline, an estimated 1500 remaining birds require immediate assistance to prevent the species becoming extinct outside protected areas within the next 3 generations. The Mabula Ground-Hornbill Project is working to slow decline through a variety of techniques including the harvesting of chicks, re-wilding and reintroduction and the provision of artificial nesting sites. Askari works in conjunction with the project to build and place artificial nesting boxes and also provide spatial data for the Ground Hornbills on the reserve.
Information from Pidwa’s cheetah reintroductions is also contributing towards research on the conservation biology of cheetah in fenced reserves. The research is being carried out by Kenneth Buk in association with the EWT (Endangered Wildlife Trust) and University of Tshwane, South Africa and incorporates many different aspects of cheetah survival and ecology. Data provided for the research includes cheetah spatial movements, feeding habits, habitat use and relationships with other predators.
Through data collection and reporting, Askari has been able to contribute towards the EWT (Endangered Wildlife Trust) Energy wildlife conflict project. One aspect of the project is a strategic partnership between Eskom (who are responsible for the supply of South Africa’s electricity) and the EWT. The partnership aims to find a balance between the power needs of South Africa’s people and economy, and the protection of fauna and avi-fauna from negative interactions with electrical infrastructure. These interactions take on many different forms and include the electrocution of birds and mammals, the collision of birds with power lines and even birds nesting on infrastructure. By reporting electricity related fatalities on Pidwa (including vulture, giraffe and ibis) we can ensure problem areas are addressed with the help of the EWT and Eskom partnership.
Poaching is now taking a tremendous toll on South Africa’s rhino population as demand for the horn continues to soar across the Far East. Here at Askari, one of our key goals is to protect our rhinos from falling victim to this barbaric trade and in turn contribute to the conservation of the species as a whole. In 2012, the decision was taken to dehorn the rhinos on Pidwa, therefore removing the reason that the poachers have for killing them. To safeguard our rhinos, the Askari team works continuously to cover all aspects of our anti-poaching plan. Volunteers assist with rhino monitoring as we aim to account for all our rhinos on an extremely regular basis. Learning the rhino’s home ranges and behaviour patterns is important so we can monitor and patrol these areas more intensely. Sleep outs around the reserve also allow provide an extra opportunity to monitor any unusual activity.
Every day means new tasks, and you will get to participate in and contribute to many of the various challenges and tasks that managing a game reserve is.
Plus, I now have the best stories to tell in the pub about holding scorpions, camping next to rhinos, hearing a wild lion roar, watching cheetahs hunt.
It’s fantastic because we are not only working but enjoying the wildlife of the place and the staff are always able to answer every question and explain you the features of the animals.
I especially liked the focus on creating a wilderness area, as large as possible, to house endangered animals while developing the native habitats those animals need, rather than creating a maximally stocked reserve built for taking tourists on safari.
Well where to start - every aspect of my two week trip on the Askari Wilderness Conservation project was amazing. If you’re looking for a volunteer project with a huge variety of activities, wildlife everywhere, great food, fantastic homely accommodation, no two days the same, great value, friendly and knowledgeable staff, then Askari is for you.
My time at Askari was amazing! I really want to come back and stay longer. The surroundings are beautiful and you really feel like you are doing something useful.
I have been on a few volunteer projects around the world but especially in Africa and I can honestly say Askari is by far the best value and the most amazing project. I highly recommend it anyone and think you are crackers if you don’t consider spend some time there.
This month has been one of the best of my life! I feel like I now have a greater understanding of the ecological balance of life out here.
You leave Askari knowing that the time you spent as a volunteer did make a difference to the running of this benchmark reserve. The experience will change your life and leave you wanting to return again and again.
It isn’t one of those volunteer programs where the project is running and the volunteers are extras. Here the volunteers are vital for the functioning of the program. We were always doing something important and were always aware of the rationale behind every activity.
Unforgettable! Unmissable! Sensational!
The closeness to the animals you get to experience here teaches you an even greater respect for them and their habitat. Definitely an experience I will remember with great joy for the rest of my life.
My four weeks at Askari have been at times exhausting, at other times breathtaking, but always inspiring and rewarding. The dedication and enthusiasm the team here is very contagious.
Having been at Askari 3 years ago I have been following it’s progress on facebook with Katie’s great picture. 3 years later I am back in South Africa and it would have been rude to not pop into Askari for 2 weeks. It was just as much fun as I remembered , if not even better with the additions of the pool, sable station and the bird loving South African bloke. So cheers guys. - December 2015
I very much enjoyed my time here in the African bush and was so happy to return as the intern. It just goes to show that hard work and commitment really pays off. It was almost 5 years ago since I was last here, so I’m really pleased this opportunity came to fruition. I enjoyed every sighting, big or small. Seeing the big 5 was just the icing on the cake. - January / February 2016
This experience has been extremely life-changing. The knowledge and experiences I gained here have helped me learn a lot more about myself. The small group sizes allow for a more intimate experience with the wildlife.
As someone who has been involved in quite a few volunteer projects, I can honestly say Askari is one of the best. Fun, interesting and you leave feeling you have done good with your time. The staff are awesome and make your experience here fun and rewarding.
Best way to learn about wildlife and vegetation, conservation and reserve management. Came here with the idea to learn a lot about the animals, leaving Askari with way more knowledge that only about the animals. Thanks for everything. - February 2016
Having returned for a second time, I was continually blown away by the knowledge and passion shown by the Askari staff. My time at Askari will push on to be the highlight of my year. This programme is highly recommended.
My stay at Askari has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. The amount of things I learned and saw was unique and soul-satisfying. Katie & Ed are amazing people in so many ways and I would love to come back for another stay at Askari
Askari was hands down the greatest experience of my life. The staff are amazing and friendly and the backbone of this reserve is strong. When you're not enjoying the countless wildlife you are partaking in meaningful activities that lead to the longevity of this reserve's ecosystem. I would suggest it for all who want to make a difference in their own and this earth's life.
Askari is a unique project where one can truly get to experience the African wildlife. Do not come here expecting to find lions or cheetahs that you will pet and touch, because this is not that type of project. But what you can find in very friendly staff, extremely knowledgeable guides such as Ed and Katie and memories to last a lifetime. Thank you Ed and Katie. - June 2016
I'm so very happy that I chose Askari for my south Africa volunteer program. The quality and knowledge of the team here is well above average - they are a superb team! I learned more than I expected and most importantly, I felt that I contributed to a highly ethical conservation program. "July 2016"
Askari was more than a satisfying experience for someone looking to see a great part of South Africa. I think you all do an excellent job of maintaining the reserve and properly teaching the importan and current values of wildlife conservation. I recommend Askari to anyone trying to visit South Africa for its wildlife.