Wild Dog & Elephant Research & Conservation Project
Wildlife Conservation Volunteering Mangetti
The Wildlife Sanctuary has been working tirelessly since 2008, to engage Namibian landowners and livestock farmers on the topic which provides the greatest challenge to the conservation of endangered species: Human-Wildlife Conflict.
The impact of human activities on native wildlife has never been more apparent than it is in respect to two of Africa’s iconic species; the AfricanPainted Dog (or wild dog) and the African Elephant both of which have endured decades of suffering through habitat fragmentation, hunting and persecution.
In an effort to alter the way things are, researchers here have been working in the Mangetti Complex, northern Namibia, in an effort to understand better the levels, and causes, of conflict between these two species and the local population.
Volunteers will assist our researchers in documenting the movements and activities of elephant and wild dog populations. Using GPS and VHF monitoring technology, motion-sensitive trail cameras and traditional spoor (footprint) tracking techniques, come and delve into the lives of the World’s largest land animal and one of Africa’s most endangered carnivore species.
The Mangetti Complex comprises two main areas; the Kavango Cattle Ranch, a government farm conglomerate in the Kavango region of northern Namibia, and the nearby Mangetti National Park. In total the study area comprises more than 2,000 km2 of north-eastern Kalahari woodlands and mixed acacia savannah. The vegetation is thick and dense allowing even the largest species of wildlife to simply vanish before your very eyes.
Activities at the Mangetti
The use of motion-sensitive trail cameras is an essential part of ecological wildlife monitoring. Non-invasive in nature, they capture and record vital images of the many and varied species inhabiting the environment.
Working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, they are particularly useful for recording the presence, and densities, of difficult to observe species such as the African wild dog allowing us to identify individuals from unique coat patterns, thereby providing more accurate data for population estimates and levels of breeding success.
Currently we are monitoring two adult elephant cows which were fitted with GPS satellite tracking collars in 2014. Every morning the information relayed by the collars via satellite must be downloaded in order to monitor the movements of the herd and identify any possible conflict, and/or damage to infrastructure, which may have occurred.
We are also planning the next phase of African wild dog monitoring which will involve the capture of high-ranking pack members in order to fit GPS tracking collars for intense monitoring which will allow us to map their range size, habitat use and potential conflict with surrounding landowners.
VHF telemetry tracking
Periodic tracking via the VHF transmitter beacon fitted in the GPS collars on the elephants will allow us to make detailed first-hand observations on exact herd structure and composition and build up a photographic ID guide to the individual animals.
Spoor (footprint) tracking
Wildlife is just that; Wild!
As such they rarely stand around waiting to be observed and photographed. It is therefore important to perform detailed ground searches of areas in order to locate and identify the spoor (footprints/tracks) left behind by their passing. This is the first, and often most important, step in monitoring the activity and movements of focal study species in order to determine where further work must be carried out.
Making detailed records of all occurrences of conflict, whether ‘perceived’ or actual’, is important in making clear plans for the conservation of endangered wildlife species such as elephant and African wild dog. It is only by understanding the underlying causes of persecution in response to conflict that a coherent and detailed plan can be created which will produce positive and measurable results in conservation.
This may take the form of recording and photographing specific conflict incidents such as damage to infrastructure by elephants or the predation of livestock by wild dogs.
Understanding the attitudes of local farmers and landowners towards species such as elephant and African wild dog is essential to producing a clear plan of action for their conservation. Only by actually getting out on to the farmland and talking to locals can we hope to find practicable solutions to the current conflict between humans and wildlife, the result of which is often the indiscriminate persecution of endangered species at the hands of angry locals.
Situated centrally in the Kavango Cattle Ranch sits the Mangetti village where the researcher(s) and volunteers are accommodated in one of the management houses. The house has electricity and running water; the hot water is supplied through a wood-burning water boiler or ‘donkey’ as it is commonly known.
Meals are a simple affair in the Mangetti. Breakfast will consist of cereal, tea/coffee and toast. Most days packed lunches (sandwich, fruit & juice) will be prepared by volunteers and staff to be eaten in the field. Everyone takes turns to cook the main evening meal and clean up afterwards. There will usually be a traditional Namibian ‘braai’ (barbeque) one evening during the trip.
Important Information for Everyone
- Volunteers should be equipped to work in any weather conditions, including cold winters and long hours in the sun (please check prevailing weather conditions at your time of travel).
- The Mangetti is a high risk Malaria area from November to March and anti-malarial medication is strongly recommended (we recommend you get the medication in Namibia and take it only when leaving for Mangetti, not beforehand).
- Suitable insect repellents should also be brought.
- All volunteers should ensure adequate health insurance cover for visiting Namibia and that relevant immunisations are up-to-date. Except for emergencies, volunteers have no access to the internet.
- Local currency can be obtained at the international airport upon arrival.
- The program at the Mangetti runs for 7 nights starting every Tuesday.
- Pre-bookings are recommended due to limited availability and can be made at the time of your booking