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GAP YEAR | VOLUNTEER ABROAD | WORK EXPERIENCE OVERSEAS

 

Care for and Conserve Lions hands-on in Zimbabwe with Travellers Worldwide

"The walk with the lions was the highlight of my entire life!"

 

ZIMBABWE

WALK WITH LIONS: THE LION RESEARCH, REHABILITATION AND RELEASE PROJECT
Volunteering, Gap Year or Career Break in Zimbabwe

This outstanding project working hands-on with lion cubs takes place in two amazing environments. You can choose either location:

Lion Project on Gweru Reserve

Lion Project near Victoria Falls

Unsure which location to choose? Please see the Summary of the Differences between the Locations below

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Walk alongside lions as part of the pride and enjoy being part of a hunt as the young cubs learn how to stalk their prey

  • Work on the world’s leading programme for the release of lions back into the wild

  • EExperience the African bush in a very special way.

  • Immerse yourself in local Zimbabwean culture/p>

  • TTake advantage of optional trips to see more of the area’s spectacular wildlife in neighbouring Botswana or Zimbabwe.

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ABOUT THE LION BREEDING PROGRAM:

Over the past 40 years, the African lion population has decreased by an astonishing 80 – 90% with an estimated number of lions in Africa today as low as 32,000. Lion populations have continued to decline, with up to 18 sub-populations believed to have existed in 2002 having now been confirmed as extinct.
This volunteer projects form part of the ground-breaking Lion Rehabilitation Program, which was launched in Gweru in 2004.

The project has partnered with a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the African Lion. In an attempt to offset the rapid decline of lion populations, they have initiated a staged lion rehabilitation program that aims to release cubs of captive bred lions into appropriate national parks and reserves across Africa where they can one day have their own wild-born offspring.

The release program has so far successfully released two prides into fenced-wild areas, and these prides are having wild-born cubs of their own. The two prides are located in Gweru, Zimbabwe and Livingstone, Zambia.

MORE ABOUT THE LION REHABILITATION PROGRAM:

The aim of the Lion Rehabilitation Program is to restore lion populations within Eastern and Southern Africa through an initiative that will also provide social benefits to surrounding communities. Since the launch of the Hands-on Lion Conservation Volunteer Project at Gweru, the project has made amazing progress with the help of dedicated staff, persistent visionaries, and passionate international volunteers. The rehabilitation program has expanded across two more locations, and now have a total of three lion conservation projects working hard to raise captive-bred lion cubs to be released into the wild.

PRE-RELEASE STAGE:
Cubs are born to captive-bred mothers and remain in her care for the first three weeks of their life to take advantage of the more nutritious milk that mother's provide in the first days post-partum. Thereafter they are removed so that they can bond to a human handler assigned to raise them so that they build enough confidence in their surrogate mother to follow them into the African Bush; a vital part of their pre-release training.

The mother of the cubs is captive and therefore does not have the skills that the cubs need to learn to survive when given the opportunity to fend for themselves. Much of the issues people have regarding the ethics of breeding lions in captivity come from the images they see of people holding cubs and bottle feeding them in their arms, with no time to rest and partake in species specific behaviours necessary for their proper development. This is not permitted at any of our lion projects and the development of the cubs’ natural instincts is priority.

In the pre-release stage handlers take the place of dominant members of the pride and train the cubs only to the point that they are safe for us to walk with. The lions are given every opportunity to build their confidence in their natural environment both during the day and at night. As their experience grows they start to take an interest in the wildlife they encounter on the walks, and by the age of eighteen months are able to hunt small antelope. By two years old the lions are already seasoned hunters, and we give them plenty of opportunity to practice their natural hunting skills.

RELEASE STAGES
In the Release Stages, the lions are given the chance to develop a natural pride social system in a semi-wild enclosure of up to 10,000 acres. They have sufficient prey species to hunt and their progress is monitored closely by researchers, although all human contact and influence is removed. The release program has so far successfully released two prides into fenced-wild areas, and these prides are having wild-born cubs of their own.

THE WILD
This is when lions that have been born in the Release Stages can be released into the wild in natural social groups. Through these stages, we aim to preserve the African Lion by producing quality, disease-free gene pools, rebuilding the diminishing numbers of lions, and introducing the offspring back into wild environments.

<!-- JEN BEGIN NOTE this below should not be here From Avin ***** -->

“The lion encounter was everything I expected and more. The training and the guides make you feel safe and giving back to the community e.g. the orphanage was an eye-opener to show the real side of Zimbabwe, not just what the tourists see.” Joanne Emmett

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE LOCATIONS: Gweru v. Victoria Falls

GWERU LOCATION

  • This is a private Game Reserve in the Midlands of Zimbabwe, and volunteers live and work on the Reserve.

  • There is an option to upgrade your volunteer accommodation to a River Lodge or a River Tent at an extra cost.

  • This project can take a maximum of 22 volunteers.

  • The project is very animal-focused, and volunteers will work with the Reserve's lions, horses and elephants.

  • Approximately 90 lions are based on the reserve, with 40 of those awaiting release.

  • This is the largest of the lion projects and the home of the breeding program. Volunteers will help with enclosure, cleaning and meat preparation for the adult lions in the breeding program, as well as care for the walking cubs.

  • Night Encounters are conducted on the Reserve.

  • Optional activities are offered at the Reserve, such as elephant rides, fishing, game drives, horse rides, canoeing, etc.

  • Day trips are occasionally available, as well as a 5 day trip to Victoria Falls which runs twice a month, provided there is sufficient volunteer interest.

  • Once a week on a Saturday, volunteers are given the opportunity to visit the nearby town of Gweru, as well as a local orphanage.

VICTORIA FALLS LOCATION

  •  Volunteers are accommodated at a Lodge in the beautiful town of Victoria Falls, and travel out daily to a privately-owned Reserve where the lions are based.

  • There are between 3 and 5 lions on the project.

  • An armed scout accompanies all lion walks, as there are other wild animals in the Reserve.

  • This project can take a maximum of 10 volunteers.

  • Volunteers will enjoy interaction with the local school children, teaching conservation education, and will also visit an orphanage in the area once or twice a week.

  •  A fairly strong emphasis is placed on conservation education and community assistance, as well as providing help to the National Parks Authority, when requested, such as helping to clear alien invader plants in the National Park.

  • There is a wide range of activities available at Victoria Falls which can be enjoyed during time-off from the project including whitewater rafting, river cruises, bungee jumping, gorge swinging, etc. Other optional trips are also available, such as a visit to Miombo Lodge near Hwange National Park, and a 4-day trip to Antelope Park near Gweru.

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Gweru Location

Care for and conserve lions in Zimbabwe with Travellers Worldwide
Victoria Falls Location

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List of ALL PROJECTS in Zimbabwe
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