Updated: Mar 16
Hi, my name is Christina and I have been volunteering at a few different projects in Africa. My first time was in 2012 and I found some projects through Travel Alot. They helped me with all the bookings and everything went fine.
I bought two different projects. First stop was Harnas in Namibia for 8 weeks and then Antelope Park in Zimbabwe for 2 weeks. I was at that time very happy to be at Harnas and I thought it was a lot of fun and cool to be very close to the animals at the place. I
read at home that it was a wildlife sanctuary and it was just that. A place where different types of wildlife with a different history, could come and spend the rest of their life.
I also read about Antelope Park from home and it sounded amazing. I read that the project was about helping lions and releasing them into the wild. When I was at home reading this, I thought it sounded like a project with a great purpose. When I got to Antelope Park, we were told that they take the lion cubs from their mothers when they are a few days/weeks old, so they could monitor which of the cubs would be great mothers and which will be great hunters. Then as they grow up, the staff at Antelope Park can form the perfect prides combining hunters and mothers. When a bottle-fedpride gets cubs, these cubs will be released when they are old enough. I’m pretty sure they never made it to this stage of release at least not when I was there and before that. Another problem is that there are not many places to release lions. There were so many adult lions in small enclosures and so much stress for the lion cubs. Cubs were bottle fed by volunteers instead of just leaving them with their mothers.
I must admit I did it once too. I also got a picture taken when we walked the bigger cubs. To this day I’m so ashamed that I didn’t know better at that time. I did go to the manager though, during the first week and asked a lot of questions. I wasn’t happy with the lion project and I felt that something was off but they really tried to make it sound like they did everything for the lions.
In 2014 I volunteered in South Africa at CROW. This time I booked the trip through Travelers. This project is all about rescuing wildlife and releasing them. The staff at this project sacrifice everything to rescue wildlife. It was exactly a project like this I wanted to help from the beginning. After these experiences in Africa, I became extremely aware to navigate away from the projects that aren’t there for the animals but rather to give volunteers a great experience.
All projects that offer to pet of wildlife I would stay away from. So many projects exist because it has turned out to be a great money business. They exploit wildlife and the volunteers. I don’t want to spend that much money and time on something that isn’t doing any good anyway. For me, it isn’t about cuddling wildlife but it is about saving them and getting them out in the wild again where they belong. Many must feel the same way therefore my advice is to choose projects carefully and make sure the projects have a greater meaning.
Otherwise, you will spend the rest of your life regretting.