Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lion Conservation - What Does a Volunteer Do in Lion Country?

By Jeff Seams

Lion conservation and rehabilitation has been in the news recently. Not surprising really with an drop of almost 90% of the lion population in some areas of Africa. The publicity has brought up a number of opportunities for ordinary people like you to help with the conservation effort, spending anything from two to eight weeks in "lion country". But what does a volunteer working with lions in Africa actually get up to?

Let's look at a typical day. Not every day is like this, it's an exciting and constantly changing environment, but this should give you some valuable insight.

In Africa, the day tends to start quite early, usually with a lion walk. This isn't some pet on a leash, and you're not sat watching from a vehicle, this is walking right alongside lions that can be anything from four to eighteen months old - and an eighteen month old lion is a substantial creature! The job here is to get them used to being out in the bush, to build their confidence and to practice their hunting skills.

You'll stop for a hearty breakfast around 9 am, after which you could well be off to one of the local schools. Lion conservation isn't just about the lions themselves, it's also important to educate local children so that when they grow up they will help with the effort rather than persecuting these wonderful beasts. Alternatively you might be cleaning lion enclosures (yep, it has to be done - but don't worry, you won't be doing it every day) or you might be out in the bush with a local guide conducting a game census.

You'll have an hour, or an hour and a half for lunch and then it could be more lion walks, working with local ecologists, important maintenance tasks around the captive breeding and rehabilitation center, preparation for other educational trips ... you are guaranteed not to get bored!

Around 6.45 you will be briefed by managers about the following days adventures and then it's dinner. The rest of the evening is yours to socialize with other volunteers, maybe relax with a couple of beers or explore the local night life. This might be Africa and working with lions but they don't dump you in the middle of nowhere - except if you've chosen to spend a night out in the bush, which everyone ought to do at least once.

Out in lion country you'll get tremendous satisfaction from the important work you'll be doing, you'll create amazing memories and build friendships that you'll keep for the rest of your life - and anyone can do it. It's something that's popular with gap year student but you're equally likely to meet volunteers from all walks of life and a wide variety of ages.

Sound like your kind of thing? Want to be there? For the latest news on lion conservation opportunities visit Lion Country.

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