The Reserve Management & Research internship in Balule, Greater Kruger Park, combines reserve management experience with specialized project activities. This dynamic approach provides interns with a real-world opportunity to gain scientific mentorship and learn practical new skills related to fieldwork, data and ecology.
This is an in-country internship, with accommodation and meals provided.
This location of this internship, at Balule, Greater Kruger Park, provides a coveted wildlife experience, which could only be described as “once in a lifetime”. Base camp is located right on the Olifants River, where you have a prime view to spy the resident wildlife. Interns work closely with resident Fields Guides and a dedicated Field Training Coordinator, to assist with daily reserve management priorities, while tackling an especially assigned research project. This is a hands-on internship in Africa, where you should come prepared to gain practical fieldwork experience, in one of Africa’s most renowned environments.
Reserve Management activities
A day-to-day component of this internship is related to reserve management activities, which you contribute to alongside wildlife conservation volunteers. These activities provide general insight into conservation priorities. You can expect to cover an introductory period at the beginning of your program, where resident Field Guides will teach you about life on the reserve. This involves learning about best practices for reserve management, basic bush ecology training, and gaining an overall understanding of how your efforts contribute to long-term goals and conservation priorities. Tasks are related to:
- Bush craft (i.e. learning about animal identification and behaviour, dealing with potentially dangerous game, orientation and navigation techniques, and basic bush skills for health and safety).
- Game drives and camera trapping (i.e. monitoring of rare and endangered species, location and mapping of injured animals by vehicle patrols, vulture nest monitoring, etc).
- Reserve management general labor (i.e. assisting with road maintenance, assisting with bush and alien plant clearing, helping with erosion control measures, fence line patrols, disaster management strategies to mitigate drought, flooding, storms, wildfires, etc).
- Vegetation sampling and habitat assessments.
- Assisting with long term biodiversity surveys.
It’s important to keep in mind that reserve management activities include manual labour. The type of conservation activities you may be involved with is very dependent on dynamic variables, such as weather and environmental conditions, seasonality, animal behaviour, etc. All interns need to be flexible with the kind of reserve management activities you’ll be involved with. The above list provides a guide but activities are seasonal and day-to-day itineraries will be determined by the on-site Field Guides, who will plan according to conservation priorities, weather conditions, and other factors.
Specialized project activities, data collection and research
In addition to the general Reserve Management tasks, interns receive support from a dedicated (remote) Field Training Coordinator to complete specific activities and data collection tasks. For this, each intern is assigned a project that they must complete during their internship (over a minimum duration requirement of at least 4 weeks). These project activities contribute to research, provide interns access to scientific mentorship, and the opportunity to gain practical new skills related to data and ecology. In all cases, interns will be expected to produce findings that they will present. The presentation will be graded by the Training Manager (pass/fail). Interns are welcome to state their preferences for their desired project.
The current project options include:
1. Predator Dynamics Project
Aim: To create association and overlap charts and maps for a season, using predators, as well as main prey species. Interns utilize “WildLog” to produce maps and create a project about temporal and spatial overlap and competition. The maps that are developed will be presented, results and finding will be compiled and discussed.
2. Predator ID Project
Aim: To create and update identification kits for individual animals of the major predator species. Using Wildlog, individual animals will be given their own unique “creature ID” with the descriptions of identifying characteristics and links to the photo ID document. The document will use photos from WildLog with the identifying characteristics circled and described from the various angles (left, right, hind, front, head, legs, tail etc). The intern will need to create their report and include detailed summaries of each individual (sex, age, behaviour, territory, name, identifying characteristics, missing sides for identification, number of times seen, most common locations, etc).
3. Bird Point Count (BPC) Project
Aim: To create and update seasonal bird charts of sightings, and counts per species and feeding guild, as well as species lists and interesting sightings outside of BPCs. Interns will ensure that data entry is up to date and correct and will access the spreadsheets used for quarterly newsletters, where the graphs auto-update. Interns will create a report and presentation showing current graphs and compare them to historical data.
4. Game Transect Project
Aim: The aim of this is to create and update the trend analysis for the game transect data. Interns will ensure that data entry for Game Transects are up-to-date and correct. They will update data and reports which describe current conditions, while comparing them to historical trends.
5. Herbarium Project
Aim: The aim of this project is to create and update the plant collections for the area. This is both a physical collection and a digital collection process. The physical collection involves collecting, correctly identifying and pressing 10-20 plant species and placing them into the field herbarium. Correct labels for the samples must be fully completed, including descriptions. Findings are also catalogued into the datasheets. Older samples will be added to the herbarium library. Additionally, interns will need to upload 10-20 plants to the inaturalist project with the correct photos, and full metadata (GPS co-ords, descriptions, habitats etc). Interns will produce a report listing the plants that have been pressed, and the ones uploaded, with the photos and describe basic information for each species from the guidebooks.
Reserve Management & Research interns learn from a qualified and experienced supervisor, and can be involved in:
- Reserve operations and management
- Data collection
- Bush ecology
- Camera trapping
- Conducting surveys
- Learn about animal health and behavior in the wild
- Informing conservation activities
- Reserve maintenance
Professional development opportunities:
- Experience wildlife in a world-renowned reserve
- Take part in real life reserve management tasks
- Undertaking a research project based on collected and supplied data
- Gain practical skills and boost your employability, with guidance from Intern Abroad HQ’s Experiential Learning Curriculum to support your learning and cultural intelligence
- Mostly full-time Monday to Friday, depending on weather, season and research requirements. Interns may be required to assist research outside normal work hours or on weekends on arrangement.
- Experience life living on an operational game reserve
- Learn from experienced reserve managers and scientists
- Contribute to conservation efforts that aid some of the world’s most spectacular wildlife
Types of host organizations:
- Balule Game Reserve, Greater Kruger Park
Keen to get started?
Taking the first step is easy! It is free to apply and takes just 5 minutes.Submit an application
It’s free to apply for this internship. Once we have reviewed your suitability and accepted you onto this program, you’ll need to pay a deposit of US$449 to confirm your place. The remaining balance of your Program Fee (less your initial US$449 deposit payment) will be due no less than 60 days before your internship start date.
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Please note that program fees for all South Africa Environmental internships include return transportation to the airport. This transportation service is scheduled on specific dates and times. To ensure the schedule works for you, check with your Internships Manager for details before booking your departure flights.