On the Expedition
Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi, once nearly devoid of animal life, is now home to lions, rhinos, elephants and many other species. Help track, monitor, and observe the park's wildlife as part of a team focused on maintaining and managing Majete as a sustainable protected area.
Poaching at Majete Wildlife Reserve (MWR) was rife in the 1980 & 90’s, and by 2000 most species, including elephant and rhinos, had been eliminated, or reduced to very low numbers. In March 2003, African Parks Majete began rehabilitating the park, re-introducing a total of 2,554 animals of 14 species including leopard, elephant, buffalo, black rhino, sable antelope and eland. Almost 10 years later, changes in animal numbers and vegetation brought about by the rehabilitation program now require monitoring and measuring. As an Earthwatch volunteer, you will spend the majority of each day in the park, taking a hands-on role in observing and working with the animals of Majete.
You’ll start your Expedition receiving training in radio and satellite tracking, GPS tracking, camera trapping, fixed-point photography, spoor identification, tree and vegetation identification, game capture (if required), basic bush survival and first-aid techniques. In the field, you’ll be actively involved in tracking of elephant, rhinos, lions and leopard via VHF receivers or satellite, either from a vehicle or on foot. You’ll assist with vegetation transects, dung collecting and vegetation “back-tracking” for elephant, buffalo and antelope habitat and diet study. Additionally, you will help make observations with regards to reproductive success of the various species. Dry season animal counts will keep both staff and volunteers extremely busy. Throughout all field trips, volunteers will observe and record all aspects of animal behavior.
Back at camp, you’ll help process and sort photographs for ID assessments, and build a photographic library for the reserve. Volunteers can help with data entry and analysis, or assist with the satellite telemetry and remote sensing aspects of the research program. Volunteers will also have the opportunity to visit a local school and may be asked to assist with presentations or to help develop interactive games and conservation learning tools.
Meals and Accommodations
Volunteers will be housed in comfortable tents at the Research Center, located within the boundary of Majete Wildlife Reserve. The Research Centre is on property managed by the local community. Each tent will have a comfortable camp cot/bed, mattress and bedside table. Bedding will be provided. There is a communal gender-separated bathroom. The Center also has a central tented area functioning as a field laboratory, office and recreational area. The property has a thatched open-air kitchen and dining area as well as a barbeque area.
Volunteers and research staff will eat meals together. Breakfast will typically consist of cereals and traditional porridges, toast, fresh fruits and juices, fresh baked bread, pancakes, tea and coffee, or eggs. Lunches will include an assortment of salads and sandwiches; you may also pack a lunch to eat in the field. Dinners will consist of traditional African meals cooked on an open fire as often as possible. Meals will include fresh fish, beef, chicken or beans served together with fresh vegetables, rice, “nshima” (a traditional maize dish), and potatoes.
About the Research Area
Majete Wildlife Reserve is home to lions, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino, as well as a huge number of antelope and more than 300 species of birds along the Mkurumadzi and Shire Rivers. Guided nature walks, birding walks and night drives are offered within the reserve, as well as a climb up Majete Hill, the highest point in the reserve which offers majestic views of the Shire Valley. Another attraction of the Shire River in Majete Reserve is the Kapichira Falls and the Murchison Cataracts. Dr. David Livingstone’s sail on Africa’s inland waters was interrupted in this place by a series of rapids and waterfalls in 1859.
The lower Shire Valley offers a number of other organized activities that the volunteers may participate in during days off, separate from the Expedition. Volunteers may partake in a cultural tour in Ndakwera village, enjoy a traditional dance performance, or take in a tour of the local sugar estate and factory. The Shire River offers excellent tiger fishing; volunteers may bring their own fishing tackle or rods and reels can be rented at the nearby Ngono lodge. South of the research site is the spectacular Elephant Marsh. Exceeding 500km2. The permanent marsh is a vast maze of perennial and seasonal ponds, swamps and channels, extending eastward from the banks of the Shire River. The area supports Malawi’s largest crocodile population, large numbers of hippos, smaller aquatic mammals such as otters and a rich aquatic birdlife, spectacular both in numbers and variety. The surrounding area is studded with massive baobabs and tall palms.