Cape Town Wildlife Conservation
Table Mountain National Park


Based on one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, Table Mountain National Park, this conservation project studies the effects of isolation on wildlife due to urbanization. The focus is on the behavioral ecology and genetic health of the Caracal – a beautiful wild cat that has ascended to the role of apex predator on Table Mountain. The overall aim is to help steer global sustainability as the urban edges creep ever closer to wildlife areas. You will also help produce a comprehensive and contemporary mammal species list for the Cape Peninsula.

Project Type:
2 weeks +
£854.70 First 2 weeks
£671.55 Every following 2 weeks.
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What Will I Do?
Training & Skills
Project Detail
Dates & Costs
Apply Now



The Cape Town Wildlife Project was recently launched to study the effects of isolation by a dense sea of urbanization on wildlife living on Table Mountain, specifically the behavioural ecology and genetic health of the beautiful but elusive Caracal.

The study area is the Table Mountain National Park, which is comprised of landmark protected park areas that include Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope. These areas are designated as a global biodiversity hotspot and World Heritage Site, and is managed by our national wildlife authority SANParks.

While a principal threat to biodiversity in the area is rapid urban development, this Cape Town Wildlife Conservation study is the first to comprehensively examine the effects of urbanization on the behavioral ecology of any vertebrate in the Cape Peninsula.

Urban biodiversity conservation is paramount because it leads to the protection of local and regional species and provides a platform for urban citizens to understand processes that steer global sustainability. A critical component to biodiversity conservation is to understand the challenges urbanization imposes on wild populations.

The Cape Town Wildlife Conservation Project uses the charismatic wild cat, the Caracal, as a vehicle to understand how urbanization is impacting wildlife in South Africa. Our goal is to inspire community interest in backyard biodiversity and take meaningful conservation action.



Our Cape Town Wildlife Conservation Project takes place on top one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World – Table Mountain. The diversity of flora and fauna found living among the mountainous regions of the Cape is staggering and often goes unnoticed. The protection of these animals is critical. Volunteers will live and work in Cape Town, which was recently voted one of the top 5 cities to live in the world. A maximum of 3 volunteers will stay with our monitor in a 4 bedroom house in Capri Village, in the beautiful Noordhoek area. This large family home offers an open plan lounge which leads out onto a sunroom, has a modern kitchen, undercover braai area and lovely-sized garden. Please note that meals are not included in the cost. Volunteers are encouraged to be self-sustainable and buy and cook food for themselves (or as a group).

What Will I Do?

We require volunteers to help with the capture, radio-collaring, and tracking of caracals on Table Mountain. You will help collect tissue samples at captures (and from road kill) for genetic analyses. The capture and monitoring of individuals requires long days in the field – scouting trap locations, setting traps, monitoring traps multiple times daily, monitoring remote cameras, and occasionally attending a capture. We also periodically track individuals during radio-collar recoveries. Finally, using the radio-collar data, you will be involved in studying caracal diet by investigating kill sites revealed in the GPS collar data collection.

As the first comprehensive ecology study of any mammal across the Peninsula, much remains to be investigated concerning species distributions, abundance, habitat preference, etc. of other mammal species across the Peninsula. Your involvement in this work will help formulate the very first comprehensive and contemporary mammal species list that is yet to be compiled for the Cape Peninsula.

Studying elusive wildlife that face regular challenges associated with city life can mean that daily project needs can change rapidly. However, we try to adhere to a general schedule of high priority tasks that may change depending on the days’ events (i.e., whether captures or mortalities occur that require special action). Daily tasks typically include:

  • Getting up early in the morning to initiate traps checks as the sun rises. Traps are checked 4 times daily. These checks consist of driving to 10-20 trap sites each day to check for animal captures. In the case that nontarget wildlife are captured, the animals are released and cages require approximately 30 minutes of maintenance to reset. All traps are checked physically regardless of capture status. In the case of caracal capture, the animal will be sedated, radio-collared, samples collected, and the animal released on site. Trap checks can entail hiking roughly 5-10km per day, sometimes off trail on uneven terrain, depending on trap locations.
  • Scouting new cage and camera trap locations that can entail hiking up to 10km in a given day as volunteers search of caracal spoor indicative of hotspots of caracal activity. During this task, volunteers will learn the basics of identifying carnivore spoor.
  • Setting, checking, and relocating remote cameras that may entail hiking several kilometers to access cameras.
  • Relocating traps to sites identified as hotspots of caracal activity. This means carrying bulky and heavy equipment to areas often off trail. Setting of the traps themselves may entail several hours of what can be tough physical labor.
  • Assisting with the creation of web and social media materials depending on the skill sets of volunteers.
  • Locating caracal kill and resting sites and identifying prey species based on kill remains. These efforts are conducted with the use of GPS data generated by caracal radio-collars and mean hiking to anywhere a caracal may successfully take prey. Thus which may entail hiking in rough terrain off trail.
  • Data entry as needed

Free Time

A typical volunteer schedule comprises 5 days of potentially long (up to 12 hour periods) in the field (depending on project needs that may arise), with 2 days off per week. However, because the project site is situated in a highly touristic coastal metropolitan area, Cape Town offers numerous leisure activities for volunteers to take advantage of during their free time. These include popular wine-tasting destinations, markets, restaurants, beaches, surfing, local wildlife viewing (penguins, whales, sharks, etc.), hiking, and easy day trips to neighboring parks and towns.


Training & Skills

All training will be conducted on the ground under the supervision of highly trained biologists and technicians. Skill development will include:

  • The setting and monitoring of cage traps used to capture carnivores.
  • The use of hand-held GPS devices to collect data on caracal kill sites.
  • Off-trail navigation using GPS devices and maps.
  • The use of animal spoor (tracks and feces) to identify habitat preferred by common carnivores.
  • Placement and monitoring of remote wildlife cameras.
  • Collection of spatial ecology data used to investigate caracal diet.
  • Identification and monitoring of areas, with the use of remote wildlife cameras, used by wildlife to cross busy roads.
  • The use of internet-based resources to facilitate public education and community support.
  • An understanding of the challenges of studying wildlife in urban landscapes, and the conservation challenges wildlife face in these areas.


Project Detail

  • Urbanization is the principal threat to biodiversity conservation worldwide.
  • The Cape Peninsula is a ‘biodiversity hotspot’ that has lost almost all its large mammals such as Cape lions, leopards, brown hyena, and jackals.
  • Caracals may play a vital role in maintaining ecosystem balance since they are the largest remaining predator in the area.
  • The Cape Peninsula is isolated by urban Cape Town, an urban/agricultural matrix that is rapidly increasing in size, leading to isolation of wildlife populations.
  • The study on caracals in the Peninsula is a tool to understand how urbanization may be threatening wildlife across South Africa, and other parts of the world, similarly threatened by urbanization.

Cape Town Wildlife Conservation Project Goals

  1. Establish baseline information about the caracal population in the Cape Peninsula: population size, health of individuals, and the distribution of caracals across the Peninsula.
  2. Evaluate the effects of urbanization on the behavior, movement patterns, diet, and genetic health of caracals in the Cape Peninsula.
  3. Assess threats to survival for caracals in the Cape Peninsula and potentially beyond to other parts of South Africa.
  4. Use the Urban Caracal Project as a vehicle to evoke conservation action in South Africa.

Project Partners

The Urban Caracal Project is a collaboration between the University of Cape Town and the Cape Leopard Trust. Other project partners include University of California, Santa Cruz, University of California, Los Angeles, City of Cape Town, SANParks and private landowners. Project permits have been issued by SANParks, City of Cape Town, University of Cape Town, and Cape Nature.


Preliminary data from 12 radio-collared caracals demonstrates that these animals may preferentially use habitat near urban areas, and that they may capitalize on higher densities of opportunistic prey (i.e., guinea fowl, hadedas, egrets, genets, rodents, etc.) near urban areas.

Permits with SANParks have been granted to continue our Cape Town Wildlife Conservation Project. Through our work conducted thus far, we are uncovering and ever increasing number of mammal ecology questions that can be addressed in the Cape Peninsula.

More at

Donate to the Urban Caracal Project


Dates & Costs

2 Weeks 15400.00 1148.84 957.88 854.70
4 Weeks 27500.00 2051.50 1710.50 1526.25
6 Weeks 39600.00 2954.16 2463.12 2197.80
8 Weeks 51700.00 3856.82 3215.74 2869.35
10 Weeks 63800.00 4759.48 3968.36 3540.90
12 Weeks 75900.00 5662.14 4720.98 4212.45
TRANSPORT FEE 1600.00 119.36 99.52 88.80

Starting Dates


02 January
16 January
30 January
13 February
27 February
13 March
27 March
10 April
24 April
08 May
22 May
05 June
19 June
03 July
17 July
31 July
14 August
28 August
11 September
25 September
09 October
23 October
06 November
20 November
04 December


What Will I Do?
Training & Skills
Project Detail
Dates & Costs
Apply Now