Volunteer With Leopards
Zululand, South Africa


Wildlife ACT is officially contracted by the international wild cat organisation, Panthera, to conduct Leopard population surveys within South Africa. This involves conducting a number of exciting, short-term Leopard Population Surveys using remote camera trapping survey methods. The survey is the largest on leopards of its kind in the world where we’re working together with provincial parks to help inform management to improve leopard conservation.

Project Type:
2 weeks +
R18,900.00 First 2 weeks
R13,500.00 Every following 2 weeks.
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What Will I Do?
Project Detail
How Do I Get There?
Dates and Costs
Apply Now


Wildlife ACT is officially contracted by the international wild cat organisation, Panthera, to conduct Leopard population surveys within South Africa using remote camera trapping methods. The survey is the largest on leopards of its kind in the world where we’re working together with provincial parks to help inform management to improve leopard conservation.

Leopard management is typically guided more by experience or anecdote than hard science. This project aims to collect real data on leopard population trends which can inform management decisions and assess the impacts of conservation actions.

Wildlife ACT volunteers assist with the leopard monitoring in Kwazulu-Natal. This involves setting up, maintaining and taking down the cameras at different locations, checking the SD cards and recording data as well as helping with identikits for each animal if necessary. Volunteers also help collate the photographs of non-target, priority species (Black and White Rhino, Elephant, Lion, Cheetah, Wild Dog) for management and monitoring purposes.

Wildlife ACT volunteers can select this project in conjunction with the Endangered Species Conservation project. Most volunteers who come for more than two weeks spend two weeks on the Leopard Census project and then do a multiple of two week sessions on the other Wildlife ACT project sites in Zululand.



The Leopard Survey has taken place on various game reserves in KwaZulu-Natal including Somkhanda, the uMkuze section of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Ithala Game Reserve and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. Other sites are added annually for once-off surveying.

What Will I Do?

Wildlife ACT’s main focus on these short-term Survey projects involves setting up and/or taking down the motion sensor cameras at different locations – (note that this occurs at the beginning and end of each survey – which lasts for a 2-month period). The ongoing fieldwork for the Leopard Survey team involves driving to each camera site within the reserve. At each of the sites the team will check to see that the cameras are active and are still attached to the poles correctly to get the best leopard photos. (The cameras may have been bumped off by curious animals).

The team will change the batteries and download the images from the cameras on to a USB device to work through back at the camp. There may also be a need to clear some vegetation or make natural barriers to protect the cameras and their very important data from inquisitive animals. Incidental monitoring of any other priority species animals on the reserve will be recorded as incidental sightings, during the course of performing the camera trap fieldwork.

Back at camp the team will download all the photos collected and then start the very important task of sorting and categorizing them into different Priority Species Folders.  This may take some time behind a computer at camp, however by doing this you will be greatly assisting the reserve with crucial data for optimal management of the wildlife area.

Free Time

Camera download days are usually only 4 days of the week. The camera downloads take on average 4 – 7 hours on any given day. Once the selected camera-sites have been downloaded for the day and the photographs have been correctly catalogued, you will have some free time.


Project Detail

Wildlife ACT is officially contracted by the international wild cat organisaiton, Panthera, to conduct Leopard population surveys within KwaZulu-Natal. This project was started due to high hunting levels outside of the game reserves causing the Leopard populations within protected areas to decline. In response to this Panthera, together with Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, worked together to rewrite legislation regulating the trophy hunting and control of Leopards that may enter outside communities.

This project is continued, now with the aid of Wildlife ACT, to ensure that the new regulations are adhered to and are sustainable for the years to come. For more information visit the Panthera website.

With the use of Camera-Trap Surveys we are able to estimate the density and gauge population trends over time. At specifically chosen reserves, the project sets up a minimum of 30 camera-trap stations, each of which has two camera-traps (to capture the left and right hand side of the animal). The stations are set-up along roads, animal paths and other areas (such as river beds or drainage lines) which Leopards may frequent.

The surveys are spread across an area that covers 100 – 120 km2 and runs for 50 days before moving to a different reserve. Estimates of Leopard population size in any given area are determined using capture-recapture models which is why this survey will run within KwaZulu-Natal for up to 5 years.


How Do I Get There?

We collect and drop off all our participants at RICHARDS BAY, which is the closest Airport. You would need to book your international flight arriving in JOHANNESBURG (O.R. Tambo International Airport), followed by a short internal flight from Johannesburg to Richard’s Bay (RCB). You are welcome to book your own flights, if you feel comfortable doing so.

If you would prefer some assistance, you can book your flights through our partners at “StudentUniverse” – a specialist division of The Flight Centre Travel Group – via the form below. They specialize in finding and booking available flights at the best prices possible. Because they book so many of our volunteers’ flights, they know exactly what flights to book and what potential problems to look out for. This prevents any issues arising in transit to your project – especially ensuring that you have flights with guaranteed connections, which is not always the case if you book your own flights elsewhere.

NOTE: All Wildlife ACT participants are welcome to make use of this flight assistance service. StudentUniverse can service travellers of all ages; even if you are not a student.


Participants can choose to either fly in to Richards Bay on the SUNDAY and overnight at a B&B close to the Airport, OR arrive on the very early morning flight arriving in Richards Bay at 07:25 AM on the Monday, if they prefer not to overnight.


The transport service will collect participants from Richards Bay Airport at 12:00 PM. Please ensure therefore that you book one of the following flights arriving in Richards Bay at:

  • 14:30 PM or 18:10 PM on the SUNDAY,
  • OR at 07:25 AM on the MONDAY.

Please be aware that if you book the 07:25 AM arrival flight you will have a few hours to wait until the transport service arrives to collect all arriving volunteers from Richards Bay Airport at 12:00. We suggest you wait in the small coffee shop within the Richards Bay Airport. You will be comfortable and safe there and they do sell beverages and light meals/snacks so you can sit and read or work on your laptop.


The transport service drops off participants at Richards Bay Airport at 12:00 PM.
Please therefore ensure that you book one of the following flights, departing from Richards Bay at:

  • 14:40 PM15:05 PM16:20 PM, or 18:40 PM on the MONDAY of your departure.

Important Note: Please do not book flights departing from Richards Bay earlier than 12:00 noon, as we will simply not be able to get you to the airport in time, from the reserve.

Transfer Service:

When you arrive at Richards Bay Airport you will be collected by an organised responsible transfer company. A Wildlife ACT staff member will be accompanying the transport vehicle to Richards Bay to supervise the collection and drop off, of all the participants. He/she will have a copy of the transport schedule including all your photographs, and so will the driver. They will find you in the (VERY) small Airport: either in the small arrival area or in the little coffee shop within the airport if you arrive early.

All arriving conservation volunteers will be transported by the transfer company to a central meeting point where you will be met by your respective Wildlife ACT monitors, who will then take you into the reserve on the back of a monitoring vehicle. On the Monday of your departure you will be transported back to Richards Bay Airport to catch your departing flight home.


Dates and Costs

2 Weeks 18900.00 1326.78 1141.56 1005.48
4 Weeks 32400.00 2274.48 1956.96 1723.68
6 Weeks 45900.00 3222.18 2772.36 2441.88
8 Weeks 59400.00 4169.88 3587.76 3160.08
10 Weeks 72900.00 5117.58 4403.16 3878.28
12 Weeks 86400.00 6065.28 5218.56 4596.48
TRANSPORT FEE 1850.00 129.87 111.74 98.42

Starting Dates


04 June
18 June
02 July
16 July
30 July
13 August
27 August
10 September
24 September
08 October
22 October
05 November
19 November
03 December


14 January
28 January
11 February
25 February
11 March
25 March
08 April
22 April
06 May
20 May
03 June
17 June
01 July
15 July
29 July
12 August
26 August
09 September
23 September
07 October
21 October
04 November
18 November
02 December
What Will I Do?
Project Detail
How Do I Get There?
Dates and Costs
Apply Now