Lion Conservation at Antelope Park
Make a difference & work closely with the African lion
→ Prices start from $1099 or £839 for 1 week
Why volunteer with lions?
African lion populations have been declining by an astonishing 43% from 1993 to 2018, according to IUCN research. That means that from 200,000 lions 25 years ago, only slightly over 22,000 remain in the wild across Africa today. The decrease in population is higher than any other species, including the rhino.
That’s why the ground-breaking Lion Release Program was launched at Antelope Park in 2004. The staged lion release program aims to release the wild offspring of captive-bred lions into appropriate national parks, and reserves across Africa. But in order to accomplish these goals, we need you.
You will play a vital role in collecting data on a pride of lions that are proving that the offspring born within the managed reserve are suitable candidates for release into the wild, as well as important daily upkeep duties of our resident lions.
Experience incredible lion and wildlife opportunities, while contributing towards our pioneering conservation efforts!
Lion Conservation Reviews
I stayed at Antelope Park (AP) for a month and it was amazing! I had the best time there meeting new people from all over the world and of course, meeting the beautiful animals. The activities, like walking the lions and elephants every day, cleaning enclosures, feeding the big lions and many more, were a lot of fun and it’s definitely an experience I’ll never forget. Also thanks to the amazing staff who made the activities and my stay a lot of fun
Being able to touch two of the most majestic animals on earth is an experience that leaves you speechless and causes one of the best feelings in the world.
A day in the life of a lion volunteer
Your days will be varied and dependent on what needs to be done that day. You can expect to get involved with an array of different activities:
- Enjoy unique and unforgettable close encounters with magnificent African lions by caring for them, feeding them and cleaning their enclosures while getting to know their personalities.
- Discover the Thrill of the Chase in an experience like never before. You will witness our lion’s natural behaviours come to life, as you join them, hunting for their next meal. At an additional cost, witness this on another scale – at night!
- Be part of the research team that studies minute by minute the different behaviours of the Ngamo pride and see how they really function in the wild.
- Take part in behavioural enrichment activities by making toys from natural materials to stimulate the lions’ predatory and sensory behaviours.
- Have you ever fed an African elephant? This is your opportunity. Interact with and care for our 4 rescued elephants, the biggest stars of Antelope Park. When we say the biggest, we mean it.
- At an extra cost, take advantage of the wide variety of activities that Antelope Park offers, such as Sunset Carriage Rides, Polocrosse, Overnight Horse Safaris or the popular Night Encounter, among so many other unforgettable experiences.
- Visit our Snake House where you can meet our resident python Aphrodite and take a selfie with her, if you dare! Also see and learn more about other African snakes, from the most venomous the harmless ones.
- Help out with reserve management activities including snare sweeps, road repairs, erosion control and fire breaks.
- Enjoy one of Africa’s most unique parks, featured in BBC’s Nature’s Miracle Orphans, ITV’s Lion Country and Animal Planet’s Roaring with Pride. What you saw on TV now you can see with your own eyes.
Our Goals and Objectives
We are dedicated to the well-being of our lions and the sustainability of our program. All of our lion-based activities have specific aims and objectives, to ensure we are reaching our goals:
To provide our lions with the highest possible care and welfare, thus avoiding abnormal behaviour. We provide our lions with stimulating enrichment to encourage natural and instinctive behaviour, while also observe behaviour and health anomalies using the data collection sheets.
The purpose of behaviour enrichment is to keep our lions active and alert, while in their enclosures. We strive to contribute our ideas to science and for the benefit of other captive animal establishments.
- To ensure the enclosure housing our resident lions are secure and to provide our lions with clean and safe living environments.
- To remove any items that could be harmful to the lions and fix any broken equipment, such as lion platforms and to ensure all the fencing is in order.
Meat Preparation & Lion Enclosure Water
- To ensure that all of the lions within our care are provided with the most suitable nutritional diet and are hydrated at all times.
- Meat is measured in Kgs and we ensure each lion is receiving the correct amount of food, depending on the size, weight and other factors of the individual lions. Each lion is monitored and their food intake is regularly assessed. To ensure that each of our lions is receiving the nutrients they require; “Carnivore Mix” – a pre-mixed bag of crushed vitamins and minerals is added to the meat.
- To ensure water troughs are cleaned and filled with water.
- To further our lion conservation efforts by educating the local community on the importance of wildlife conservation practices, methods and activities.
- To engage with local schools with the aim of changing people’s perception of conservation as a whole.
- Volunteers conduct weekly conservation lessons, at our very own conservation centre, to expand the pupils understanding of conservation and to encourage pupils to become passionate for saving wildlife and getting involved with our conservation initiatives.
Lion Research – Ngamo Pride
- Behavioural observation of stage two release pride. Observing and recording group dynamics, social interactions, territorial behaviours and hunting skills.
- To assess self-sustainability (successful hunting ability,) social cohesions and sociability structure an as a pride.)
The thrill of the Chase- Hunting Behaviours, following Lion Walks
- To encourage the lion’s natural hunting behaviours.
- Enables the lions to practice their natural instincts.
Who is ALERT?
Introducing our partner ALERT – A non-profit organization dedicated to the future of the African Lion and conserving them for many more generations to come. Antelope Park and Volunteer Encounter are proud partners of ALERT- brains behind our mission to release lions back into the wild.
ALERT established the release into the wild program in 2004 at Antelope Park: marking Antelope Park as the hub for our lion conservation efforts. Developed by highly qualified and experienced conservationists, alongside leading expert PhD researchers. This pioneering initiative, which is only currently a micro-scale of what is possible, has the potential to provide a solution for the decline in the lion population and expand further across the whole continent.
Release Program: Stage 1
Our resident lions at Antelope Park are bred to produce cubs, who are raised by our fantastic and experienced lion handlers. These cubs are slowly introduced to humans, through monitored cub sits, that our volunteers take part in, under the supervision of our animal handlers.
Once a little older, these cubs are introduced to lion walks. These walks are designed to replicate exactly how a young cub would become familiar with the bush in the wild and their natural environment. Accompanied by our volunteers to create the essence of a “pride.” This pride vibe encourages the cubs to explore their natural instincts further.
The walks do more than just encourage our cubs to engage with their natural and innate instincts. The purpose of the walks is also to enable more people to become passionate for lions and to raise awareness of the current situation lions face. A close and special encounter with these cubs has the ability to encourage more people to get involved with our initiatives to save the wild lion population. These walking cubs act as ambassadors to wild lions. This lion walks also provide vital income to support and fund the later phases of the program, with the ultimate goal to reintroduce lions back into the wild.
This phase of the program is also proving to be very successful. One of our amazing cubs, Lala Mika took down a fully-grown wildebeest at just 14 months old, all on her own! This demonstrates how their natural instincts are innate and not effected by interaction with humans.
These cubs will continue to walk with humans until they reach an age where their behaviours become more unpredictable. At this point, our cubs move onto Phase 1, Part 2- Thrill of the Chase, where they explore their natural hunting instincts.
Where do we offer these walks? Victoria Falls
Release Program: Stage 1 Part 2 (Experience the Chase)
Once our cubs complete their walking careers, they are introduced to the next step- the Thrill of the Chase! This is an incredible opportunity for our volunteers to witness the cubs’ natural instincts come to life, even more than they would on a lion walk. Our lions are free to wonder and roam the park, following one of our vehicles to explore their natural instincts and behaviours within our park. The human interaction element has been removed and the cubs are now at a more mature age, where their hunting instincts are in full force. This is your opportunity to see one of our cubs make a kill!
When night falls is when our lions are at their most active. This is the time where you are most likely to see a lion make a kill. Only one in one million people have seen a lion kill with their own eyes, you could be one of those. With our impressive 40% kill rate on these encounters; the chances of seeing this are pretty good (although not guaranteed!)
This phase is very important for demonstrating how our cubs, even after human interaction, still have their natural instinct, as they are innate to each lion.
Where does this part take place? Antelope Park
Release Program: Stage 2 (Introducing our semi-wild pride)
We selected the lions who have previously been part of the lion walks with the most desirable characteristics for surviving in the wild. These selected resident lions are then released into a semi-wild environment; our 400-acre fenced and managed release site,) where they will function as a wild pride and produce offspring.
During this stage; all human involvement is removed. These cubs will never experience human involvement.
While the parents (who were captive-bred) will not be eligible for the release back into the wild, it is the offspring they produce, who will not experience any form of human interaction, who will be. It is the mixture of captive-bred lions and wild-born cubs, that form our semi-wild pride, known as the Ngamo Pride at Antelope Park. Once these captive-bred lions enter the site, they will also no longer experience human interaction. This is now a pride, living and behaving as they would in the wild.
The Ngamo Pride have already demonstrated their effectiveness as a semi-wild pride. Between the 11 lions in the pride, they have killed over 600 wild games in the release site at Antelope Park. Our goal is to release the 4 wild lionesses born in the release site, into national parks, which forms Phase 3 of the program.
Our lion conservation volunteers are fully involved with this stage, by collecting important data during research sessions, from the safety of our research vehicle. It is during these research sessions where our volunteers have the opportunity to witness how this semi-wild pride functions, as well as their behaviours, pride dynamics and physical traits.
Where does this phase take place? Antelope Park
Release Program: Stage 3 (Reintroducing into The Wild)
The final phase of our innovative release program. After over 10 years of research to confirm their stability as a part, the 4 lionesses who were born as wild cubs as part of our semi-wild pride, are translocated ahead of being introduced into a fenced, secure and protected game and national park.
ALERT is on the lookout of the most suitable national park or reserve, to release our 4 wild lionesses. We have 3 key points to make our release successful.
- Bonded Prides
- Disease Free
- DNA tested
Where this phase will happen? In the most suitable national park or reserve, that is looking to support us in restoring the declining lion population.
Highlights of our lion conservation volunteer project
The opportunities Zimbabwe present are staggering and promise to provide an experience of a lifetime. From unique wildlife encounters & historic sites to one of the seven natural wonders of the world; isn’t it time you experienced the hype for yourself?
From tracking white rhino on foot and game drives, to cave paintings, hikes and the historic grave of Cecil Rhodes; Matopos offers a whole array of activity, with one of Zimbabwe’s most stunning national parks as your backdrops.
Whether you are cruising along the Zambezi river or bungee jumping into the mist itself; a visit to one of the seven natural wonders of the world is one for the bucket list. From exhilarating adrenaline packed activities to game viewing in beautiful Botswana, there is something for everyone on the doorstep of the magnificent falls.
Great Zimbabwe Ruins
These are Africa’s 2nd oldest ruins behind the pyramids and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spend the day trekking around these ancient ruins and learn about ancient kings of the past and ancient Zimbabwean culture.
About Antelope Park
Antelope Park is the home of our lion conservation efforts. Located in the middle of Zimbabwe, close to the town of Gweru, Antelope Park is a stunning private game park, nestled in 3000 acres of iconic savannah grassland; with heaps of game grazing its plains including zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, impala, kudu and waterbuck, accompanied by over 200 different bird species
Antelope Park is proud of the home of our semi-wild release pride.
Discover the thrill of the chase – an unforgettable and unique experience, watching a lion’s natural instincts come to life in the most extraordinary way- during a hunt. Watch our cubs demonstrating their innate and natural instincts, intact from their walking careers.
Our Semi-Wild Release Pride await you
Venture out into our release site and observe our semi-wild Ngamo pride, living the life of any wild lion pride. You will be fully involved with conducting vital research about lion behaviour, the dynamics as pride and their physical traits.
All the data collected on these important research sessions move us closer to our ultimate goal of releasing four lionesses into the wild. Find out more below our Release program with ALERT.
Our magnificent four orphaned elephants enjoy their days, roaming the bush from dawn until dusk. You will have the opportunity to accompany these incredible iconic animals.
With 40 horses, there are loads of horse opportunities on offer. From the ultimate overnight horse safari to experiencing the incredible African sunrise from horseback. Horse swims, cross-country, polocrosse, just to name a few.
Our Start Dates for 2019 are:
- 7 & 21 October
- 4 & 18 November
- 2,16 & 30 December
Our Start Dates for 2020 are:
- 6, 13 & 27 January
- 10 & 24 February
- 9 & 23 March
- 6 & 20 April
- 4 & 18 May
- 1, 15 & 29 June
- 6, 13, 20 & 27 July
- 3, 10, 17, 24 & 31 August
- 7 & 21 September
- 5 & 19 October
- 2, 16 & 30 November
- 14 & 28 December
|Duration||Cost GBP||Cost USD|
|2 Weeks||£ 1,427.00||$ 2,597.00|
|3 Weeks||£ 1,811.00||$ 3,296.00|
|4 Weeks||£ 2,195.00||$ 3,995.00|
|5 Weeks||£ 2,579.00||$ 4,694.00|
|6 Weeks||£ 2,963.00||$ 5,393.00|
|7 Weeks||£ 3,347.00||$ 6,092.00|
|8 Weeks||£ 3,731.00||$ 6,791.00|
|9 Weeks||£ 4,115.00||$ 7,490.00|
|10 Weeks||£ 4,499.00||$ 8,189.00|
|11 Weeks||£ 4,883.00||$ 8,888.00|
|12 Weeks||£ 5,267.00||$ 9,587.00|
|Duration||Cost GBP||Cost USD|
|1 Week||£ 839||$ 1,099|
|2 Weeks||£ 1,199||$ 1,571|
|3 Weeks||£ 1,523||$ 1,995|
|4 Weeks||£ 1,845||$ 2,417|
|5 Weeks||£ 2,168||$ 2,840|
|6 Weeks||£ 2,490||$ 3,262|
|7 Weeks||£ 2,812||$ 3,684|
|8 Weeks||£ 3,135||$ 4,107|
|9 Weeks||£ 3,457||$ 4,529|
|10 Weeks||£ 3,780||$ 4,952|
|11 Weeks||£ 4,102||$ 5,374|
|12 Weeks||£ 4,425||$ 5,797|
Lion Volunteering Project FAQs
How endangered is the lion population?
Lions have been declared as vulnerable. Today, they occupy just 8% of the land they once dominated. 80 years ago, there were around 200,000 lions in the wild (WWF Living Planet Report 2016.)
Since then, there has been a 43% decline in the last 25 years alone (1993-2018.) Today, it is understood that just 22,000 wild lions remaining, across the whole of the African continent!
What are the biggest threats facing the lion population?
- A loss of habitat: Lions have lost 92% of the territory they once roamed. The sheer reduction of their natural environment has also led to a decrease in prey and food sources.
- The biggest issue that faces the lion population is human-wildlife conflict. Lions who live outside of fenced or protected areas are exposed to less natural prey and as a result, they turn to farm livestock as their prey. In a nation where people’s livestock is their wealth, African people who have seen their wealth destroyed, turn to kill the lions that harmed their livestock and livelihood. This is a major area of our conservation that we focus on, overcoming the conflict between local people and the surrounding wildlife.
- The disease has been a strong contributing factor to the rapid decline in the lion population in the last few years. Diseases such as feline leukaemia virus, bovine tuberculosis and morbillivirus have severely affected South Africa and its lion population. A combination of inbreeding due to the small population group have also caused genetic problems and therefore problems to the already dwindling population.
Is it safe to work around lions?
Working around lion (captive or wild) comes with its risks. However, the safety of our volunteers is our main priority. We ask you to remember that you are working around wild animals, not domestic cats!
Our lions are not tamed but are safe to interact with until a certain age/ point. Follow the advice and instructions from our experienced handlers and remain aware of your surroundings at all times.
Why this lion conservation program?
- You will be part of the team, implementing our innovative lion conservation efforts and contributing towards securing the future of the incredible African Lion.
- You will have the opportunity to take our lion conservation efforts further, out to the local communities as part of our mission to overcome human-wildlife conflict.
- Experience exclusive animal encounters and a range of wildlife-based activities.
- Witness the thrill of the chase during an epic night encounter and conduct important research on our semi-wild release pride. Your opportunities are endless.
- You will meet people from all over the globe and create amazing new friendships, while also experiencing the best of what Zimbabwe has to offer.