If you love the outdoors and are enamoured by wildlife, you might have considered going into a career in wildlife preservation, zoology, or animal training. After leaving school, getting the chance to experiment with these different passions can help you decide which college or university programme to take up; or, if you’ve already completed a degree or certificate in a wildlife related field, gaining experience in wildlife training is the first step on your career ladder.

In South Africa, there are many volunteer programmes that specialise in wildlife training and conservation work, offering the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the field. And while spending the time out on big game reserves and in conservation parks gives you the hands-on skills that will benefit you later on when you return to the UK, some of these programmes also offer fully accredited courses you can use to prove your dedication to developing your skills. This article will introduce you to the Shamwari Game Reserve and the FGASA 1 Game Ranger course.

The Accredited Game Ranger Course

It’s not difficult to convince yourself that time spent on a Big Game Reserve in South Africa is time well spent when you’re interested in starting out in a wildlife related career. Participating in an accredited course will give you both the qualification and the structured learning experience to really help you get the most out of your time abroad.

The 60-day FGASA 1 Game Ranger course at the Shamwari Game Reserve will introduce you to the fundamentals of wildlife training, conservation, and park management through a series of lectures, hands-on activities and fieldwork. In the classroom, students will be introduced to animal behaviour, weapons handling, field guiding as a profession, creating guided nature experiences, and conservation management. At the end of the course, students are required to pass a theory exam in order to gain the qualification.

Requirements for participation

All volunteers interested in participating in the course must be 18 years or older and possess a valid driver’s license for the duration of the course. Though you do not need previous formal education in wildlife training or conservation, a small amount of previous general knowledge is helpful.

About Shamwari Game Reserve

The Shamwari Game Reserve is located on the eastern cape of South Africa. It is fully operational and participates with the award winning Conservation Department to give volunteers a wide-range of experience with the diverse local flora and fauna. The game reserve also works with local community engagement projects in environmental education programmes, and even combines ecological education with local athletics projects.

Nearby, participants in the course have access to beautiful beaches and pristine shorelines where they can surf, scuba dive, and just enjoy the local landscapes.