Lion Research and Conservation Service Learning Programs

Travel to the popular tourist town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, which borders Africa’s most iconic natural wonder, the Victoria Falls and contribute to the conservation of the African lion. Your placement will give you a full understanding of the issues lion populations face, and contribute to solutions that are being implemented on the ground. You’ll enjoy lectures by experts in African conservation, and you’ll work in the field to gain relevant practical experience.

To ensure maximum professional development, you’ll enjoy a well-structured program and a healthy balance of practical and theoretical learning, and you’ll be guided by an academic adviser along the way. During time off, you’ll be able to explore the stunning area by visiting the falls, going on game drives, or experiencing the mighty Zambezi river on boat cruises.

This service learning placement would be beneficial to those pursuing studies in natural sciences, such as conservation, biology, ecology and wildlife conservation management.


  • Gain in-depth knowledge of the challenges facing the African lion
  • Work alongside academic experts in the field
  • Observe lions that are part of a ground-breaking conservation program, and collect data for ongoing innovation and the development of best practice
  • Enjoy game drives, boat cruises on the Zambezi, visits to the Victoria Falls, and other exciting activities in your free time

Quick Facts

  • Location Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
  • Focus Wildlife Conservation
  • Recommended Credits Advised on request
  • Academic Prerequisites None

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Destination Description

Your home for the duration of your service learning program will be Victoria Falls, a friendly little town in the north of Zimbabwe. The town is surrounded by beautiful African bush, you might see wildlife roaming around its streets, like warthog – and sometimes even elephants. As its name indicates, Victoria Falls is also home to the mighty waterfall, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and an awe-inspiring sight. Weekends will give you the opportunity to encounter wildlife on game drives in a nearby National Park, to venture onto the Zambezi for a boat cruise, or to get soaked by the spray of the falls. For the adventurous type, there’s plenty to explore too. Known as the Adventure Capital of Africa, Victoria Falls offers dare-devil activities such as white water rafting, bungee jumping, or gorge swinging. A setting of great natural beauty and an abundance of exciting things to explore.


Learning Outcomes

This program comprises five elements: service, reflection, communication, course work and research. Once you are on site, you will start with an induction, introduction to courses, setting schedules and an expectation workshop. The program ends with a presentation of research findings and a reflection workshop to evaluate the program and its elements.

Your placement has a 70-hour service requirement which will be customized to your choice of practical or research-based work. You will be supported throughout; the Business Manager will provide support for logistics and procedures, and your Academic Lead will provide support for course work and research.

Before embarking on your service, you will be required to undertake an extensive needs and assets analysis to determine your focus. This will form the basis of your practical or research project, and will inform your concept note and proposal, which will be reviewed by your Academic Lead and her team.

In conjunction with the 70 hours of community-engagement, you will acquire a new language, learn the basic tools of social research methods, learn actively through reflection and write a final research paper or report in lieu of the need identified and addressed through service.

This service learning program will present you with a unique opportunity to experience lion conservation work on the ground. At the end of the program, and with professional guidance, you will write up a report that outlines your learnings.

Through your placement, you will gain the following knowledge and skills:

  • An in-depth insight into the challenges facing the African lion population, and the potential practical solutions thereto
  • An understanding of the unique ecosystem of Victoria Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • An understanding of the complexities of human-wildlife conflict, which affects both lions and communities
  • Experience in undertaking conservation research
  • Reporting skills

Service Impact

Africa’s lion populations are in dramatic decline. It is now estimated that fewer than 20 000 individuals remain in the wild – representing a loss of 80 – 90% over the last 40 years. In collaboration with Coventry University, the African Lion Rehabilitation and Release into the Wild Program (ALERT) is working to mitigate the lion population’s decline through research programs, conservation education programs, as well as a groundbreaking 4-stage project that releases captive-bred lions into the world. On your placement, you will contribute to these efforts in the following ways:

  • Collecting data on predators in the national parks for ongoing conservation research
  • Conducting vegetation mapping in the Zambezi National Park and buffer zone
  • Supporting efforts to bring innovative solutions for trail lighting systems in homesteads and monitoring the effectiveness in reducing livestock depredation
  • Assisting with conservation education in communities that border the park
  • Observing lions in ALERT’s release site and collating data to assess the progress of the program
  • Helping conservation efforts to conserve the biodiversity of the park for future generations
  • WEEK 1

    Your first week will comprise an in-depth orientation where you will meet the various stakeholders, familiarize yourself with your schedule and set expectations. An introduction into the local language, culture and relevant history of the area will provide key context to the subject matter.

    By the end of the first week, you will have a sound understanding of the subject matter and concepts to be explored. Your first reflection will ensure you are prepared for the activities in week two.

  • WEEK 2

    In week two, you will settle into your routine and develop a keener understanding of how the five elements of your placement; service, reflection, communication, course work and research integrate.

    A meeting with your program adviser will ensure that you are prepared with a concept note for your research paper by the end of week two.

  • WEEK 3

    After two weeks on your placement, you will have the requisite skills and contextual knowledge to deepen your inquiry. In your third week you will undertake research to develop your concept note in preparation of your presentation, which provides an opportunity to reflect on your personal development thus far.

    Meetings with your program adviser will guide your progress.

  • WEEK 4

    Your final week will be geared towards the refinement of your paper as you prepare for your presentation. You will also prepare a handover document to ensure that your contribution to the project continues.

    Your program adviser will provide a consolidated review of your research, and your contributions to the various elements of the broader program.

Available February to November

  • Participants will be collected from the airport upon arrival and transferred to base
  • Accommodation on base will be simple, but comfortable shared rooms with communal ablutions
  • All meals for the duration of the project, with the exception of free days will be provided
  • Any transport required for program activities will be provided
  • Participants will be transferred back to the airport for their departure