Research and Conservation Service Learning Programs: Human Wildlife Conflict

The Greater Kruger area is one of Africa’s most popular tourist destinations, famous for being home to large numbers of Africa’s iconic Big Five. Bordering parts of the reserve though, often in buffer zones, are rural farming communities. In these areas where wildlife – and particularly predators – exist in close proximity to humans, they compete for space and resources. Incidences of depredation (both real and assumed) on livestock and the fear of attacks on humans results in retaliatory killings of predators, and a loss of habitat results in predator populations becoming isolated, where interbreeding and prey scarcity affects their chances of long-term survival. A sharp decline in predator numbers over recent decades has prompted conservation authorities to undertake a dynamic approach to tackling the underlying issues.

Participants on this program will work alongside professional conservation teams on these issues, and directly contribute to the future of these apex species through the creation of ID kits, maintenance of critical wildlife corridors, research into home ranges and movement patterns, and will work with local communities to ensure their active participation, which is essential to the future of these vulnerable ecosystems. You will have ample opportunity to explore the reserve on safari in your free time.

This placement would be beneficial to those pursuing studies in natural sciences such as conservation, biology, ecology and wildlife conservation management, but also other fields such as sociology, anthropology and various cultural studies.


  • Gain valuable knowledge on human-wildlife conflict in Africa
  • Learn from Dr Jackie Abell and her team of experts in the field
  • Take advantage of the wide variety of wildlife and leisure activities nearby
  • Immerse yourself in the hospitable local communities

Quick Facts

  • Location Greater Kruger Area, South Africa
  • Focus Wildlife Conservation
  • Recommended Credits Advised on request
  • Academic Prerequisites None

Enquire Now

Destination Description

Kruger National Park is largest game reserve in South Africa, situated in the north eastern part of the country,  world renowned for abundance of wildlife and an ecosystem which support over 130 mammal species including the Big 5 and over 300 bird species. The National Park stretches 220 miles from north to south and 40 miles from east to west. The program focuses on predator conservation, through a study of lion, leopard, cheetah, as well as hyena and wild dog. This study is not unique to Kruger but its rich wildlife lends to the furthering of predator studies, conservation and the mitigation of increasing human-wildlife conflict.

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.

Specifically, your placement will have the following outputs:

  • Learn about conservation issues and solutions in South Africa and globally with relevance to this particular local ecology and the interdependence of humans and the natural world in a uniquely African context
  • Become familiar with the top-down effects of predators in an ecosystem and the issues around trophic cascades
  • Understand the health and restoration of ecosystems, with wildlife and habitat mapping
  • Develop research questions that contribute to evidence-based conservation
  • Gain practical skills in data collection and analysis (track measuring, camera traps, software etc)
  • Gain experience recording data on large predators in protected and unprotected areas, that directly conflict with humans mitigation
  • Advance communication skills in a multi-cultural environment

Service Impact

One of the main threats to African wildlife, especially predators, is conflict with people. As human populations increase across the continent, people and wildlife are brought into increasing contact, often leading to conflict for space and resources. Identifying the extent of human-wildlife conflict (HWC) and implementing feasible and appropriate solutions in an African context is one of the most important challenges in conservation.

This placement will provide students with an in-depth understanding of the main types and causes of HWC in Africa, research methods for assessing the extent of HWC in an area, consideration of workable mitigation methods and techniques to assess and monitor their effectiveness. This will be achieved using a combination of theory and real-life examples, with students having the opportunity to engage with people affected by HWC and to apply their knowledge in the field to contribute to effective and measurable solutions.

While your work on this placement is geared towards making an impact on long-term solutions to this multi-faceted issue, your contributions will also yield results in the short-term. By analyzing raw data and compiling it into comprehensive reports, you will empower local conservation and resource management to accurately identify individual predators and their home ranges, which will inform their planning and research activities. This is key to the appropriate development and maintenance of  habitat corridors, which threatened predators rely on.

  • 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 - 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