Do you want to work with animals but have a deeper passion for conservation work and helping the more endangered wildlife species. The Hoedspruit Endangered Species centre in South Africa strives to conserve many of Africa’s endangered species, most specifically working with the majestic cheetah. The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre is part of an education facility and breeding centre which helps to sustain the population growth of certain species whilst educating people to the importance of conservation.

History depicts that cheetah once roamed freely through nearly all of Africa and some parts of Asia. Today, the range has reduced considerably to just protected areas of Africa and small pockets of land in Asia. This decline is mainly attributed to the fast expanding human population which has quickly developed to take over the native land of these magnificent creatures. It is this rapid loss of habitat that saw the cheetah being added to the endangered species list in the early 1960’s.

The attempts to ensure the survival of the species have been take since this time to firstly to conserve the free ranging populations and secondly to breed cheetahs in captivity. This is where Hoedspruit Endangered Species work with animals has become so important, and cheetah are now classified as “vulnerable” in Southern Africa.

Part of the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre’s mission is to teach about how man has affected the cheetah’s natural habitat. They do this by actively visiting schools and encouraging the pupils to understand the issues faced by the species through habitat loss and poaching. Life is difficult for the cheetah in the competitive environment of the wild. They have to contend with predators such as lions, leopards and hyenas, as well as the threat of rival cheetahs roaming into their territory. Cheetah’s hunting and eating habits also make it difficult for their survival, feeding only on fresh carcasses that they have killed and having eaten move on. Their co-predators, lion and leopard, will feed on the carcass of an animal they have killed for an extended period seldom leaving much for the benefit of the hungry scavengers that share their domain. Cheetahs must endure the ongoing struggle of hunting for food while protecting vulnerable cubs and the species must also face the narrowing of their territory by human influence.

So the question is how can you get involved and work with animals and assist with the incredible work that the centre does? Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre run a volunteer project for those interested to work with animals. The focus of the programme is on the cheetah, and during the course participants are involved with the everyday care of the animals. This care includes, cleaning, feeding, and where required, assisting with or observing any veterinary activities that may occur during that time. The same activities apply to other species being cared for at the centre. The knowledge gained about the animals and work of the HESC through this kind of participation is both specific and personal. The programme is largely based on the interactive involvement of participants, who in the process gain valuable knowledge of and experience in nature conservation.