Tanzania: Wildlife Conservation Volunteering

Kilombero Valley Ornithological Centre is an NGO striving to conserve birds, their habitats and biodiversity within the Kilombero Valley. Visit our website: http://kilomberoornithology.wixsite.com/kvoc2/home for more information.

As our name might suggest, much of our work is focused on birds in the region, but we also conduct a range of surveys looking at the rich biodiversity within the Kilombero Valley including reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and carnivores. One of the reasons that there is such a high level of wildlife in the region is the proximity of the Kilombero Valley to the Selous Game Reserve and Udzungwas Mountains National Park. The valley is a key area that support and help protect critical habitat necessary for endemic, globally significant and migratory wildlife species. It provides crucial wildlife connectivity between the Udzungwa Mountains National Park and the Selous Game Reserve. The endemic Kilombero Weaver (P. burnieri, IUCN Status: Vulnerable), Puku antelope (Kobus vardonii, IUCN Status: Near Threatened: 75% of the remaining global population of puku antelope live in the valley) and localized endemic populations of the Udzungwa red colobus (Procolobus gordonorum, IUCN Status: Endangered) found in the area and all suffer from habitat loss associated with the rapidly expanding human population.


We work closely with the local communities and schools in the area, including Ulanga and Kilombero District Council. We also conduct socioeconomic surveys to try and better understand the impact that agriculture and farming in the region is having on the wildlife, and vice versa. We are a non-profit organisation and volunteer contributions are a key source of funding for the work that we do.

We also work (biodiversity assessment using camera traps, mist netting ..etc)  in Kilombero Nature Forest Reserve (KNFR) which is located in the southern part of Tanzania within Iringa and Morogoro region in Kilolo and Kilombero districts respectively. The Nature Reserve occupies the middle portion of the Udzungwa Mountains, lying between Udzungwa Mountains National Park and Uzungwa Scarp Nature Reserve. It comprises a highly undulating chain of mountains that descend to the lowlands and meet the wetlands of Kilombero Valley. Also it lies between Longitude 36017’45”E and Latitude 70 55’00”S within Udzungwa Mountain Block. Rocks , which is part of the Eastern Arc Mountain that stretches from the Taita hill in Kenya through North and South Pare Mountains in Kilimanjaro to West and East Usambaras in Tanga, Kilombero in Morogoro and Udzungwa Mountains in Iringa Regions.

The KNFR harbors special sites which include Magombelema cave in Nyumbanitu area adjacent to Udekwa and Ifuwa villages. The cave is partitioned into 12 portions with the capacity to accommodate about 80 people at a time and is said to be a home for many bats. The Nyumbanitu area was formally inhabited by people as evidenced by the presence of villages scattered throughout the area following the attack by the Germans on Iringa Kalenga (headquarter of the Hehe tribe by that time). Later, the Wahehe Chief Mkwawa escaped from Kalenga to Nyumbanitu site, which is now part of KNR. Todate Nyumbanitu is of significant cultural importance to Hehe tribe as it is used for worshiping. Other worship sites includes; Mihiti, Ndundulu, Ihambigali and Ruipa Kimenya. Also there are some viewpoints in KNR, these are Ndundulu, Kombagulu, Ukame, Chavemba, Idene, Fikano, Kinanili and Nyumbanitu peaks where you can view the small town of Ilula - Iringa, Mahenge town in Morogoro, Kilombero valley. Other view points are Ndundu, Ichima, Bomamzinga, Ng’ongwa, Nyani, Makerewalo, Mlindimila, Miale, Lupete and Njeketule. Also there are various water sources and waterfalls inside the KNFR.

Also KNFR harbours a wide range of fauna besides of being adjacent to Udzungwa National Park. Most of these fauna species are strictly forest dependent. The Udzungwas host 10 species of primates, including six cercopithecidae. The Sanje mangabey (Cercocebus galeritus sanjei) and the Red colobus monkeys (Procolobus badius gordonorum) are endemic to the Udzungwas. Furthermore, Angolan black-and-white colobus (colobus angolensis palliatus), Sykes’s monkey (Cercopithecus albogularis) green monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops), yellow baboon (Papio cynocephalus) and four galagos: -larger –eared greater galago (Otolemur crassicaudatus), Senegal galago (Galagoides orinus) and Matundu dwarf galago (Galagoides udzungwensis) –occur. On a couple of occasions, mixed groups of about 100 individuals of 4 genera  (Cercopithecidae, Cercocebus galeritus sanjei, procolobus badius gorgonoium, colobus angolensis palliatus and cercopithecus albogularis) were seen and interspecific association of colobines reported previously for Magombera and Mwanihana were confirmed. The yellow baboon, green monkey and larger-eared greater galago occur mainly in dry woodland and forest edges in the Udzungwas. Due to high diversity of primates the KNFR as part of Udzungwa Mountain is one of the most important sites for conservation of primates.

In addition to that KNFR is adjacent to Udzungwa Mountain National Park (UMNP). In visiting KNFR you can easily cross and visit UMNP. Also it is easy to visit Mikumi National Park from KNFR in Morogoro side and when in Iringa you can visit Ruaha National Park which is about 150km from KNFR.

Currently, the costs for volunteers are US$ 1000 per month. We are occasionally able to take volunteers for periods shorter than this if you are unable to commit to this length of time. Our volunteers contribute more and experience more of what the project has to offer if they stay for at least a couple of months. We are also happy to help students at college or university who would like to conduct fieldwork for their individual projects, provided this can be reconciled with ongoing work. Students are eligible to apply for one of our internships, which run from 8-15 weeks at a cost of US$200 per week.

The costs quoted above include collection from Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar Es Salaam and transport to the project site, as well as full board and lodging (shared accommodation or single person tent) once at the KVOC camp and daily Nature Forest Reserve fees. All other costs must to be covered by the volunteer.

During the project at the center, volunteers will be working in the field (camping) three days, then two days of visiting local schools to teach English Lesson and conservation education increasing conservation awareness and engage local communities in discussions regarding the protection of wildlife of the area, one day of socio economic survey that will help to understand better the impact that agriculture and farming in the region is having on the wildlife and vice versa and one day off. This is a simple timetable for six working days in every week.

Duties of volunteers will be to assist the research officer with:-  

  1. General map of area that will include roads, general habitat types (forest, rivers, floodplain/grasslands, and swamps/ponds), preferred campsites, and Wildlife Management Area (WMA) boundaries.
  2. Species biodiversity inventory for birds, reptiles, amphibians, large mammals, and carnivores in ‘hotspots’ where these wildlife species may occur throughout the year.
  3. Systematic population surveys for large mammals and carnivores, to help attain a relative abundance index of wildlife. These studies will use repeatable methodologies to allow for detection of wildlife population changes over time, which will be important in assessing the impacts of local or tourist hunting, ecotourism activities such as camping and safari tours, or human pressures on the edges of the protected areas.
  4. Train local game scouts, project managers and local conservationists on methodologies used for wildlife inventories and surveys.
  5. Community surveys with local villagers surrounding to help understand potential conflict, concerns, and attitudes towards the RMZP.

     6. Monitor human use inside the protected zone, such as human

inhabitance,   poaching of animals, charcoal, trees, fish, or illegal grazing of livestock.