VOLUNTEER PROGRAMMES

Lilongwe Wildlife Trust (LWT) started life in 2009 when we opened the doors to what is still the only wildlife sanctuary in Malawi. Most of our first animal residents were rescued from a run-down zoo in the bustling capital city of Lilongwe. Since then we’ve grown into the country’s leading conservation charity with an international reputation for high impact and world-class standards. 

Why volunteer with LWT

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MAKE A 
DIFFERENCE

Malawi has an incredible diversity of wild animals and habitats but is facing huge threats from deforestation and pollution to poaching and climate change. LWT works at the forefront of some of these, so if you volunteer with us you'll be part of a much bigger picture. Whether you’re working with our rescued animals, contributing to a research project or supporting our education team, volunteering with us, you'll make a real difference.

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LEARN FROM
THE BEST

We are the only NGO sanctioned by the Government of Malawi to conduct wildlife rescues nationwide and the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre is the only sanctuary in the world to hold accreditations from the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and the Born Free Foundation PAW scheme. Working with us will give you the chance to learn from a team of local and international experts dedicated to best practice.

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JOIN A CONSERVATION
REVOLUTION

Malawi is in the grip of a conservation revolution. In recent years, the Government has clamped down on wildlife criminals by passing tough laws and disrupting organised crime syndicates. Greater investment in protected areas has led to a boom in wildlife populations and the return of the ‘Big Five’. This means that Malawi is fast earning a name as an emerging leader in African conservation. Volunteer with us to be part of this fascinating story.

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EXPERIENCE THE
'WARM HEART OF AFRICA'

From Lake Malawi - with its white-sand beaches and colourful cichlid fish - to the rolling grasslands of Nyika Plateau and the stunning peaks of Mount Mulanje, Malawi is one of Africa’s best-kept travel secrets. Although it isn't as well known as some of its Southern African neighbours, Malawi offers the chance to experience nature in unspoilt areas of true wilderness. It is also renowned as one of the safest countries to travel in Africa.

Placement options

We offer six core placement opportunities but our approach is flexible.

This means that, where possible, we’re happy to tailor what we offer to your skills and passions. Review our options but don’t worry if you don’t see exactly what you want – just put as much information in your application form as possible and we’ll get in touch to explore how we can create something special for you!

Locations

LILONGWE WILDLIFE CENTRE

The sanctuary is located within a 200-hectare reserve, which is home to wild animals such as antelopes, crocodiles, small carnivores and hyenas and over 100 species of bird. There are 4km of walking trails running through the forest and along the river, with a bar and café at the visitor centre. It’s just 10 minutes to town with its restaurants, shops and markets, so you are never too far from ‘civilisation’ if you feel like a change of scene. The team are happy to organise movies, talks and nights out.

KUTI WILDLIFE RESERVE

Kuti is a 90 minute drive from Lilongwe and a few kilometres from Lake Malawi. The reserve’s habitats are varied, with brachystegia and miombo woodland through to grasslands, wetlands and marshes. There’s diverse wildlife as a result, ranging from large mammals such as zebra, sable, kudu and giraffe through to primates and small carnivores as well as endemic species of butterflies and bats. The market town of Salima is a bike taxi ride away and Senga Bay is an easy day or overnight trip.

AND MANY OTHER POSSIBILITIES

Beyond our wildlife centre and Kuti, there are also opportunities to work at sites across Malawi, depending on the time of year and needs of the project you are working on.

These sites include a number of wildlife reserves and National Parks including:
Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve
Nyika National Park
Dzalanyama Forest Reserve
Namizimu Forest Reserve.

Frequently asked questions

Please take the time to read through our FAQs and answers. 

If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please get in touch with us: placements@lilongwewildlife.org.

You are part of the bigger picture: Whilst you work directly with animals rescued from the bushmeat or pet trade, you can be sure we are tackling the roots of the problem through sensitising local communities, changing legislation and supporting law enforcement. We strive for operational excellence and we are accredited and audited by the top international welfare and conservation bodies. As a result, you learn ‘best practice’, working alongside a knowledgeable and passionate team of local and international experts who are keen to share their experiences.

In addition to covering the costs of your placement, it’s no exaggeration to say that volunteering with us will help to save and change lives. Although many of our overheads are funded through grants from international governments and charities, almost all of our animal welfare work is made possible thanks to the donations that are included in our placement fees. This means you’re supporting us by providing things like wildlife food and medications, maintaining enclosures and trails, ensuring staff can be there to care for animals throughout the year and even by keeping our lights on.  All this means that your support is helping to fund the running of the sanctuary that keeps our animal residents alive and safe.

  • Accommodation (LWC chalet upgrade cost: £12-£20 per person per night)
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as unlimited water, tea and coffee
  • Airport transfers from Lilongwe (provided arrival is on a Tuesday)
  • All work-related transport
  • Orientation on the charity, sanctuary and a tour of Lilongwe
  • A local sim card 
  • T-shirt
  • Full support during your stay

All other expenses will be your responsibility. This includes: flights, visas, vaccinations, a TB scan, and any excursions, souvenirs, nights outs, snacks and other personal expenses.

Please also note BSc, MRes, MSC and PhD students working on non-LWT projects must self-fund costs that fall out of existing operations (fuel, equipment, etc).

Lilongwe Wildlife Centre: The main house has basic mixed dorm-style accommodation which sleeps ten, a kitchen, lounge area, bathroom with hot showers and electricity. We also have two en-suite chalets (a two-bed and a four-bed) should you wish to upgrade. 

Kuti Wildlife Reserve: The volunteer centre is located in the heart of the reserve and runs on solar power and potable water. Each chalet can house four volunteers, with two beds in twin rooms. There is a common area with a kitchen and showers.

Accommodation at other sites will depend on the specific location. We can provide more information during the application process.

At the Lilongwe Wildlife Centres, breakfast is self-serve (food items are provided) and lunch and dinner meals are prepared by our local chef every day except Sundays. The menu is vegetarian with a mix of both international and local dishes. If you have any dietary requirements, please let us know and we will do our best to accommodate these. Volunteers are also welcome to buy snacks and other items as they wish.

At Kuti Wildlife Reserve, there is an on-site chef who cooks three meals a day and specific dietary requirements can be catered for here too.

Meals at other sites will depend on the specific location. We can provide more information during the application process.

WiFi is available at the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre inside the volunteer house. It is operational from 6pm and also on the weekends. For an day time connectivity needs, participants can access WiFi by purchasing something from the cafe. At other sites, the internet can be accessed by purchasing airtel time on the local sim you will be provided with on arrival. 

At most we usually have 15 volunteers at any one time across all of our locations. Each location can accommodate varying numbers of people and some volunteers will move between locations depending on their research or placement with us.

It’s best to fly into Lilongwe in Malawi (Kamuzu International Airport). If you arrive on a Tuesday, we will pick you up from there and take you straight to the Wildlife Centre. It’s about a 30-minute drive. Those working on our bush projects will most likely stay a night there before moving on. 

If you fly in on another day, we recommend staying at Mabuya Camp and getting a taxi straight there from the airport. We can collect you from there on your first day with us. 

Book your flight online through websites like Flight Centre or directly with an airline. There are offices in Lilongwe for Kenyan Airways (via Nairobi) and Ethiopian Airways (via Addis Ababa). If you are travelling overland get in touch and we can let you know the best way to get here.

If movements are work related, a staff member will drive volunteers around in organisation cars and vans. As part of your induction, you will be taken to get a local sim card and shown an ATM, grocery store and pharmacy close by. Thereafter to move around to go shopping, see a music gig or eat at a restaurant in your free time, you can walk, or catch a tuk tuk, minibus or taxi at your own expense. Once dark, volunteers are asked not to go out alone and to only use an approved taxi service. 

Depending the time of year of your placement, it will be hot, wet or both. Bring clothing that is breathable but also provides sun protection. All placements will likely involve some feeding of wildlife and enclosure cleaning so also make sure you’re happy to get the clothes you bring dirty. Depending on whether you do any travelling out to communities or other countries it might also be a good idea to bring some conservative, loose fitting clothing to be culturally respectful. More information will be included in a pre arrival pack once your placement is confirmed.

It’s always smart to travel with some cash so it would be good to bring some USD. If you are getting your visa on arrival, you will also need cash to pay for this. There are also several ATMs in town where you will need to get out MWK as well. Staff will point one out on your initial supply tour the day of  arrival with us.

In terms of spending money, this depends on your lifestyle. Consider things like topping up a local SIM card ($10US gives 6gb of data), alcoholic beverages ($1-6US from beer, mixed spirit to cocktail), snacks, meals out ($8-20US), taxis into town ($3-6US).  Pending this, expenses will likely range from $10-50US per week.

British, Australian, Canadian or American nationals and people from most EU countries are required to obtain a $75 visitor’s permit valid for 30 days, with the option to extend for an additional 30-60 days at roughly $10 up to a maximum of 90 days. For other nationalities, please check online. Pending the country you are from, visas can be obtained online, in person at consulates or on arrival – you will need to bring $US cash with you for the later option. 

For the latest travel advice visit: www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/destinations/africa/malawi.aspx. This site will inform you what vaccines or medications are recommended for your trip. Remember to look into this well in advance of your trip as some vaccinations require multiple shots over time. On arrival, we also require a negative TB test (chest X-ray). We strongly recommend rabies vaccinations. Malaria prophylaxis (e.g. Doxycycline or Malarone) is compulsory.

You must take out travel insurance that covers your placement activities, as well as emergency treatment, airlift evacuation and repatriation. You will need to send us proof of this insurance before your placement is confirmed.

For our six core placements, we generally take on anyone from 18 years of age as long as they meet the requirements of the role. We are currently looking into the feasibility of family placements. If learning more about this is of interest, please get in touch. 

Depending on the level of supervision you need and the requirements of your degree / course, yes. Please read through our placement offerings, fill in a detailed application and we can let you know what might be possible. 

Most regularly we find this applicable to vet externships, internships in conservation and for MSc/PhD students doing a research placement. Before confirming any bookings, we’ll go through what your requirements are with you to check if we can deliver on your needs.

All placement participants get a certificate of appreciation and we can also provide an official letter confirming placement completion if needed as well. 

Yes, definitely.  We even encourage this so that participants get a broader understanding of Malawi conservation work. Please note, we ask that you do at least two weeks at each location. If this appeals to you, please detail this in your application.

Firstly, read through the details of each placement we offer. If one appeals to you and you meet role requirements, please apply adding as much detail as you can into the volunteer application form. All placement participants need to apply in this way – please either email us the completed pdf application form or use our online form. Based on the details you provide you will then be matched with a placement based on your background and learning objectives. 

 You should hear back to us within four weeks of your initial application.

If you would like to confirm the agreed on place, the next step is to pay a £200 deposit online. Full fees are ideally due two months before arrival.

Other steps prior to arrival include:

  • sending us proof of travel insurance
  • sharing your Malawi travel itinerary
  • providing proof of a clear TB scan (i.e.: chest x-ray)

Yes. Definitely. Once your place is confirmed you can pay both your deposit and final fee amount online through PayPal or credit card by visiting: www.lilongwewildlife.org/pay/ Any payments made prior to confirmation of placement date by staff will be considered a donation. 

An initial deposit is required to secure your placement spot once confirmation is received from a bookings staff member. Thereafter, the remaining full fee is due two months prior to approval. Where a placement is able to be confirmed with less time in advance, full payment is due as soon as possible to the two month mark. 

Our programmes are focused on learning – whether that be through trainings and inductions, shadowing staff, sitting in on lectures, or through work experience. 

Pending which placement you do, you will be given inductions or training on what you’ll need to complete during your role. This will range from site safety to animal care work. For instance, as a sanctuary volunteer you will learn about orphan care, wildlife enrichment and troop integrations and how to fill out the observation documentation required for each. As a vet extern, you might do training in suturing on different types of skin and learn how to blow dart.

Working hours are dependent on the animals we are looking after or researching at the time and on the level of care they need. Wildlife Centre volunteers will usually work from 8am till 5pm. During orphan season feeds may be scheduled during less sociable hours, so occasionally there can be long days and night shifts. If this is unsuitable for you, the team can re-arrange your schedule. Those at our bush projects are likely to start their days earlier with a break in the middle of the day.

Staff and volunteers get one day off a week and a long weekend off every month, which is perfect for a safari or a trip to the lake.

Most volunteers choose to spend the majority of their time with the animal care team, where work covers the whole rehabilitation spectrum. Duties include animal husbandry (cleaning, feeding and enrichment), orphan care (policies available on request), vet clinic support, observations, integrations and reintroductions.

We do everything possible to give the animals that come into our care a fighting chance of being returned to the wild – where they belong. This means that we operate a strict hands-off policy with regards to our rehabilitation work. So, if you’re looking for somewhere that will let you cuddle lots of monkeys, that’s not us. 

If you volunteer with us, you’ll be asked to get involved in real conservation tasks – in other words, work that actually makes a difference to the animals we protect. This might not always be glamourous – be prepared to get dirty! – but it’s work that needs to be done. This could involve anything from preparing food and enrichment activities to observing animal behaviours and gathering data on elephant populations. All of our projects tend to be small, which means that your involvement will have more of a direct impact.

We use English to communicate with each other and for all process documents and reports. Most staff are fluent in English and all have a working level understanding of it. Many also speak in Malawi’s official language Chichewa. We have small sheets posted up in common areas at the sanctuary to help you learn a few Chichewa basics and sometimes our staff even hold language workshops for those interested to learn more while staying with us.

The centre has 24-hour security. Both at the entrance gates and perimeter. There are also alarm systems linked to an emergency response unit.

While Lilongwe is relatively safe, volunteers are asked not to travel alone at night and to only use our approved taxi services in the evenings to and from any restaurants or bars. During any times of worker strikes or political demonstrations, volunteers are advised of relevant areas and asked to reframe from visiting near those.

As a rescue and rehabilitation centre our case load varies daily. We currently have an average of two anesthetic procedures daily as well as a variety of clinical cases each day. Vet externs are likely to spend time with up to five individual animals a day on average. Please note: there may not be hands on contact with each of them due to the nature of dealing with wild animals.

Case load pending, LWT tries to ensure each student will be actively involved with procedures a minimum of three days a week. This includes carrying out general anaesthetics for health checks and quarantine exams as well as for investigation of illness, injury or mobility issues. Each student will be actively involved in anaesthetic recording and monitoring, performing clinical examinations and carrying out procedures such as blood samples and administering fluids and other medications. Students will also be involved in developing diagnostic and treatment plans for ongoing medical cases.Students may be required to attend practical sessions on topics such as suturing, blow darting and parasitology.

Each student is expected to attend daily rounds at 8am and present at these rounds. During the duration of their stay the student may be required to carry out a project at the veterinary surgeon’s suggestion. This usually entails producing a two page minimum document on management of wildlife emergencies for a commonly seen species at the centre or designing an enrichment or integration plan for an ongoing clinical case. If required, students may also produce case reports or logs for their duration of stay.

Once your application form has been submitted, you can speak with our placements staff about this. In the past some of our volunteers have set up GoFundMe pages that they shared online, held stalls at community events or asked their employer to match the funds they raise. Universities often provide grants for these kinds of activities too, so it’s worth checking with yours.