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Update with a student on a work placement

What kind of placement were you hoping for?

I’ve always been interested in research and I love to be involved in all aspects of it. I came to Bushwise hoping to do my placement at a research venue, specifically GVI. I was an intern at GVI three years ago and when I decided to do Bushwise I hoped to do my placement back there.

Ellie with GVI volunteers

Where is your placement?

I was lucky enough to get placement at GVI, located on Karongwe Private Game Reserve.


What does your placement do?

GVI is a research base and we record data on spatial utilizations, feeding ecology and inter- and intra-specific relationships of animals. We collect data on the big 5, cheetah, hyena, birds of prey and rare game. We focus especially on our cheetah coalition and our lion pride and have recently received funds for a camera trap project monitoring our hyena population. We also work to keep our reserve in good condition and we often do litter pick up and bush clearing.

On the job

What are your responsibilities?

Once a day, either morning or afternoon, I take our volunteers on research drives. We record locations and behavior of certain animals included in our research studies. Assisting our Science Officer is another big part of my job, helping with data entry, soil collections and creating spatial maps for animal sightings. I am also in charge of our social media page and create posts to keep current and future volunteers updated on what’s happening here at GVI.

Majestic African elephants

Best experience on placement so far?

I had this one epic drive that included an entire buffalo herd in a river, our cheetah coalition on a kill, baby warthogs suckling on mom, a rhino walking towards us with a gorgeous sunset as a back drop and ended it off with a young female leopard in a tree. It was such an exciting experience for myself and the volunteers; we were all buzzing for a while after that drive because we don’t often get that many amazing sightings in one drive!

Lion cubs on Karongwe Game Reserve

Future plan?

I hope to stay here in South Africa for a few more years working at a research base, if the opportunity presents itself. My ultimate goal, however, is to go back to school to get my Master’s and immerse myself in cheetah research.


Advice for students choosing to do a placement?

The harder you work at Bushwise, the better your options for placements are going to be. If you can prove that you are going to be a great guide and study hard, you are going to have better placements available for you. Throughout your placement, you must be prepared to work long hours and to be considered for a permanent position you must work very hard to prove yourself! Involve yourself in as much as you can at your lodge or research venue. Ask fellow guides lots of questions and don’t fall into the routine of doing nothing during the day. Try your best not to get lazy or content with what you’re doing, keep pushing yourself to study and learn more as your placement goes on.

Good luck!

Ellie Schwartz




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