Bird Research and Conservation Internship in South Africa

Contribute to the conservation of the ground hornbill

Here’s an exciting opportunity to get field experience in wildlife conservation in Africa. As an intern, you’ll venture to a South African game reserve and join a nonprofit organization dedicated to the ground hornbill, an iconic African bird that is in danger of going extinct.

Your role as an intern will be varied and hands-on. Depending on your experience and interests, you can expect to get involved in collecting data from the field, analysing findings, assisting with various research projects, and monitoring rescued chicks. You might also get involved in monitoring and evaluation work and conservation education programs in local communities. Either way, you can expect to roll up your sleeves, and gain diverse work experience while helping fight the threats that ground hornbills are facing.

This wildlife conservation internship is an excellent opportunity for students of biology, wildlife sciences, or related disciplines, who are looking to gain practical experience. There are also opportunities for doing specific research projects, so if you have something specific in mind, do get in touch and we can discuss it.

  • Learning outcomes of this wildlife conservation internship;
  • Experience in field-based research, including data collection, mapping programs, behavioral analysis
  • A thorough understanding of the many aspects of conserving a species
  • Experience in conservation education programs
  • Insights into of the day to day running of a nonprofit organization
  • International work experience
Cape Town, South Africa
Environmental NGO
Facilitation, Research, Reporting, Monitoring, Education, Tree planting
8 Weeks


The Ground Hornbill Project is dedicated to ensuring the survival of the ground hornbill, an iconic bird that is classified as ‘endangered’ in South Africa. The threats to this iconic bird are multiple; their habitat is decreasing, they suffer from secondary poisoning, and they get electrocuted by transformer boxes. Moreover, ground hornbills are killed for traditional medicine, and sometimes targeted because of their territorial behavior.

To fight the drastic decline of the ground hornbill populations across Southern and East Africa, the Ground Hornbill Project has taken a multi-faceted approach that includes research, the provision of artificial nests, and the complex rearing and reintroduction of redundant second-hatched chicks that would naturally die of starvation. To fight misconceptions about ground hornbills, and reduce incentives for killing the birds, the nonprofit also runs education campaigns in local communities.

The Ground Hornbill Project is based in Mabula, a game reserve north of Johannesburg, but its work spans across the African continent. It’s the only organization fully dedicated to the preservation of the ground hornbill.


What you’ll do

As a wildlife conservation intern, your tasks may vary depending on your skills and the needs of the project, but they will likely include some of the following;

  • Assist with mapping and monitoring ground hornbills in the field
  • Collect data for behavioral analysis
  • Assist with the rearing and reintroduction project of rescued chicks
  • Collect feathers and egg shells for analysis
  • Monitor disease outbreaks and help test vaccines
  • Assist with GIS spatial analysis
  • Interview local community members on their sightings and conceptions of ground hornbills, both to assist with mapping efforts, and to refine conservation education materials
  • Assist with conservation education sessions in local communities
  • Assist with any specific research projects that are happening at the time
  • A relevant academic background
  • Strong research and analytical skills
  • A passion for the work the Ground Hornbill Project does
  • Driver’s license (you will do some driving (stick, no automatic) and will have to take a small test upon arrival)
  • Flexibility, adaptability, and a willingness to take on a variety of tasks
  • A go-getter attitude


During this internship, you’ll get to live and work in a game reserve, surrounded by wildlife. You might wake up to elephants roaming past your room, lions roaring in the distance, and monkeys playing on the roof. The nearest town, Bela Bela, is about 45 minutes from the reserve.

Your accommodation is a five minutes drive from the office and you will have your own room, access to the common room, shared kitchen (where you can prepare your meals) and a swimming pool.


Internship start and end dates are flexible and will be discussed with your during the selection process.

What you’ll pay (2023 rates)

8 weeks USD 2,162
12 weeks USD 2,809
16 weeks USD 3,456
20 weeks USD 4,104
26 weeks USD 5,074

What you are paying for:
  • Careful matchmaking. It takes time to find the right internship for each person, and we take this process very seriously.
  • Initial interview with one of our team to gauge your skills, interests, and desired learning outcomes.
  • An orientation program with your supervisor.
  • Regular check ins during your internship with you and your supervisor.
  • Your own account on a career development platform that offers content and courses focused on exploring different career opportunities
  • Troubleshooting if needed
  • A reference letter at the end of your internship
  • Airport transfers, support on the ground and accommodation based on a single room
  • Flights
  • Visa, medical and travel insurance costs for the duration of your placement – must include cover for repatriation
  • Meals, drinks, snacks, and items of personal nature (f.e. curios, gifts, clothing)
  • Costs for additional excursions or activities

Optional extra:

Personal Development Sessions
To help you optimise your personal and professional development during your internship, we offer individual monthly sessions with a professional consultant. These 1,5-hour sessions offer opportunities to set goals, reflect on your experience, and ensure your internship will benefit your career as much as possible.
Monthly fee: USD 65
Workshop: Exploring the Nonprofit Landscape
To give you a full understanding of the nonprofit sector in Africa, we offer one-off individual online workshops by a South African digital marketing and fundraising specialist. You’ll learn about the needs of the nonprofit sector, best practices in nonprofit management, and sustainability of fundraising initiatives. You’ll also be given a large amount of useful resources.
Workshop fee: USD 65
Bela-Bela, South Africa
Bird conservation NGO
Field research, Mapping, Data collection, Education 
Min. 12 Weeks
From USD 2,809

Everyone at the Mabula Ground Hornbill Project is so dedicated to the conservation of the incredible and unique Southern Ground Hornbill, on top of being friendly and welcoming. I had a great time interning at the project and learned a lot. I'm looking forward to visiting again.

Natalie, United States, Bird research & Conservation Internship
  • Gain field-based experience in wildlife conservation
  • Strengthen your research skills and learn to interpret data
  • Use your knowledge and skills to contribute to the conservation of an iconic African bird
  • Contribute to conservation education efforts in local communities
  • Get an understanding of the day to day running of a wildlife conservation project
  • Be part of a passionate and driven team of biologists and conservationists
  • Live and work in the African bush, surrounded by a wealth of wildlife and stunning nature
12 WEEKS USD 2,809
16 WEEKS USD 3,456

See Detailed Rates



If you’re ready to apply for this internship, here’s what to do:

Fill in the application form (it will show in a new screen) which includes sharing your CV with us.

We’ll set up a call with you to go through your application.

If we feel it’s a good match, we’ll set up a call between you and the supervisor for this internship.

If everyone’s happy, we’ll provisionally confirm your placement! We’ll then send you  all the information you need.

We’ll then send you the invoice for the deposit. Only once we receive payment of the deposit your placement will be confirmed.


Or if you’d just like to ask us some questions about this internship first, just fill in the contact form below. We’ll be happy to assist!


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