CARE Primate Rescue Africa



C.A.R.E. (Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education), established over 27 years ago, located in the heart of a "Big 5 Nature Reserve" between Hoedspruit and Phalaborwa, bordering the Kruger National Park South Africa, is a wildlife rehabilitation sanctuary dedicated to the care, welfare, rehabilitation and protection of injured and orphaned indigenous wild animals.

C.A.R.E. is renowned for the vital, life-saving, uncompromising and pioneering work with wildlife, specialising in the charming chacma baboon. C.A.R.E. relies solely on volunteers and donations to care for the animals and volunteers truly make a huge, positive difference.



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Yes, I recommend this program

My daughter, a friend and I all went for 3weeks in 2019. It was an amazing experience. Working to improve the lives of the baboons was rewarding and interesting. It is hard work but you sleep well! Seeing orphaned baboons learn to play and bond with their new baboon mom gave us an appreciation for the social structure in a baboon troop. We had fun getting to know the other volunteers as well as Steve and Samantha. We took a two day break and traveled through Kruger National Park. We also brought funds to get some birth control for the captive baboons and got to watch how the implant was done. We had a wonderful time.

What was your funniest moment?
The volunteer village has bedrooms, a kitchenette, and open air showers. One night I was taking a shower and happened to look up. A wild monkey was sitting up on the wall watching me. Freaked me out at first but I had to was a male.
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Yes, I recommend this program

My first time traveling to CARE was rather nerve racking as I was only 19 and had never traveled before. My anxieties were quickly squashed once I arrived at CARE and was quickly welcomed by all of the staff and volunteers. Everyone took their time to ensure I felt welcomed and knew what I was doing.

I spent a year at CARE over 3 separate trips and was given the opportunity to be a full time caregiver for 2 baboons prior to them being integrated into a troop. Working so closely with these primates completely changed my life. Being able to make an impact on these little creatures and be part in their journey back to the wild was a humbling experience.

Sadly some so called sanctuaries have sinister sides that volunteers do not see. Many are linked to canned hunting and some have unnecessary human interaction with animals who do not need it, meaning the volunteers are the only ones who benefit from this experience. CARE steers clear of this and puts the baboons best interests first at all times. The volunteers work with the orphan baboons who need constant care until they are ready to be be weaned and go to the next stage of their rehabilitation.

The centre is simply magical, I often spent my mornings drinking coffee while watching the wild baboons babies playing and giggling together. There is never a dull moment at CARE and the volunteers are given a variety of different tasks and responsibilities. It is the perfect place for anyone who loves working with animals and meeting new people!

What would you improve about this program?
CARE has changed so much from my first visit in 2013 to my last in 2015. The centre is constantly improving and growing. They have recently finished the new volunteer accommodation and education centre which will be used to educate local schools on wildlife and how to live in harmony with them.
Yes, I recommend this program

I spent 6 weeks at C.A.R.E and it was the most amazing experience I ever had and I cannot wait to go back!! The staff are some of the best people in the world and truly care about the baboons, as well as the volunteers! You will get hands on experience in caring for these orphans and are sure to gain a wealth of knowledge about them! Be prepared to get dirty and have fun while doing it! You will help to not only look after the babies, but also will help with a variety of tasks that keep the center running! Some of these include cleaning enclosures, assisting with maintenance of the grounds and enclosures, creating enrichment for the baboons, and observing and collecting data. C.A.R.E relies on the help of volunteers in order to successfully run the sanctuary and without them it would be nearly impossible to help so many baboons! I highly recommend this to anyone that loves to help animals and wants to make a difference!

Yes, I recommend this program

I had always wanted to do something in life that makes a difference to someone or something and I've always had a love for animals, in particular monkeys as they're so entertaining. When I first looked into going to CARE I had no idea what to expect. I got plenty of help with all the questions I needed answering which prepared as best as possible for my trip to come. I arrived at CARE a little nervous as this was something I'd never done before. I was warmly welcomed and soon settled in.
I can honestly say that I never expected to fall in love with a place that I've worked at but CARE really is a magical place. If you give your all and immerse yourself in what they do there you'll be rewarded by a huge sense of achievement and fulfillness. Not only do you get to care for and work with baby baboons but you see the incredible animals that South Africa has to offer, most days. It's a place I certainly intend to spent a lot more time at.
You'll also enjoy falling asleep to the sounds of the African bush with the occasional roar of a lion in the distance or a laughing hyena.
Volunteers of all ages thrived in the atmosphere CARE provided with most saying they'll be back to help the beautiful baboons get the chance to be free again.

What would you improve about this program?
This program is currently in the process of improving. A brand new volunteer area has just been build and is so close to being finished. Once the kitchen there is up and running it will complete an area that comprises volunteer accommodation, veterinary clinic, games room, education centre, baby baboon nursery and much more.
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Yes, I recommend this program


CARE takes in and rehabilitates orphan and mistreated Chacma Baboons. From as young as 6 weeks, to the mature former lab animals who are now permanent residents, it is life changing for the volunteers who come, learn, and begin to care for the baboons.

Daily routine begins at 7am with the first round of bottles for all the enclosures with under 2 year olds. The morning progresses with food processing for the mature solo adults and more bottle for the little ones. There are usually two rotations into enclosures with one and two year olds and then lunch. Afternoons include some general lodging cleaning, possibly cooking for the volunteer group, and more play ground monitoring for the baboons. The day ends around 5pm with final clean up, last bottles and putting the littlest to bed.

YOU WILL BE VERY REMOTE (one possible trip to town per week, and no TV) so evening activities include personal laundry, long discussions over dinner with the volunteers and staff, watching the sun go down, listening to the night animals come out, and reading. At times there can be unexpected things living close to or around you. If you require absolute cleanliness and not furry or crawling critters near you, this may not be the volunteer placement for you.

What you lack in nightlife is amply compensated by your endearing and mischievous charges during the day. The young baboons are delightful, infuriating, needy, confident, and as energetic as any two-year old who as been fed exclusively caffeine and sugar. Expect to have your hair pulled, pockets picked, clothes dirty with all manner of body fluids, nipped and totally enthralled with the baboons.

Also expect your heart to expand and become overwhelmed with the love and compassion for these little charmers who come to you for assistance with their fights, cuddling when they are hurt, naps in your lap and mutual grooming. (Luckily, they never found any nits on me or I on them!)

During the mandatory 4-week minimum, you can expect one full weekend day off and some afternoons. During that one day off, there is a chance for a game drive in the nearby Kruger National Park (for a fee) where you can see most if not all of the big 5.

At times, the work is more mentally taxing than physically.

Accommodations are single sex dorms with shared bathrooms and showers. Food if brought in weekly and you are assigned cooking and clean up on a rotation with all the other volunteers. Food was very basic, so most of our group sent a small amount of personal money with the shoppers for alcohol, treats like candy, and bottled water. The water on site was potable, but most of us preferred bottled water. There can be as many as 20 volunteers from North America, Australia, Europe and Africa, mainly women, but some men as well.

You are in the middle of a wildlife reserve with wild troops of baboons and other species free roaming in the compound. The buildings and animal enclosures have electrified perimeters, but at night, you are safe indoors.
You will be working with WILD ANIMALS no matter how small and therefore; common sense and awareness are your best guides for safety. You are trained and monitored as you begin to interact with the baboons and after they know and trust you, it becomes much easier for you and them.

You may see the full circle of life from copulation and perhaps death during your time among the baboons and the other wildlife in the surrounding area. Not every baboon that arrives is eventually returned to the wild, although that is the goal. Some injuries, mentally or physically, are just too deep, so be prepared for whatever comes up.

I rated it midrange on social impact and social networking because it is located so remotely and interaction with people other than the local staff is minimum. That in NO WAY detracts from the value of this volunteer program. As with many animal related non-profits, expenses are high for things like new enclosures, food and medical supplies, and the expenses for the local workers who do the BULK of the hard physical labor around the facility. For the FUN rating, FUN is in the eye of the beholder. I found it incredibly fun and fulfilling. I can't answer for you.

Would I do it again? You bet. Do I think they used my time and money well? You bet! Will I ever forget them? NO WAY!


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

C.A.R.E volunteer program in South Africa

Why did you decide to volunteer with C.A.R.E in South Africa?

Jane: I had read an article about volunteer travel and then took a local class at Colorado Free University called Volunteer Vacations - Traveling on Purpose. From that information, I began compiling information and lists of projects to investigate.

My passion and education is with animals. My sister had seen a TV show about the CARE baboons and when I mentioned that I was interested in international volunteering, she gave me a few pages from their website. The pages showed a western woman holding an infant baboon wearing a diaper with a hole cut in it for the tail, and she was feeding it a bottle. She looked exhausted but radiant. At that moment I knew I wanted to work the the baboons!

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Jane: The day starts at 5:30 when the wild troop outside wake and begin jumping on the tin roof of the dormitory. The evening before the next days schedule is posted so you know if you are needed at 7am or 8am. You make your own breakfast from the supplies provided and then begin. The 7am shift is either making the first round of bottles (around 75-100) or taking the 1 and 2 year old baboons out into their exercise area. After that is cleaning the one year old sleeping area, or handing out bottles.

8am begins the first shifts of "playground monitoring" for the under 1s, 1 year old or 2 year old which lasts around 1.5 hours. At 10am, a group prepares the fruit and veg for the individually housed adults, around 80 males and 20 females. (All the larger enclosures are fed by the local staff). Food prep means working with machetes and cutting food into small enough pieces to go through a chain link fence (about fist size).

11am is the second round of bottles and change of shifts in the play areas. You grab a lunch break when you can during gaps in your schedule or when you are assigned household duties at the dorm. The afternoon has two more shifts or playground duty, or perhaps an hour off, or troop monitoring. Each volunteer is assigned one or two troops to monitor and record what is going on for one hour. (Troops are between 12-20 individuals and you recorded feeding, playing, grooming and other activities.) The troops have almost no contact with humans as they were being prepared to return to the wild when the season and the maturity of the troop is right.

4pm is the last round of bottles, taking in the one and two year olds to evening quarters and cleaning out the under 1s, one and two year old play areas. By 5pm, there is a queue for the shower and the dinner team makes dinner. Dinner is around 7pm and then the clean up crew does the dishes and the rest talk, read, or listen to music until bed around 9-10.

Volunteer with animals in South Africa

How has this experience impacted your future?

Jane: I ADORED MY TIME WITH THE BABOONS. This was the project of the 14 I have done that delivered even more than I could have imagined.

It was challenging, invigorating, and at times exhausting (mentally), but I would not have changed one minute of it. I had one day off in 4 weeks and took a safari. It is remote and without a lot of luxuries, but it changed my life and showed me things in myself that I am very proud of - patience, compassion, wisdom.

The CARE project was a perfect fit for my interest, experience and heart. When I returned from my trip, I began speaking, teaching and writing about volunteer travel. The thing I stress most often when I speak, teach or work with individual clients is the value of picking a project that you cannot wait to experience. There are ups and downs when you travel internationally but when you are passionate about the project, they are blimps not mountains on your path.