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The future of conservation in South Africa depends on obtaining a means of funding for Private Nature Reserves and Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers. The amount of funding made available to projects such as erosion control, invader plant control and fire control will make a large difference in the scale of conservation in the future. Now there is a solution.

" Just had a herd of wildebeest rush past me on the game count. They turned... and missed me by centimeters", is the SMS received by volunteer co-ordinator Natanya Dreyer, which represents a new conservation conscious company: BIO-EXPERIENCE. This is one of the many remarks from international volunteers that assist on Nature Reserves and at Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers with Bio-Experience.

Situated near Pretoria, the company was formed in October 2001 and aims at aiding Nature Reserves and Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers to become self-sufficient through funding, job creation and hands on volunteers to assist with various projects. " International volunteers are recruited from all over the world. They pay for their experience and in turn this funds the various institutions. At the same time we are creating jobs for South African Conservation students, as the various institutions use a portion of the funding to recruit locals to assist and train the international volunteers. The international volunteers assist with various projects otherwise unaffordable to reserve owners due to a lack of funding"

Bio-Experience has various tasks that volunteers can get involved in ranging from invader plant control and game counts at Nature Reserves, to wildlife feeds and cage cleaning at wildlife rehabilitation centers. " We make use of various institutions all over South Africa, most situated in Cape Town, others are located in Gauteng, Warmbaths and Natal. At present we have two regularly used nature reserves and five wildlife rehabilitation centers. We aim at offering a wide range of volunteer opportunities, as our mainstream of clients are with us long term between one month and a year. This policy allows them to enjoy many different opportunities and experiences."

Unlike many similar programs, Bio-Experience makes these volunteer opportunities available to local volunteers as well. " It is so sad that locals are often unable to afford programs such as these. At Bio-Experience we try and accommodate the local and international markets. We sponsor local volunteers on a regular basis, as well as place local volunteers in cancelled or unfilled gaps at the various institutions" Even prices for International volunteers are affordable to the average person at US $ 600 per month, all inclusive.

Programs such as these are designed to increase the monitoring and care of problems on nature reserves such as alien plant control, often neglected due to a lack of funding. The combination of tourism, conservation and the welfare of wildlife create profitable environmental management opportunities. " Our program is designed to be a win-win situation. Reserves benefit from funding and the work that volunteers do, the environment benefits, our wildlife benefit and the volunteer's benefit by gaining experience and enjoying a never-to-be forgotten working holiday. Finally, our local population benefit through job creation and equal opportunities through sponsorships"

For further information please contact Ms Dreyer at +27 11 964 1900 or email her on natanya@cybertrade.co.za