We have a number of talks coming up about our expeditions, register for a talk by clicking here!

  • Overview
  • Objectives
  • Skills you gain
  • Costs to Consider
  • Site Conditions

A network of over 30 camera traps has been running since 2018 in Dinokeng Game Reserve, collecting continuous data evenly across the human-influenced central portion of this 21,000 ha reserve. As well as picking up elusive and rare species, this network allows data collection of animal visitation across large spatial and temporal scales. The camera trap network has been placed on a grid system to monitor mammal occupancy through a highly varied environment. Of particular interest is how carnivore species and assemblages are influenced by landscape fragmentation and prey distribution. As well as the large predators (e.g. lions and cheetah), the reserve has healthy populations of meso-carnivores such as blackblacked jackal, caracal and brown hyena. The camera traps give a unique insight into the movements and distributions of these animals, as well as the many various prey species found in the reserve. The presence of roads, properties and vegetation.

Extended Dissertation Summary

If you would like to do a dissertation or thesis with us but your university hasn’t started dissertation planning or the project selection process, that’s no problem. You can cancel your expedition with zero cancellation charges up until the 15th of April of if you provide documentation from your university saying that they won’t support completing a dissertation project with us.

South Africa Research Objectives

Operation Wallacea and our partners, Wildlife and Ecological Investments (WEI), coordinate large-scale research programmes to provide an empirical backbone for key conservation projects in South Africa. Our main aim is to assist conservation managers with pressing large-scale issues that they do not necessarily have the resources to address themselves. The South Africa research programme covers a series of reserves across the country, each using slightly different management strategies to conserve wildlife in their reserves. Big game areas in South Africa are fenced to avoid the spread of disease and conflicts between communities and dangerous animals. However, in reserves surrounded by densely populated areas such as Somkhanda Game Reserve, human-wildlife conflict can be a major challenge. Here, our research teams are looking at the extent of this conflict with a special focus on large mammal species. Large mammal distributions are monitored regularly through game transects, and nocturnal mammal distributions are assessed using a matrix of camera traps set up throughout the reserve. By combining this information with our knowledge of areas of dense human activity, we can begin to understand how human disturbance can alter large mammal movement and behaviour. 

The restriction of natural movement caused by fences can also lead to locally dense mammal populations with high levels of vegetation impact. Elephants, for example, are ecosystem engineers and their impact can alter vegetation structure and composition. By directly monitoring both fire and feeding impact on vegetation and its knock-on effects to other taxa, such as birds, our teams can assist the reserve managers to better understand how elephants can affect long-term change in the ecosystem. Monitoring of this type is also highly important in Gondwana Game Reserve, which is situated in the biodiversity hotspot of the Cape Floral Kingdom in the Western Cape, and is one of the first reserves to introduce elephants back into this region. This Big-5 reserve has converted agricultural land to conservation, with the large mammals feeding on old agricultural grasslands as fynbos vegetation holds little nutritional value for large herbivores. Reserve management here have therefore asked us to monitor how the large, enigmatic game species are utilising the various vegetation types found within the reserve, to conserve the diversity of critically endangered vegetation types while supporting Big-5 tourism and conservation of the area. 

  • Develop an independent research project and write a formal proposal
  • Learn how to organise and analyse large data sets
  • Receive training in QGIS, statistical analysis and report writing
  • Attend lectures/workshops on African conservation and wildlife management
  • Learn how to service camera traps and process camera trap data
  • Learn to use bespoke camera trap software to an advanced level
  • Learn tracking skills in the African bush
  • Opwall fee
  • Cost of international flights into and out of Johannesburg
  • Cost of internal travel to and from the start and end point of the expedition, plus any hotels you might require. This costs around £85 or $110. Extra nights’ accommodation in Johannesburg costs around £30 or $44.
  • Park entrance fees – £65 or $85
  • Vaccinations and prophylactic medicines – cost can vary depending on your healthcare provider.
  • All prices in GBP or USD unless specified

Our expeditions run during the South African winter, so in Dinokeng temperatures can drop as low as 0-2 degrees at night. It is also dry season, however, so the chances of rain are slim here and days are usually sunny and warm with temperatures up to 18-22 degrees.

Fitness level required
Low. There are some short hikes over rough terrain, but most of the work is in or close to the game-viewer vehicles.

Creature comforts
Accommodation is in shared tents, each with two beds, some storage space and charging points. Hot running showers and flushing toilets are provided in a separate block and large, structured tents are used for the kitchen and communal areas. There is reasonable phone signal in Dinokeng and wifi available for work/research.


  • South Africa
  • Dinokeng

Want to get involved with this project?


Want to get involved with this project?

   Latest from our blog

  • A Day in the Life at Gondwana Research Station

    Posted on 1st July 2022
    My morning hot shower is followed by coffee and cornflakes to sustain me for the morning’s activity. I stash some fruit for mid-morning snacks in my day bag alongside my camera and binoculars, sunscreen, and woolly hat (the weather is pretty interchangeable...
  • How do you survey large, African mammals?

    Posted on 7th October 2020
    When you think of African mammals, you’re probably jumping straight to the large, charismatic species like lions, leopards, elephants and rhinos. These endangered species absolutely require detailed research, but they pose two quite significant issues to researchers trying to investigate the ecosystem...
Wallace House, Old Bolingbroke, Spilsby, Lincolnshire PE23 4EX, UK
| +44 (0) 1790 763194 | info@opwall.com