The Mandrillus Project (http://www.projetmandrillus.com) aims at longitudinally studying wild mandrills in Southern Gabon. We are currently recruiting Volunteer Field Assistants for our 2022-2023 field season, through the CIRMF (Centre International de Recherches Médicales de Franceville) and a volunteer contract. These positions combine practical research with training and are entirely field-based. The volunteers are trained by and work alongside local field assistants, field managers, students and researchers, contributing to the research activities of the Mandrillus Project. Following established protocols, the fieldwork will primarily involve daily follows of a natural population of mandrills on foot, collecting data on the behavior of individually recognizable animals, together with the collection of non-invasive measurements and samples. Please visit the website of the project to get an idea of the scientific programs that are currently running (http://www.projetmandrillus.com/research-and-conservation.html).
Two Volunteer Field Assistant positions are currently available running for 12 months (or more but not less) from August-September 2022 to August-September 2023.
What we cover
Once the volunteers arrive in the field site, the Mandrillus Project covers all their work-related costs, including accommodation (private equipped room with air-con and private bathroom, shared kitchen) and a stipend for meals (about 200€/month).
Volunteers need to take at their own charge, a repatriation and health insurance for their entire stay (this is mandatory and CIRMF requests an associated document).
Who are we looking for?
This position is open to all with an interest in animal behavior and ecology. We are particularly keen to hear from applicants who:
• Have good levels of physical fitness and stamina – you will be following the mandrills on foot 12 hours a day, 4 days per week, over mountainous terrain, in heat
• Are strongly motivated, reliable, honest and committed
• Show good initiative, with a willingness to learn and show attention to detail
• Are friendly, easy-going people, happy to live in small team at a remote field site
• A good level in French is a plus
What do volunteers get out of it?
• An amazing opportunity to share the lives of wild mandrills in an equatorial forest landscape
• An opportunity to learn new skills and gain experience, especially those relevant to research in behavior and ecology
• An opportunity to be involved in a long-term project on African wildlife, hosted by an international research institution
• An opportunity to use this field experience with the Mandrillus Project as a stepping stone on to future Masters and PhD degree courses
• Experience a new culture and share knowledge with local assistants
For further details about the position, including the work involved, our living conditions in the field, preparations prior to departure, and what to bring with you, please see below (and additional information will be provided to successful candidates).
How to apply
If you would like to apply, please prepare a CV and a detailed covering letter that should explain why you would like to work on the project. The CV should include the names of two referees with e-mail contact details.
Applications must be sent at email@example.com by June 15th 2022. We will notify successfully shortlisted candidates few days after this deadline, and interviews will be held by skype the following week.
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The Study Site
Gabon has an Equatorial climate with little seasonality. Precipitations are important, almost every day from October to May, and days may be hot (up to 30°C), although the Lekedi Park benefits from a cooler weather because of its altitude (600m). The long dry season, from June to September, is characterized by cool weather (temperatures can fall below 18°C) with no precipitation.
The Lekedi Park is characterized by a mix of savannas and gallery forests interspersed with rivers and riverbeds. Equatorial Marantaceae forests are found in the area.
The Lekedi park is home to a variety of wildlife including forest buffalos, several Apes (chimpazees, gorillas) and other primates (cephus, nictitans) and, of course, mandrills! Predators include, occasionally, leopards (but don’t expect any encounter with them!). Birds and reptiles also abound.
The Lekedi park is located in Southern Gabon. It is only a 1 hour drive from Moanda, the nearest town that comprises hotels, petrol stations, banks, basic shops and markets.
Data collection requires full-day follows of the study group. This ensures that the location of the sleeping sites used by the mandrills each night is known, which in turn facilitates their pick-up by observers early the next morning. If the day begins late, or ends early, the mandrills can be lost and may take several days to relocate. Each day, seven days a week, a team of at least two persons goes in the field from approx. 6am-6pm. A driver brings every day the team by car the closest to the mandrills. When mandrills are located with high confidence, the team enters into the forest and starts following the mandrills. Field assistants work 5-6 days per week and benefit from one day or two days off per week during the entire stay.
Working with mandrills in the Lekedi landscape
Observers and local field assistants spend half the day on foot in the company of the mandrills in the forest. Forested environments may be physically demanding because there are often closed and hilly. Field team members travel (with small backpacks) up to 10-12km a day, ascending and descending small hills and slippery, muddy, slopes as they follow the mandrills. The mandrills are habituated to the presence of human observers, allowing data to be collected from close proximity without causing disturbance, but observers must always act carefully and responsibly when in the company of these wild animals. Data collection is largely conducted with handheld computers. Faecal and urine samples are also collected on a routine basis. On-site supervision and detailed guidelines will be provided describing how to work with the mandrills in the forest.
The fully-furnished, air-conditioned rooms are located in a small research complex where the lab and offices are. It is located at the entrance of the park near other houses: the house of the managers of the project, the one of the director of the park and another one for the vet of the park.
Field team members prepare their own food in the communal, fully-furnished kitchen located in the research complex. Once every two weeks, the manager brings the field team members to Moanda to buy food and supplies.
Telephone and e-mail
The Project has access to wi-fi in the Field team members are advised to buy a local mobile phone chip when they arrive in Libreville or in Moanda.
Visitors and vacation
Volunteers cannot make arrangements to receive visitors during their stay at the Project (including local visitors). In addition, tourists are not allowed to visit the study group of mandrills. For vacations, volunteers need to plan to stay additional weeks following their 12-month commitment to the project. In these cases, a visa extension will be needed. Volunteers need to make their own arrangements.