Earn 50 Research Hours

Practice real-world research skills used to measure and improve animal welfare in captive situations.

  • Help the research team understand black-footed cats, which are the smallest African cat and endemic to Southern Africa. Very little is known about how to care for them properly.

  • Test your ideas about enhancing captive welfare by designing enrichment projects for servals, leopards, siamang gibbons, and/or Southern ground hornbills

  • Learn to analyze video of animal behaviors to track animal welfare quantitatively. This will be your most time-consuming task as a Research Fellow and it's essential so the zoo can publish data to help captive animals everywhere.

Learn and Practice Zoo Research Skills…

From Anywhere On Earth

Loop Abroad is proud to offer remote research fellowships to support ongoing research at the outstanding Lory Park Zoo in Johannesburg, South Africa. Even if you’re stuck at home, you can be learning the real-world research skills needed to objectively measure and improve animal welfare in any captive situation.

As a team, you will contribute to the following research projects:

  • Black-footed cat husbandry. Black-footed cats are the smallest African cat and are endemic to Southern Africa, but very little is known about how to care for them properly. Observe cat behavior and other health indicators to improve care for this vulnerable species. Also, help analyze data that will be part of new leopard and serval husbandry manuals!

  • Improving welfare through enrichment. Working with servals, leopards, siamang gibbons, and/or Southern ground hornbills, you’ll learn how to do enrichment! Test new ways to enrich the animals’ experience through new food, toys, puzzles, new smells, or other creative ways to engage the animals. Collect behavior data before and after to make a scientific case for how your intervention does or does not improve animal welfare.

Fellows will be supervised and mentored virtually in group and one-on-one settings by the Lory Park Zoo Park Manager. You will learn the exact skills used every day by field researchers, and zookeepers to understand and support captive animal welfare. 

You will start by learning how to closely identify each animal’s behaviors, what it means, and how to analyze footage from movement-activated camera traps. Analyzing footage is time-consuming and will take up most of your time as a research fellow. It’s time well spent: your analysis will provide the objective evidence to answer the research questions and prepare the project’s findings for publication and sharing with other zoos.

  • 6-week fellowships require 100 research hours
  • 3-week fellowships require 50 research hours

All students who successfully complete the fellowship will earn a Certificate in Captive Animal Behavior Monitoring and Enrichment from Loop Abroad. University credit is not included. Work expectations are similar to an on-campus undergraduate research fellowship.

Students may apply from anywhere in the world.

You must be fluent in English, have internet fast enough for video calls (minimum 1Mbps), and have a computer with video playback, microphone, and sound. No experience with zoos or veterinary medicine is required.

Fellowship Schedule

  • Block 1: Training in animal behavior, ethograms, and enrichment
    • This block will involve virtual meetings with your supervisor as well as pre-recorded video lectures and written resources.
    • Learn about specific zoo animal behaviors and what they mean – you might be surprised to understand the body language of each species!
    • Learn the importance of ethograms and how they are developed and used in both field and captive settings

  • Block 2: Baseline observations
    • Analyze camera trap footage of black-footed cats and various animal species. This is when we collect the “before” data for each enrichment project.
    • Use your knowledge to carefully track specific body language and behaviors.

  • Block 3: Experimental observations
    • Analyze camera trap footage “after” your enrichment projects are implemented

  • Block 4: Present your findings
    • Work with your supervisors and team of research fellows to combine the data and statistically analyze it. Present your project findings to the research supervisors and Lory Park staff.

Dates, Meeting Times, Deadlines

Enrollment Deadline
Winter Session Dec 15, 2022 to Jan 6, 2023 Dec 10, 2022

Zoom meetings will be 9:00-10:30am ET on:

  • Thursday, December 15
  • Tuesday, December 20
  • Friday, December 23
  • Friday, December 30
  • Monday, January 2
  • Friday, January 6

Each session is limited to 15 fellows to ensure one-on-one mentorship. Enrollment is rolling and sessions will close as soon as they fill. If a fellowship session is still listed here, there are still positions available.

Fellowship Pricing

Your tuition helps sponsor Lory Park Zoo and their animals during this time when they are closed to visitors.

Since many students have had difficulty finding shadowing or volunteer experiences due to COVID-19, we are heavily discounting tuition to help students meet their goals.

Fellowship Duration
Full Tuition
Discounted Tuition
6-week fellowship
3-week fellowship

There are no additional readings, technology subscriptions, or course materials you have to purchase to participate in this fellowship.

Meet Our Instructors

South Africa Site Director, Loop Abroad

Natascha "Tasch" Sibilski

Tasch oversees all Loop Abroad's travel programs in South Africa. From a young age, Tasch knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life: she wanted to work with animals! She studied Nature Conservation and earned her certificate as a Field Guide in Environmental Education, which fueled her passion. She has experiences working with various bird of prey; small cat species such as caracals, servals, and ocelots; and big cat species including lions, Siberian and Bengal Tigers, jaguars, pumas, leopards, and cheetahs. She loves meeting new people and and teaching them about her beautiful country and important conservation efforts.

Park Manager

Kara Heynis

Kara is the Park Manager of Lory Park Zoo and Owl Sanctuary in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her passion for conserving Africa’s smallest cat species led her to found the Black Footed Cats Project and to become the keeper of the PAAZA Regional studbook and International Studbook for Black-footed Cats. In 13 years of working with wildlife, she has developed specialities in primates, birds and mammals. Kara was recently awarded the Bernard Harrison and Friends Conservation Award in recognition of her tireless dedication to conservation.
Watch Intro Video

What Our Students Are Saying

"I've gained so much more than I expected to! My favorite part is seeing how much you seem to enjoy your jobs."