Animal Release Center in the Tropical Atlantic Forest

Video and Photos


FreeWildlifeBrazil Celine was founded by the couple Martine Schmid-Fiorini and Pedro Schmid, both Swiss veterinarians, who worried about the fate of the wild animals coming from the illegal traffic and seized by local authorities. In an improvised installation at their residence in Iporanga, they began to care for wild animals, enabling their return to nature. Thus, familiar with the necessary care and the requirements for the release of wild animals, they founded FreeWildlife Brazil Celine in the Atlantic Forest.

FWBC will primarily focus on the release of native birds and will monitor their progress after reintroduction. We have partnered with IPBio (Biodiversity Research Institute), an NGO that also works on the Betary Reserve with whom we cooperate closely, to develop a joint volunteer program.

Volunteer Roles:
1) Eco-Volunteering
2) Website Developer
3) Photography and Producing Videos
4) Communications & Fundraising
5) Volunteer Coordinator

  • Help conserve the Atlantic Forest and, in turn, preserve natural habitats for wildlife in Brazil.
  • Help with the reintroduction of birds into the wild as part of a rehabilitation project.
  • Gain valuable, hands-on experience in wildlife conservation.
  • Gain a deeper insight into ecology, zoology, and biology throughout your time in the center.
  • Participate in numerous activities, which range from relaxing social events to exciting outdoor activities.

Related Programs

Questions & Answers


based on 18 reviews
  • Impact 9
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.8
  • Value 9.4
  • Safety 9.8
Showing 1 - 15 of 18
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Not only my first trip, but one of the best experiences I've ever made

As my stay at the Betary Reserve was the first time I've ever travelled by myself (I just graduated from high school) I expected myself in eventually feeling clueless, but as soon as I took my first step out of the bus at the Betary Reserve I had to change my mind. The volunteer coordinators as well as some other volunteers welcomed me warmly and I immediatly started loving the whole atmosphere that stayed awesome throughout my whole 12 weeks at the Betary Reserve.

In my luck I arrived right before the Brazilian Independence Day which meant that I did not have to work on my first days, but got to enjoy the Brazilian holiday atmosphere as well as some trips to waterfalls and beautiful Cananéia, but even when work started it did not feel like work. It was fun, especially because most of the time all volunteers worked together, sometimes playing music in the background and making a lot of jokes. Usually the staff also takes part and is always open for questions. They may don't speak English, but understand it pretty well and answer in slow, understandable Portuguese.

Eventhough I applied as an Eco Volunteer I got to work at the Amphibian Research Program. I didn't know frogs and tadpoles were so cute! It was really fun to work with both, but especially the tree frogs called Boana Faber grabbed my heart. You really feel like a proud mother when you can watch the tadpoles becoming frogs.
But obviously I also enjoyed all the other projects I got to work on.

Next to work we also did a lot of weekend activities, organized with the help of the volunteer coordinators. We hiked to beautiful waterfalls, caves or just enjoyed Caipirinhas on the beach of Cananéia. In Iporanga, the small town next to the Reserve are also a lot of small, a little bit old looking bars where you can easily meet the locals who were also super friendly. Very easily I became friends with the bus driver of the school bus who from then always took me back to the Reserve after I went grocery shopping.

Adding everything together my trip to the Betary Reserve was the perfect choice for my first travel and I recommend it to everyone else who wants to experience the true Brazil with all its beautiful and also weird aspects!

PS: If you want to do trips to other places in Brazil like Rio de Janeiro or Iguacu, you can easily take a few days off.

Yes, I recommend this program
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A truly remarkable place and a photographer's paradise.

One of my goals in volunteering at the Betary Reserve was to gain life experience, develop life skills, and mature as a person. In this regard, volunteering at the Betary Reserve has been invaluable. Living on my own without the safety net of my parents forced me to learn how to cook and take care of myself. Being forced out of my comfort zone led to much personal growth and has resulting in me leading a more adventurous lifestyle.

My second goal in volunteering at the reserve was to figure out whether I want to pursue a career in the environmental science field, and what career in that field appeals to me. I went into the experience expecting more interaction with the scientists and more data analysis than I got, though it must be noted that that was a misunderstanding on my part in addition to something that the reserve should probably make clearer. The purpose of the Betary Reserve is to gather scientific data which is sent to partner universities for analysis and use in research. Due to the nature of this relationship, as a volunteer I did very little analysis, which was a bit disappointing since I wanted to get a wider range of experience at different parts of the process. While the reserve’s staff includes a handful of biologists, we didn’t interact with them in our duties. The one scientist we worked with was an amazing and knowledgeable post-graduate who specialized in mushrooms. An environmental technician is the career most closely matching the data collection focused volunteer work we did, and while the projects were interesting and enjoyable, I can’t see myself doing it for the rest of my life. I wanted to be involved with the research applying the collected data, and without that involvement, I found it hard to be engaged with certain projects. This was a sentiment shared by some of my fellow volunteers. The volunteer coordinator was a volunteer turned staff member, and not being a scientist, wasn’t able to answer many in depth questions regarding the application of the data.

In addition to my role as an eco-volunteer, I did photography for the reserve, taking nature shots and candid photos of my fellow volunteers for use in promotional material. Taking pictures for the reserve was very enjoyable and gave me access to thousands of great photo-ops. After two months of taking pictures at the reserve and in town, I still have a long list of places and things I want to photograph.

A review of my experience would be incomplete without mentioning my fellow volunteers. I believe that the people who spend their time and money to help the world are good people, and the volunteers I met on the reserve reinforced that belief. Every volunteer I met was from a different country and their ages ranged from an 18-year-old to a 32-year-old, and yet we all got along and formed a strong group dynamic that supported each other and made the experience very enjoyable. In the evenings we would play card games or go to a nearby hostel to relax and eat a buffet dinner, and on weekends we hiked to caves or waterfalls, up rivers, or into the nearby town. The weekend often involved drinking games, but there was never any peer pressure directed at those like myself who didn’t drink alcohol, and we were included in the games. I have certainly made lifelong friends during this adventure.

A review of volunteering with the Betary Reserve would also be incomplete without mentioning the staggering abundance of nature found in the buffer zone. I really like Brazil, and specifically like the local town -- a 10-minute drive from the reserve -- Iporanga. Although it is a poor area of an economically disadvantaged nation, everybody in the town is extremely friendly and hospitable. The reserve itself is an enjoyable environment to work in, and every night I would go out to the ponds or greenhouse to look for and photograph tree frogs, aquatic spiders, and metamorphosing dragonflies. Although I did this almost every evening for two months, it never stopped being amazing. At the ponds are bioluminescent mosquito larvae which turn the pond into a wonderland of lights, mosquitoes in the water, and fireflies above. Above the fireflies are the stars. I’ve never seen so many stars in my life. The reserve really is out in the middle of nowhere, which is evident when you look up and see no air pollution or light pollution. While certain features of the climate (mosquitoes and high humidity) are undesirable, they are overshadowed by the abundance of life that results from the climate and geography of the area.
This place truly is amazing, and no review can entirely capture how valuable and enjoyable the experience was for me. I am considering returning to volunteer here in the future but focusing on photography as a media-volunteer. I have done a lot of traveling, and this is one of the places I want to go back to, to photograph like crazy, and to explore. I feel a connection to this place.

Yes, I recommend this program
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How I fell in love with the Atlantic Forest

Being a Photographer by profession, coming to the Betary Reserve was the best move I could have made. There are so many incredible animals living in the Atlantic Forest – nevermind the gorgeous landscapes. Every step you take, every way you look, you’re going to see a beautiful picture. You can find anything from Toucans and Hummingbirds, to large snakes, monkeys and Armadillos to glowing mushrooms and colourful flowers in every season.
But even aside from that, it was an incredible experience. There are so many things to see in the area, from waterfalls to caves and forest trails. You can go down tubing on the river, go on a day trip to the sea and swim with dolphins, or just spend some time in Iporanga, going to town parties or dinner.
While I had the advantage of speaking some Portuguese, it’s really not necessary. The people here are some of the friendliest I have ever come across, and I have watched with amusement as English speaking Volunteers managed to have full on conversations with Brazilian people speaking Portuguese and somehow still managed to make themselves understood.
I have fallen in love with Brazil, and the Atlantic Forest in particular in the three months I spent here, which made my decision to return for a full year all the easier. I want to see Iporanga and the Betary Reserve throughout all seasons and be a part of the wonderful mission of uncovering nature’s secrets in order to preserve it and try to show the rest of the world that it is something worth protecting through my photographs.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Beautiful place!

I somehow stumbled across volunteering at the reserve online whilst looking for a fun/productive way to spend my summer and I am so thankful that I did! I’m a Geography and SD major from the UK so I was drawn to the programme because of the range of activities available across trees, mammals, birds, mushrooms and amphibians, all set within the Atlantic Forest.

I have loved waking up knowing that my work would be different each day with some projects more relaxed than others and some work being weather dependent (i.e. fish inventory typically on sunny days). My favourite projects have been those that mean I can go into the forest such as tree, mushroom and bird inventories. Celine is the partner project to IPBio so a lot of project work is done over there including gardening and bird inventory. The centre has only recently opened so there is not a constant flow of animals to be released but the project work is important so that the centre can receive wildlife for the future!

Every time I go into the forest I see something amazing- whether that is a giant toad, cool mushroom or for those lucky enough- monkeys!! I would highly recommend volunteering at the reserve to anyone with an interest in the environment- you don’t have to be a scientist- just someone who can appreciate the natural world around them.

Outside of project work, I have loved getting to know the other volunteers from around the world and the amazing staff, who go above and beyond to make your time here as enjoyable as possible. Spending my evenings and weekends with the other volunteers here has been the highlight of my trip with many incredible visits to the caves around Iporanga, a trip to Cananeia to see the dolphins, group cooking sessions, meals out and so much laughter. I have enjoyed every second and want to say a massive thank you to everyone who I have met here for making my experience one that I will never forget!


How can this program be improved?
The only thing I can think of is that I would have loved to spend a little bit of time in the lab- just to experience the more scientific aspect of the research here. Having said that, I was out in the Atlantic Forest every day collecting a large variety of data for the different projects- which unlike working in a lab, is not something very accessible from the UK!
Yes, I recommend this program
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best experience of my life

As long as I call myself an environmentalist, the Betary Reserve was the best place for me to spend my summer break. I’ve stayed here a month, but I wish I had more time to spend in this beautiful place. The first thing that you notice is the endless green that surrounds you in the road from Apiai to the Reserve and, even if you think that nothing can be better than that, it’s just the beginning. Animals of every specie and size, plants of every colour and shape, bioluminescent mushrooms, stars as bright as the daylight, amazing people from all over the world that share with you their aim to help the Atlantic forest to mantain its biodiversity, which is threatened by human activities. Every day a different topic, a new discovery, a new thing that you didn’t know and becomes part of your personal formation. And not far from this natural paradise, there’s a little village full of culture and traditions, which are divulged by the people that live there (wonderful people that are happy to chat and have fun with you, and even if they don’t speak English they make their best to express themselves). The Atlantic forest is the best place I’ve ever been and, in my opinion, the best way to live it is choosing the Betary Reserve: you can enjoy it while you help it, learning new things and new people, without loosing anything of its indescribable beauty.

How can this program be improved?
I think that, even if we collaborated in order to give value to this association, we haven't seen enough animals to feel really envolved. We know how important is our job there, but seeing our goals, somehow, could stimulate us even more.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Experience the Atlantic Forest

Celine is the animal release center which works with IPBio. I was an eco-volunteer with IPBio, so I cannot say much on the work of Celine. I can say I really enjoyed working with the people at IPBio and I do believe that you would be working with the same folks (they are amazing people who really want to share their knowledge of the Atlantic Forest with you as well as make a very kind effort to get to know you - even if there is a communication barrier). I did do some gardening at Celine where we planted cassava roots, banana trees, and palm trees - work was among the more physical work I did during my time with IPBio but overall not unmanageably physical (the banana trees were smaller, and the palm trees were seeds - the tools for digging were the annoying part…). I also did 8 weeks of tree inventory on Celine's property to understand how the trees are growing in an effort to track forest stage (pioneering, secondary, etc.). Around the time I got here (June 2018), Celine had just got its official permit to start releasing animals, so the facility did not actually house any animals, but from what I have been told, it should start receiving animals soon. Although, on that note, it seems like it will only be birds; I remember reading/seeing online that they were releasing some mammals, but this doesn't seem to be the case for this new facility. I am not sure what volunteers will be doing for this facility in particular, but I hope that my review is helpful in reassuring you that the people you will be working for are great, the facilities you will stay in are clean, comfortable, and probably exceed your expectations, and that IPBio has good intentions in protecting and preserving the species of the Atlantic Forest (and they are very appreciative of their volunteers!).

Yes, I recommend this program
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Once in a lifetime

When recalling my experience at The Betary Reserve, I can’t help but smile so big. The time spent trekking through the North Atlantic Forrest collecting data on its diverse wildlife and plant life were some of the best memories I have. Its truly a hands on experience. If you like to get out into the wild, this is the volunteer experience for you. I also want to make note that one of the greatest unexpected things that will happen is you will form amazing bonds with fellow volunteers and staff members of the reserve, not to mention the incredible people of Iporanga. Please go, and learn, and create memories that will last a lifetime.

How can this program be improved?
Just being better at defining roles.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Amazing volunteer experience!

Volunteering in the rainforest? Yes! Abundance of interesting, rewarding field work? Heck ya! Weekend trips visiting waterfalls, caves, beach and river tubing? You bet! AND affordable?? How good could it get at Betary Reserve?!

All these reasons and more contributed to my more than incredible experience for the month I spent with IPBio and Celine at the Reserve. I worked as an eco-volunteer, meaning I participated in variety of programs they offered: tree inventory, amphibian research, bioluminescent mushroom research, gardening, bird and fish inventory. My favorites were gardening and tree inventory (I looked forward to this as I study Horticulture), and my love for bird inventory surprised but delighted me (for this we spend a few hours making our way through the jungle looking for birds to photograph for records/cataloging, extremely meditative and peaceful). All the work is fun, regardless, and the program is nice in that we do different work each day of the week, so it never feels tedious or repetitive. I mean, you’re also working in the middle of the Atlantic Forest, so there’s little complaint to be made. The volunteer coordination is also pretty on top of their agenda, so the program flowed real well, and through the busy days there definitely was some valuable experience gained in research methods and studying biodiversity, pretty good stuff. It should be said however, that there is a fair amount of downtime, and while the work is structured, if you are looking for a more rigorous volunteering program this may not be the one. Also, it focuses more on field work than harder laboratory/science/biology practice, but is still good experience.

As for the living situation, oh man let me tell you it is real nice. The volunteer house is fully furnished, surprisingly with hot showers, and the kitchen is fully stocked and working. The staff and other volunteers were all incredible, helpful, supportive, welcoming and fun. I felt safe, comfortable and happy here. So, so, so, happy. One of my favorite memories is every morning walking outside and seeing this enormous mountain behind the reserve covered in fog and mist, greeted with these unbelievably brilliantly colorful birds, a beautiful scene to start the day out right.

So, almost needless to say, I had the time of my life, balancing work and fun, enjoying my days in Brazil, each day better than the last and exceeding my expectations more than I could imagine. I highly, highly recommend volunteering with Betary Reserve, even if you are the tiniest smidgeon interested in it. They definitely could use your help, and the program is absolutely wonderful.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Amazing Experience

The projects that we work on here at Betary Reserve are very educational and fun. From tagging trees to monitor forest growth to collecting macroinvertebrates to monitor habitats everything we do is for a very important cause. It is great to reap the benefits of the work that we do, for example we planted cassava and another day we had a cassava party where we made them into fries, baked them, and made cakes with them. Another great thing about Betary Reserve is how everything is organized very well, however at the same time the volunteer coordinators are flexible and are always willing to accept suggestions to make the projects or all around living better here at Betary Reserve. For example, after seeing that I do a lot of work with aquaponics back home, Imran wanted me to come to Betary Reserve and install a number of systems here, and I did just that. Not only did I just do that, but had the time of my life doing it and working with the people here to make things happen.

How can this program be improved?
This program can be improved by making it larger so that more people can share in this incredible experience.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Eco-Volunteering in the Atlantic Forest

During my time as an eco-volunteer at FWBC, I got to participate in a number of projects that all taught me something new! Every day, we would head out into the field, usually under the supervision of the lovely and knowledgeable Marleen, knowing exactly our assignment for the day, as our week’s schedule was always posted and discussed in a Monday morning meeting. Projects ranged from bushwhacking into the forest to tag and measure trees on the reserve, to taking early morning hikes to take pictures of the myriad species of birds found in the area, to preparing the release center for their first round of arrivals.

Not only were the projects here so interesting and fun, they were impeccably well organized. The staff were so supportive and helpful, and fun as well! Being my first time out of my home country, they made the process as smooth as humanly possible, and Imran answered all of my silly little questions graciously and quickly before my arrival. Accommodations were better than I could have ever expected, when I arrived I was pleasantly surprised by the luxury of having my very own AC unit in my room! Adriana is not only an absolute sweetheart, but keeps everything at IPBio sparkling clean 24/7. I honestly don’t know how she does it! Anna and Henrique are so so knowledgeable in their fields, and taught me so much about the Atlantic Forest’s ecosystem and biodiversity. My fellow volunteers during my stay were all so interesting and wonderful, it was an honor and pleasure to get to know them, for whatever the length of time our paths crossed.

The weekend trips I had the opportunity to experience were truly astounding, and just opened my eyes even more to how stunning and unique Brazil is. It is SO worth budgeting out some extra money to go on at least one of the trips, whether it’s relaxing on the beach in Cananaeia and watching dolphins play basically right by the shore, or hiking deep into the jungle to see the largest cave opening in the world, you will not be disappointed.

Being an Ecology and Environmental Science student in the US, I was drawn to FWBC’s projects in general, but had no idea how much I would fall in love with the work. After my time volunteering, I have decided to go on for my masters and hopefully pursue a PhD in the future! So, thank you FWBC for igniting this passion in me, and for giving me the opportunity to find it! I hope to return soon, and see all of the wonderful people I got to know during my stay. Obrigada, Brazil <3

Yes, I recommend this program
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Better Volunteering

Translated Review:
My name is Raphael Ribeiro Francisco, I am a student of veterinary medicine, I came to Celine to work as a volunteer in the wild animal monitoring project.
It was amazing to stay during these 2 months at the Betary Reservation. Live surrounded by nature, wake up listening to the birds singing and the Betary River following its flow.
The work environment is great, all the staff are extremely attentive and always willing to help in any situation.

Original Review:
Meu nome é Raphael Ribeiro Francisco, sou estudante de medicina veterinária, vim para o Celine para trabalhar como voluntario no projeto de monitoramento de animais silvestres.
Foi incrível a estadia durante esses 2 meses na Reserva Betary. Viver cercado pela natureza, acordar ouvindo os pássaros cantando e o Rio Betary seguindo seu fluxo.
O ambiente de trabalho é ótimo, todos os funcionários são extremamente atenciosos e sempre dispostos a ajudar em qualquer situação.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Amazing Experience!

Your search is over! If you are looking for somewhere to volunteer in South America and you love animals or science, then this is the place! I have been volunteering around South America with my husband for the last 5 months, and this has by far been the best place yet! There is such a variety of activities that we have been doing that it is never boring. We have monitored trap camera footage, observed birds, monitored ponds and trees, and collected fish and river data! It has been so incredible being able to help the research efforts and get to see the amazing biodiversity in the Atlantic Forest first hand! The accommodations were also incredibly comfortable, from private rooms with personal air-conditioning units, to a fully stocked kitchen and living area, it was really lovely! This is such a special place and I am really sad to be leaving, but it has been such an amazing experience that I will remember it forever! I would definitely recommend volunteering at the Betary Reserve! This place is truly unlike any I have ever seen before. On top of the beautiful destination, the amazing research, and the fun activities, this place is so well organized! That is one thing we have had some difficulties with at previous volunteer locations, is a lack of organization. So it has been such a breath of fresh air to have things lined out, planned ahead of time, and on schedule!

How can this program be improved?
Yes, I recommend this program
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A wealth of experience!

After finishing my masters in Aquatic Science I knew I wanted to work in Conservation. However, after applying for a few jobs in the Conservation Sector I realised my CV had some key skills missing for me to succeed. That’s why I signed up to be an Eco-Volunteer at the Betary Reserve and it has really paid off. As I come to the end of the 2 months I have spent here the array of skills I have built up is amazing. Learning how to monitor species of all kinds from Fish and Amphibians to Plants and Mushrooms, I have also gained confidence in these techniques from routine practise. I had the opportunity to develop a Pond Habitat Monitoring Programme, including a pond at Celine, as well and gained experience in how to lead volunteers. It would have been much more difficult to get this experience back home in the UK. There are endless opportunities here and if you have the time come and take advantage of them! I only wish I could stay longer, I am still in awe of the beauty of my surroundings every day and will miss having breakfast surrounded by hummingbirds and toucans when I am back in England!

Yes, I recommend this program
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2 months in the Atlantic rainforest!

I spent 2 months as an eco-volunteer at the Betary Reserve getting involved in a wide range of projects. Despite not having any biological background, while I was at the reserve I worked on projects such as fish inventory, habitat monitoring , mushroom and tree inventory, all of which gave me time to work outside and enjoy the beautiful Atlantic rainforest. I also spent time helping to sort through all of the spectacular footage they have of the local wildlife and activities. Through all this I was able to was still able to learn a lot about biological research and conservation.

On the weekends I had plenty of time to enjoy some of the local tourism activities, such as caving, waterfall hikes and visiting cananeia, which were great fun and provided more opportunities to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and wildlife.

Yes, I recommend this program

Habitat Monitoring and Conservation

My time working with Celine was spent setting up an aquatic habitat monitoring programme across sites based in the IP Bio research facility and at Celine. As there was currently no habitat monitoring in place, this gave me the ideal opportunity to gain new skills as well as help to make a difference with the conservation work that is being carried here in the Atlantic forest.

The location of the release center is amazing and was one of the things that has made my volunteer experience absolutely unforgettable. As well as the exciting new projects that you can get involved in, there are plenty of extra activities to enjoy at the weekends and after work. From caving to hiking and even the chance to get up close with wild dolphins, there is no chance of getting bored!

I would definitely recommend this volunteer opportunity to other people, both with a background in conservation and without as I feel like it is a very unique experience to get involved with. A huge than you to all the other volunteers and incredibly friendly staff at the reserve that made my experience so fantastic!

How can this program be improved?
The volunteer package could make clear the specific projects and timings of the projects being run at Celine so that volunteers can tailor their experiences to their interests more thoroughly.
Yes, I recommend this program

About FreeWildlifeBrazil Celine

FreeWildlifeBrazil Celine was founded by the couple Martine Schmid-Fiorini and Pedro Schmid, both Swiss veterinarians, who worried about the fate of the wild animals coming from the illegal traffic and seized by local authorities. In an improvised...