Working with animals can be an excellent way to see the world and really make a difference in the community and animal welfare. With a Veterinary service volunteer program, one can work to protect sea turtles in Guatemala, help rehabilitate flying foxes in Australia, or vaccinate street dogs in Nepal.

Everyone from fully-licensed veterinarians to well-meaning animal lovers can find opportunities to volunteer abroad and work with some of the world’s most vulnerable creatures.

Photo Credit: md-images

There are various ways to become involved in veterinary services overseas. In many cases, one does not need to be a licensed veterinarian to participate in programs. Enthusiasm and love for fellow creatures is enough.

Street Animals:

One of the most popular types of programs is working with street animals, usually dogs. Several well-established shelters or local organizations welcome volunteers to help care for the animals.

The shelters provide basic services, such as spaying and neutering, vaccines, and first aid. Working with these animals is a rewarding experience and one that makes a real difference to the animals and to the community.

Veterinary Volunteering:

For those who do have a veterinary medicine skill set, there are many exciting opportunities. It is possible to travel around the world, offering services and learning about the local people, culture, and medicine. Work with dogs, cats, horses, birds, horses, and other animals and provide indispensable services in areas of need.

Wildlife Volunteering:

Working with animals in the wild can be a dream come true. Many programs are designed to combine veterinary services and conservation. Work in a safari park in Africa and learn about wildlife management, volunteer with elephants in Thailand, or rehabilitate penguins, cheetahs, lions, primates, or dolphin.

Animals face challenges and threats all over the world. Whether it’s a street dog savaging for its next meal or a sea turtle requiring careful rehabilitation, the need is great. Veterinary service volunteer opportunities can take you to far-flung, exotic locales, fascinating places with diverse cultures and welcoming people.

Southeast Asia:

Southeast Asia is one of the most well-established sites for volunteer programs. Here you will find opportunities to work with animals from street dogs to elephants. Conservation is an increasingly important aspect of tourism and culture in this part of the world, which creates great opportunities for adventurous volunteers.

Africa:

Africa is a fascinating destination on all levels. For those interesting in wildlife conservation, management, and care, there is no better place to be. South Africa, especially, has a number of well-respected programs that allow volunteers to come and work with endangered animals.

Both those with veterinary skills and those who merely have the enthusiasm are welcome and encouraged to participate in programs of varying length.

Central America:

Central America is quickly becoming a hot-spot for eco-adventures and eco-tourism. There are amazing opportunities to get up close and personal with the local fauna.

Several programs, including those in Guatemala and Costa Rica, allow volunteers to take an active role in protecting, conserving, and rehabilitating sea turtles, one of the most vulnerable species in the region.

Often, the best volunteer experiences overseas are in the developing world. Here, animal welfare may be a priority and concern, but the local people and governments do not have the resources to offer the necessary services. These are places where you can make a real and lasting difference to both the animals and the community.

There are many amazing organizations that work with street animals. The Soi Dog Foundation is a well-respected organization based in Thailand. Soi Dog not only provides loving care and attention to animals in need, it offers an example for local communities to follow when dealing with street animals in humane and caring ways. As of this year, Soi Dog has cared for an astounding 60,203 animals. There are other similar programs around the world, such as these programs in Argentina and Nepal.

For those who have the necessary veterinary skill levels, there are many exciting volunteer opportunities. Start the search with Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities (AMRRIC). Here you can learn more about projects they support and recommend and even read volunteer first-hand accounts.

One program that is recommended, the Esther Honey Foundation, is in the Cook Islands and is listed as one of the world’s "100 best volunteer vacations to enrich your life" by National Geographic.

Projects Abroad offers several veterinary service programs in countries around the world, including China, Ghana, Argentina, Fiji, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Romania, Samoa, and South Africa. Finally, check out Animal Experience International, where you can search for programs based on location or skill-set. Here you’ll find excellent ways to put those hard-earned degrees to use in exotic and exciting places around the world.

Learning about wildlife in their native habitat is a dream for most animal lovers. For those who want more than just a photographic safari, consider a volunteer program such as Kaya, where you can work with elephants in Botswana or Namibia or dolphins in Tanzania.

Go Eco offers a wide variety of volunteerships, both those requiring veterinary skills and those for the lay person. With Go Eco, you could work in whale and shark conservation, volunteer at a primate rehabilitation center, or learn about the Big Five first hand. There is even a pre-vet program designed for those considering becoming a veterinarian.

For those interesting in learning more about Conservation projects, start here.

Whether it’s working towards the protection of elephants or actually being the one to vaccinate a street dog, caring for these populations can make a lasting and positive change. And what better way to see some of the world’s most beautiful and exotic places than to volunteer and provide care and love to those in need.

Contributed by Kate Evans

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