Around the world animals are losing their habitats and their lives due to environmental degradation and some species are even becoming extinct. Orang-utans in Borneo are losing their homes to make way for palm oil plantations and in Africa Elephants are still being brutally killed only for their ivory tusks. If this makes you want to drop everything and run out and protect wild animals then consider wildlife conservation volunteering.
Volunteers are needed all over the world to help work on wild animal rescue centres and reserves, with research and tracking and with providing education about animal trafficking and protection. If animal protection is your passion and you want to potentially see some of the most remote corners of the globe then wildlife volunteering is for you.
Photo Credit: Akarshan Kumar
Wildlife volunteering is a broad topic and there really is something for everyone. Some projects involve really getting your hands dirty in the jungle, but if this does not sound like your thing there are also plenty of other ways to get involved. A big part of wildlife conservation is raising awareness about the reasons why the animal protection is important and why they should be protected. This includes teaching in schools and running workshops and trainings with local communities.
Many projects will cover your food and board whilst on placement and if not charge only a small fee but flights, in-country travel, visas, vaccinations and other costs will be those of the volunteer. Most projects will provide volunteers with the necessary training and this kind of volunteering is a great way to learn new skills and potentially ignite a new passion.
A big part of wildlife conservation is educating the local communities about why animal poaching and trafficking is both illegal and detrimental. This can include working with schools and community groups to run workshops as well as helping with online campaigns and awareness. If you don’t fancy the idea of working one on one with the animals then this work is probably for you.
If you are handy with a saw or just want to work on helping create more resources and infrastructure then why not volunteer on construction projects. Many wildlife refuge centres and reserves need the help of skilled and non-skilled volunteers who can build and fix fences and enclosures as well as buildings. Helping in construction for a refuge means that you are helping to provide better care for the animals and the staff too.
Wildlife refuges and reserves
The black market trade of wild animals is a big problem around the world and there are many refuge centres that take volunteers to help with the day to day running of the centre. This is a great way to see some more remote locations around the world with many centres and reserves being located remotely. Volunteer jobs can vary from administration and cleaning to feeding of the animals, enclosure maintenance, working one on one with the animals and other tasks as needed.
Not limited to just forests and jungles marine wildlife are also under threat. Volunteers are needed to conduct underwater research and monitoring so if you have your dive certification this one if for you. If spending your days below the surface doesn’t appeal then never fear, there are plenty of projects that are based on land. Volunteers are in demand for turtle rehabilitation and release efforts in many locations around the world.
Wildlife protection is needed throughout the world, but there are some regions where poaching and illegal trafficking is leading to a massive decline of wild animals.
The Amazon jungle is under threat from deforestation but so too are the animals that live there. Illegal animal trafficking on the black market is a huge business in countries like Bolivia with monkeys and birds being the main species that are targeted. Poachers will often shoot the mother and pull the baby monkey off their mother to be sold and live in a tiny cage for the rest of its life. Volunteers are in demand to help at rescue centres with animal welfare and construction and with education.
Poaching across Africa has lead to many species becoming extinct. With populations of Elephants, Rhinos and Lions in grave trouble with population sizes on the decline due to poaching and loss of habitat. Many reserves have been set up to protect some of the remaining populations of wild animals but with the continued poaching of Elephants due to an increase in the demand for illegal ivory in South East Asia then population numbers are only going to continue to decline. Volunteers are needed to help with education and to volunteer on reserves.
Unfortunately the jungles of Southeast Asia are disappearing due to logging and clearing for palm oil and this is having a devastating effect on the animals that call the jungle home. In Borneo Orangutans are losing their homes and many adult Orangutans are killed by poachers or loggers. in Sri Lanka, Thailand, and India, elephants are at risk. Volunteers are needed to help with construction and animal welfare at rescue centers.
For more tips, read our comprehensive guide on planning a volunteer abroad trip.
Some organizations to help you with planning and researching a wildlife volunteer trip abroad include:
- WWF: The World Wildlife Fund is a leader around the world in conservation efforts. This organization is currently focusing on thirteen key areas including the Amazon and Forest and Climate issues.
- NRDC: The Natural Resources Defense Council is another important organization in the conservation world. They focus on many large scale issues including defending wildlife and reviving the world's oceans.
- Traffic.org: Traffic.org is a collaboration of organisations aimed to monitor the trafficking of plants and animals around the world