This post is contributed by our friends at GoEco, an organization that has offered affordable volunteer abroad trips and internships since 2006. With programs available in 45 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Australasia, Central America, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South America, GoEco has more than 170 different impactful projects to choose from. They have been recommended by Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and more – learn about GoEco’s amazing programs here!
Volunteering with animals is a popular form of volunteering abroad, but did you know that you could volunteer with wild animals, too? That’s right – many volunteering organizations around the world offer opportunities to volunteer for both the rehabilitation and conservation of various wildlife species!
Types Of Wildlife Volunteering Programs
The options are endless when it comes to wildlife volunteer programs. You can volunteer to conserve sea turtles in Greece, collect data on Africa’s Big Five species in South Africa, conduct dive surveys alongside whale sharks in Mozambique, rehabilitate monkeys in Malawiand so much more. So how do you choose which program is right for you? The key is to decide how you want to help wildlife, and where you want to do it and then to find the program that matches!
1: Marine Life Programs
Want to spend your volunteer vacation at the beach? Sounds like a marine life conservation program is just what you need! You can work in the sand, building barriers for sea turtle nests, or you can dive (literally) into collecting data on whale sharks, great white sharks and other fascinating marine species. Many of the programs with a dive certification requirement will offer PADI Open Water certifications either before or during the program, usually for an additional fee. Some programs don’t require physically entering the water- there are several programs in locations such as Italy and Croatia, where the data collection on dolphin populations takes place from a boat.
The great thing about these programs is that they are suitable for everyone. There are options for those looking to do observational work, and there are the more hands-on programs, for example protecting sea turtle nests.
2: Land-Based Wildlife Programs
For those who prefer to keep the volunteering on dry land, not to worry! The two main options volunteers have on land are volunteering at a wildlife rescue center / sanctuary or observing wildlife in their natural habitat to collect data on the status of the populations.
3: Wildlife Sanctuary Programs
Animals in sanctuaries have been rescued from wildlife traffickers, testing labs or poachers. Many of these animals were injured and are in need of rehabilitation. Unfortunately there are animals who were so long removed from their natural habitat that even after rehabilitation cannot be returned to the wild. These animals find refuge in animal sanctuaries, where volunteers care for them and oftentimes create enrichment toys for them.
Some sanctuaries are dedicated to the conservation of a specific species. For example, GoEco works with a giant panda sanctuary in China whose breeding efforts helped remove the giant panda from the WWF’s Endangered Species list!
4: In-the-Wild Programs
Volunteers can also observe wildlife in their natural habitat. A popular choice is volunteering in South Africa to collect data on Africa’s Big Five- the leopard, cape buffalo, lion, elephant and rhinoceros. This field work is valuable in the monitoring of these populations, and volunteers can join programs where they experience life right in the bush, among their favorite giants.
For volunteers who wish to volunteer in the bush, but not live in the wild, there are many opportunities. Jungle programs in Costa Rica usually involve the tracking of species, such as jaguars, but volunteers won’t be staying in tents on the jungle floor.
Are You Ready To Find A Wildlife Volunteer Program?
So, which wildlife volunteer program caught your attention – working with sea turtles along the Mediterranean, feeding pandas in China, or perhaps diving with whale sharks in Mozambique Do you prefer to collect data on species, or work with them hands-on for their rehabilitation? Whether you want to collect data on a safari reserve in Africa or feed sloths in Costa Rica, Volunteer Forever can help you find your perfect wildlife volunteer program with a reputable volunteer organization. So what are you waiting for? Start your search now!