Be a Volunteer for Wild Animals

Volunteer for wild animals is a great way to make a huge difference, come close and personal to beautiful wildlife and very often experience once-in-a-life-time adventures!


international-volunteers

International Volunteers - Credits: Emmie Elliott, elephant volunteer, Thailand

Volunteer with wildlife: what's in it for you?

  • spend time with your favourite wild animal,
  • know you are making a huge difference, right now, for this wild animal or for its environment,
  • learn new skills,
  • gain experience,
  • built your CV for when you will be looking for paid internship, a master or a PhD subject, or employment,
  • create a conservation / wildlife network,
  • accumulate referees for job applications,
  • meet some exciting new friends,
  • have a break from routine,
  • discover new horizons,
  • get surrounded by like-minded people that are fighting for wildlife,
  • be part of something bigger and better than just yourself,
  • and, to be honest, so much more.

If you already have a career and don’t want to or can’t change to a full-time job in wildlife (see Wildlife as a Job), or are still at school, but you have a few hours a week (a month) you can scrape off your busy life, volunteering for wildlife is an amazingly powerful way to help wildlife.

There are things you can do while maintaining your normal job/study, which involve helping organisation close to your home.

Then there are the amazing opportunities of volunteering for a holidays or a longer break (what a great middle life crisis it would do, much better than buying a fancy car) abroad. Now, this is adventure!

I love this quote... I'm sure you do too!


“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”


Mahatma Gandhi

So, what are YOU waiting for to be the change in the world?

Start volunteering for a better, more compassionate and wilder world today!

Volunteer for Wild Animals at Home

Here are ideas of volunteering that take a few hours of weekly to annual commitment to help wild animals.

Volunteer for Science

This is THE new thing in Science: Citizen Science. Researchers around the world are now helped by armies of volunteers collecting data for them.

This achieve more than any researcher alone could hope to achieve in a lifetime, and is becoming one of the most powerful method to collect critical data for wildlife and wild places...

The projects are infinite: I for instance collect data on urban koalas and trees, flying foxes and glossy black cockatoos...

But you can target anything you like: survey mangrove, clean up and monitor coral reef, report animal sightings, count trees...

Help a University project

Very often, PhD or Master students look for volunteers to go on field trip with them and give a hand.

So visit the boards for ads if you are at University or close to one, and get yourself on University volunteer emailing lists.

If you want examples of what you can do as a volunteer with Universities, check out this amazing experience as a volunteer with wombats or my experience in volunteering with gliders.

wild-glider

Volunteering with wild gliders for a PhD student: here, taking measurements...

Volunteer for wild animals by tagging along a Uni student can be an amazing experience with wildlife or their environment and a unique chance to be doing groundbreaking research.

Usually it’s fun and you make long lasting friends, too!

Rescue or care for sick or injured wildlife

Wildlife rescuers and wildlife carers are deeply needed.

They are doing an amazing and very difficult job. They are on the front line of helping wild animals when they are at their most vulnerable.

Simply and beautifully, these volunteers for wild animals save lives...

koala-drinks

Giving a drink to a wild koala. As hard as it is to be a wildlife rescue volunteer, there are many very rewarding moments...

Volunteer at a rescue center or wild animal sanctuary

You are not be able to get involved with wild animal rescue and rehabilitation all year round, but you have a few weeks available?

Some rescue centers, wild animal orphanages or wild animal sanctuaries offer short term volunteer opportunities.

For example, you can volunteer with rescued and rehabilitated monkeys at the Wild Futures' Monkey Sanctuary in Cornwall.

baby-wombat

Two baby wombats being cared for by a wonderful wildlife carer (Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, Tasmania)

Clean wildlife environment

Volunteer for wild animals by giving them a clean place to live!

Some people pick up rubbish every day while doing their morning walk... This is a great idea! Just carry a bag with you while you go walking and you're on!

They are also many events (usually annually) organised where you can go with family, friends or like-minded people and clean beaches, mangroves, oceans (if you are a diver!) etc.

These are great and really needed, when you see all the rubbish us humans seem to love to spread around!

Here are a few of such cleaning day events I know of:

Clean up Australia Day

California Coastal Cleanup Day

Re-create wildlife environment

A powerful way to help wild animals is to give them a home: you can volunteer to plant trees to create wild habitat (see an real life example of a tree planting volunteer)...

You can also help collecting native seed, grow the plants in your own backyard, or restore the natural habitat by eradicating weeds. Lots of great opportunities to get out there and act directly!

Fund raise for wildlife

This is one way to volunteer for wild animals every one can do! Even kids can do it very successfully!

Organise car rallye, sausage sizzle, bake cakes... And give the profit to wildlife organisations that you love.

See how an inspirational young lady has a goal of raising $100,000 for conservation before she finishes high school as a fundraiser for wildlife.

Volunteer for Wild Animals Abroad

Here are volunteering ideas that will take you on a once-in-a-life-time adventure for a few weeks or months helping wild animals.

First: What kind of volunteer are you?

Just a note about volunteering abroad...

Some volunteer positions require you to contribute to the project financially.

This kind of links to the kind of volunteer you are:

1/ Volunteer as a one-off, to discover something different, exciting AND useful, for a holiday with a twist

Do you want to share very precious moment with beautiful wildlife for a couple of weeks, but come back to your very unrelated job after the experience?

In that case you might be after something very well organised, with very little risk, someone that can be at your service to help every step of the way (and that cost money).

In that case, you might be more open to pay for the help of organisations that specialised in placing volunteers in different wildlife projects. Here are a few cherry picked volunteer organisations that have programs all around the world:

This site has an extensive arrays of wildlife volunteering programs, and you can specifically choose to volunteer for Marine Conservation, Wildlife and Terrestrial Conservation or Animal Care.

Select "Project involving Nature" for volunteer opportunities in Nature including with the Biological Station of the Galapagos island or at the Wildlife Rescue Centre in Thailand.

Volunteer for wildlife around the world (French site) - select "Observation étude faune" and see how to volunteer with Orangoutans, turtles, dolphins and more...

Another site if you speak French, which has volunteer opportunities with wildlife including wolves, elephants, tigers, jaguars and more.

Become a volunteer for conservation and protect amazing places in Columbia, with projects such as deploying nest boxes for parrots and other pro bird actions.

2/ Volunteer as a first experience, or as a student to begin a career or gain more skills in your area of interest in conservation / wildlife

In this case, you might be coming with a whole set of previous skills related to the area you volunteer in. You might give to the project as much as you receive. You might be more independent...

All that would cost the organisation less money.


Usually, if you are applying to a genuine non for profit organisation, they won't make profit out of you but may still be covering some of the costs involved with having volunteers:

  • administration costs to organise volunteers, answer to all questions etc.

Volunteering in another country especially, requires lots of organisation from the volunteer coordinator (visas, communication, local transport...)

Often the volunteer coordinator helps you get organised every step of the way, pick you up at the airport, organise transport from the airport to the site, make sure your family knows where you are and that you are all OK at all time, forward emergency messages between you and your family, organise heath insurance and emergency evacuation...

  • cost and time of training new volunteers (you never hit the ground running)
  • sometimes they host you and/or feed you
  • finally sometimes you are supporting the project with your money too...

You can see a concrete example of how your money is spend by a non-for-profit organisation in this "Why pay to be a volunteer" page.
 

Although this might seem unfair, since you are already volunteering your time for free, it often is the main way the project can survive. Cash is often short for wildlife conservation...

However, often cash is also sparse for the volunteer himself! Thankfully you can also find volunteer positions where your time (and flight ticket) is your biggest contribution!

 

Some free opportunities are available on these sites:

Wildlife Conservation Volunteering

The Volunteer Tent (this one has volunteer opportunities for many other things than wildlife)



Use your best judgment to decide whether the volunteer offer you received is fair. Some projects do require A LOT from their volunteers, so much so that you might start to feel exploited (I heard "slaved" before...). Things to assess when you receive a volunteer offer and you are required to contribute financially:

  • how hard is the work (how physical, how many days a week, how many hours a day?)
  • what are the conditions (are you in a tent in the middle of the jungle? Surely that doesn't cost much...)
  • how much does it cost to feed you in the country you would volunteer?
  • what experience do they require? If they require a high tertiary level, you expect that your personal investment in getting these skills are worth something (and you shouldn't on top of it have to pay too much to volunteer)
  • were they up-front with the fact you have to pay as a volunteer?

Personally I worked very hard (7 days a week), very long hours (12 a day minimum), in very remote (no internet, satellite phone only) and basic conditions (in a tent for months, eating mostly rice, no fresh food)...

But everything was paid for me! I loved it!! But if I had to pay for it, I would most likely have had a different view on it...

And everyone has different limits, too...

volunteer-canada

Volunteering is not always a piece of cake! Here a volunteer in Canada, doing field work in the company of a few mosquitoes!

Credits: Julie Dewilde

If your dream project asks for a contribution from volunteers and you can't afford it, there are also some ways to fundraise for your volunteer project. You can find fundraising tips and download a free fundraising for your volunteer experience guide on the United Planet website.

What do you check before you jump? (if you are organising your volunteer experience on your own)

If you found a volunteer project that blows you away, and with conditions that seem fair and reasonable: great work, you're getting close to the goal!!!

There are a few things you should definitely check, especially if you are going to the other side of the world, on your own, for a long time and / or in a poor country:

 

  • Get some information on the organisation you are volunteering for

If you cannot find anything on this particular organisation on the internet, can't find a contact or reference to it, then this can be a bad sign.

 

  • Get information about the people that you'll be dealing with inside that organisation

Even some great organisations can run less than perfect programs... 

Get in contact with the leader of the project and other persons that supervise the project on the ground, chat with them and get an opinion on how serious the project is.

Look these persons on the internet too!

You can get a feel for what type of leadership and support you will get during the project by how people deal with you before the project:

- do they reply quickly and in a friendly manner to your legitimate questions? If you are going to live in a remote place for 6 months, you will have many legitimate questions to ask!

- do they sound too busy and exasperated by your questions? Or don't reply at all?

- how much do they help you getting ready for your trip? Are you sent a volunteer guide detailing the living conditions, what is available to you on the ground, a list of what to bring, and of what especially not to forget etc?

- is all this information given to you immediately or do you have to (repeatedly) ask for it?

- how clear is the contract between you and the organisation? Is what is included clearly defined? Including what happen if you breach the contract? (Sometimes you have to pay back a flight ticket if you don't stay the entire time which can be a whole year!)

- was the volunteer interview serious? Does the leader know how much previous similar experience you had and how you will cope in the conditions of the project? (Do they care??)

If everything leading up to your trip goes smoothly and nicely, this is a great sign you will receive appropriate support all along, too.

 

  • Get information on the conditions on site

This should be all very clear if the organisation and the project leader are serious (see point above).

 

You are getting very close now!!

One more point of uttermost importance before you jump though:

 

  • Contact previous volunteers

Sadly even if everything looks just perfect, there is still one risk: people can lie...

But previous volunteers wont! Especially if they HATED it or LOVED it: they will tell you!

Again, serious organisations will probably give you some volunteers' names to contact without you even asking: that's because they have nothing to hide, they know they are providing a great experience.

On the other hand, if the organisation refuses to give you contacts for previous volunteers, you must ask yourself why...

You can look yourself for contacts by searching on the internet: other volunteers might be talking about your project in special forum, or have shared pictures, write about it on their blog etc.

Sometimes you can also ask previous volunteers questions you might not be confortable asking the leader of the project him/herself!


In one word (hmm, two in fact): BE PREPARED! Do all your searches before you go so you know what to expect and come in the best conditions possible.

Volunteer for wild animals in Africa

Animals of Africa are just stunning. If you want an amazing adventure with breath taking wildlife, you most probably already think about becoming a volunteer for wild animals in Africa!

Some great places I can recommend because I know people that have loved volunteer there. So you can go to Africa to volunteer too!

There are many more projects available obviously, and if you did have some great experiences somewhere else I will soon be able to integrate these as well!

Many opportunities for work and volunteer in Africa are available in the About Africa website.

In the spotlight:

Volunteer with Servals

volunteer experience at the African Dawn Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary – Rehabilitation Centre, in Tornhill, South Africa

Volunteer with rhinos

volunteer with anti poaching rangers in Zimbabwe

Volunteer for wild animals in Asia

Helping and protecting wild animals in Asia is the mission of many wonderful organisations...

See a direct account of a fantastic volunteer experience in Thailand as a Volunteer with Elephants.

More very soon!

Volunteer for wild animals in the USA

The USA has one of the oldest National Park (Yellowstone is actually not the oldest National Park... Not sure this competition is worthwhile but Bogdkhan Uul in Mongolia was established in 1778, so could possibly claim the title) and many more natural beauties...

Many US Universities have renowned ecology classes, which means many would have students looking for volunteers! This is always a good start...

Find specific volunteer in USA opportunities.

Volunteer for wild animals in Canada

volunteer-canada

Volunteers doing field work in the stunning grasslands of Canada

Credits: Julie Dewilde

From Aurora Borealis, Niagara Falls, Rocky Mountains to World Heritage Site Nahanni Park, the natural wonders of Canada are many and would attract any wildlife lover.

As with US Universities, Canada has renowned ecology and biodiversity classes, which means many Master and PhD students are looking for volunteers! Browsing University projects often yield great discoveries...

Find specific opportunities to become a volunteer in Canada.

Volunteer for wild animals in Australia

Australia is a truly wild and magical place. It has been my home for the past 6 years and I'm in love.

There are some truly amazing volunteer opportunities, as Australia is a volunteer country: everyone I know volunteers somewhere!

One fantastic non for profit organisation to get involved with when you love wildlife is the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.

Check the Australian Wildlife Conservancy volunteer page for 6 month internships as a conservation biologist - careful, you need to be able to work in Australia for these ones.

Easier to become involve with is the Conservation Volunteers: they have multiple programs for volunteering for a day or longer. Their costs are super low (just covering food and accomodation), what you will do very variable, new opportunities posted all the time, and it's all around Australia.

Go now to check where volunteering with Conservation Volunteers will take you!

If you love marine life, Australia is the place to be. Check out an unusual experience anyone can get: to become a short term volunteer with dolphins (wild dolphins!) in Western Australia.

More opportunities to volunteer around the world

The Society for Conservation Biology is an organisation helping the broad conservation community, and it puts on-lines thousands of jobs and volunteering opportunities around the world.


If you like TURTLES then there is a turtle mecca for you. Many positions are available for volunteering with turtles all around the world.


Stopdodo is a site dedicated to address climate change and loss in species and habitat, via low-carbon technologies, ecological mitigation & environmental management. Stopdodo gathers many offers of jobs and volunteer for the environment.


Primate volunteer opportunities are proposed by the Primate Info Net.


The Charles Darwin Foundation in the Galapagos Archipelago conducts research to preserve biodiversity. You can apply to become a volunteer in a variety of conservation areas in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz island.




Abroad or at home, all year round, for a week or for a year: you can volunteer for wild animals in a variety of ways.

And with any volunteer experience, you will not only spend time with and help precious wildlife, but also be part of something much bigger than you, and very likely create life-long friendships...