Volunteering or interning your time towards a wildlife organization is a wonderful opportunity to get involved and assist a cause you care about.

Whether you’re interested in helping to rehabilitate injured wildlife or monitoring native populations, the possibilities may seem endless. It may seem overwhelming at first, but there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding where you’d like to volunteer your time. Be sure to take into consideration how much you’re willing to spend and how long you’re able to commit to the cause. Most facilities rely heavily on their volunteers to keep the facility functioning but are not capable of paying for the airfare of each individual that wants to help.

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Once you’ve taken all these factors into consideration, all that’s left is choosing which conservation adventure to go on. Here are four examples of some amazing volunteer opportunities abroad:

1. Elephant Nature Park: Chiang Mai

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The Elephant Nature Park offers life-long sanctuary for abused and orphaned elephants. Their weekly volunteer program is located in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. Volunteers at The Elephant Nature Park are responsible for preparing the elephant’s food each morning and are able to engage with the animals by feeding and bathing them daily. When necessary, volunteers are also responsible for helping the facility with any maintenance, including preparing the elephants bathing areas.

2. White Shark Project: Gansbaai, South Africa

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White Shark Project is devoted to the conservation of the South African shark population. Most people don’t realize that this top ocean predator is incredibly vulnerable due to overfishing and the shark-finning industry; every year 100 million sharks disappear from the oceans.

Volunteers at the White Shark Project are briefed on everything from White Shark behavior to basic seamanship and get a chance to observe and track the local shark population both on land and in the water. The goal of the program is to raise awareness for the plight of sharks while helping to collect data on their migration patterns.

  • Program usually runs 21 days, however, one week minimum trips are available through GoEco
  • Housing provided, but meals are not included
  • For pricing contact: [email protected]

3. La Tortuga Feliz: Costa Rica

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Located four hours from San Jose, volunteers at La Tortuga Feliz play an important role in the day-to-day operation of this non-profit turtle conservation program. Volunteers are responsible for helping maintain the hatcheries, caring for adult turtles being rehabilitated, and patrolling the beaches at night. Volunteers are warned that the work can be physically demanding as some days will require up to seven hours of work, but don’t let that dissuade you! The volunteers at La Tortuga Feliz say it’s an incredibly rewarding and memorable experience.

  • Minimum stay: One week
  • Dormitory style cabins located on the beach
  • Three meals provided daily
  • Rates and reservations

4. The Center for Animal Rehabilitation and Education (C.A.R.E): Limpopo, South Africa

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The Center for Animal Rehabilitation and Education (C.A.R.E) is located in Limpopo, South Africa. Since 1989, C.A.R.E has been dedicated to rescuing abused, orphaned, and injured baboons and rehabilitating them so that they may be released back into the wild. C.A.R.E takes in baboons of all ages, and has had incredible success reintroducing and integrating baboons into troops in the wild. Volunteers are generally assigned to help with feeding and daily care for baby baboons upon arrival. Depending on how many volunteers are present at the center, C.A.R.E offers a number of other opportunities for volunteers including helping with the adult baboons, observing baboon behavior, facility maintenance, anti-poaching protocol, and invasive plant removal. 

Helping Animals and Having Fun

While helping animals in any regard is satisfying, some individuals have specific species they want to help. There are dozens of websites available for those interested in volunteering or interning. But make no mistake, not every organization has the best interest of the animals they’re caring for in mind. Be on the look out for false sanctuaries that profit from holding and breeding animals for tourism purposes. To ensure you’re steering clear of these sort of facilities, check out this article for red flags to look out for. Also, always make sure to do your research and ask questions beforehand!

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 Lead image source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services/Flickr