Volunteer Abroad at a Wildlife Conservation Centre

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

If you’re a nature and wildlife lover and want to learn more about animal conservation, organisations with volunteer programmes can help you do just that. There are reputable companies around the world offering placements of between 2 and 12 weeks or longer. Apply, and you could find yourself supporting community efforts and working with elephants in northern Thailand, joining a team to conduct wildlife research in South Africa, or preserving rare sea turtles in Costa Rica. Here are some of the most interesting wildlife conservation volunteering options to whet your appetite!

Protect Sea Turtles in Costa Rica

Tortuguero National Park is tucked away along Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coastline. Surrounded by meandering canal waterways and dense rainforest spanning 120 square miles, it is only accessible via boat or small aircraft. This spectacular area is home to rare wildlife species including the jaguar, 4 types of monkey, over 400 species of bird and sea turtles. Each year between the months of April and October thousands of leatherback, hawksbill and green sea turtles swim to the shores of Tortuguero to lay their eggs. As the tropical coastline spans over 20 miles, this makes them targets for illegal poachers and jaguars which roam the region. The good news is, today, there are several conservation efforts in Costa Rica helping to protect the sea turtles. During a volunteering expedition, you’ll learn about turtle biology and behaviour, experience group night time beach patrols, observe the nesting process and record numbers of sea turtles arriving and departing the shores. You may also have the opportunity to conduct bird and jaguar tracking and carry out biological surveys of the rainforest ecosystem. These unique volunteering opportunities in Costa Rica offer the perfect introduction for those seeking a career change and wishing to move into a conservation based role.

Big Cat and Rhino Conservation in South Africa

If you’ve enjoyed safari’s or game drives in South Africa, these volunteering opportunities will elevate your experience to a whole new level. GVI offer tours which last up to 24 weeks and during this time you will learn how to identify predator v’s prey, observe behaviour, spatial movement and social structures of big cat, elephant and rhino habitats. You will also see the efforts being put in place to educate local communities and children about the importance of animal conservation. Some of the focus will centre around critically endangered species such as the black and white rhinoceros. Volunteers will gain insight into the global issue of poaching and prevention and begin to understand the impact on the ecosystem when important animals are lost. This opportunity is not for the faint hearted as you can spend up to 12 hours a day collecting data in searing heat, however the rewards will definitely overshadow the long hours! During your stay, there will be free time to enjoy a safari at Kruger National Park, gain spectacular photos at Blyde River Canyon and visit the beautiful Drakensberg Mountains. After the day is complete, you can settle down to sleep under starry skies of the southern hemisphere, seeking out constellations and astronomical wonders.

Monitor the Behaviour of Elephants in Northern Thailand

The lush emerald landscapes and temples of Chiang Mai province in northern Thailand await, a semi-rural wonderland, home to vast herds of elephants who have been rescued from the tourism industry. These intelligent, herbivorous creatures now live their lives roaming forests, playfully bathing in rivers and relishing their new-found freedom. This interesting volunteer opportunity focuses primarily on elephant behaviour, their biology and social interactions and observes the gentle giants in their natural habitat. Visit the hillside villages of the Karen community whose people have worked alongside elephants for hundreds of years and see how the mammals respond to mahouts and each other. Elephants are a keystone species which play a critical role in maintaining the structure of an environment or ecological community, therefore, there’s no better way to show your appreciation for nature than learning how to preserve and protect these magnificent animals.

Marine Species Conservation in Fiji

Where better to spend time volunteering than on a tropical island in the South Pacific! Marine species conservation is no easy task, given the percentage of ocean to earth on our planet, but getting involved in a conservation effort in Fiji is a good place to start. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #14 relates to “Life Below Water”, therefore, there are now more resources available to allow organisations to work with local island communities and schools to make a difference. During a GVI volunteering expedition, you will discover flora, fauna and natural ocean environments around the islands, learn about climate change and coral bleaching and help to clear beaches and waters of plastic pollution. Any volunteer opting to stay for longer than 2 weeks will also learn how to dive with a PADI instructor, gaining them Coral Reef Speciality and Advanced Open Water certificates which will greatly enhance chances of beginning a fulfilling career in marine conservation.

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