The Best Animal Volunteer Projects Abroad
Volunteering with animals abroad is a fulfilling experience for those looking to combine a passion for travel and working with animals. Whether it’s providing care within animal shelters, supporting the conservation of sea turtles, or marveling at majestic creatures like elephants, International Volunteer HQ has an Animal or Wildlife conservation volunteer project to cater for all kinds of animal lovers.
Costa Rica - Turtle Conservation
Symbolic for being creatures of longevity and wisdom, you will truly be captivated by the Turtle Conservation project in Costa Rica. With placements located on the Pacific Coast and Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, you will quickly find a home away from home in your coastal surroundings. Volunteer roles on this project vary according to the time of year, but general work includes beach patrols, building hatcheries to protect eggs from predators, beach cleaning, counting and tagging sea turtles and locating nesting females. Due to human disturbance, the ecosystem of the turtles often makes for difficult breeding conditions, volunteers play a vital role in ensuring breeding conditions are ideal for the turtles, increasing their chances of survival.
Haley Erickson (20, USA) had this to say of her experience “IVHQ was my very first volunteer experience. I worked on the Sea Turtle Conservation project in Ostional, Costa Rica. It was such an amazing experience. I was able to meet so many different people, and work almost every day with sea turtles. I really felt like I helped make a difference, and helped conservation efforts for the sea turtles at this beach. I would highly recommend this program and IVHQ. You will be a different person when you’re done”.
Related project: Bali - Ubud - Turtle Conservation
The Bali - Ubud Turtle Conservation project is located on the smaller island of Nusa Penida, which is a 45 minute speed boat ride from Sanur, Bali. Here volunteers work alongside a local team to protect the endangered sea turtles of Indonesia via both proactive and reactive activities. Volunteer work is focussed on hands on care for the turtles housed at the conservation center, including the feeding and cleaning of turtles and the equipment at the centre. Please note that volunteers on the Turtle Conservation project must participate on the project for a minimum of two weeks. This project is ideal for those wanting cultural immersion, as well as meaningful volunteer work.
Guatemala - Animal Care/Animal Rights
For many of us, household pets are an integral part of our lives. Whether you’re a cat or dog lover, you will be unified in your desire to assist the animals on the Animal Care project in Guatemala. Located 10 minutes out of Antigua, there are opportunities to work within animal shelter for household pets, or a center for exoctic animals, giving you the opportunity to interact with big snakes, spiders, turtles and crocodiles. Whilst volunteering on the project, you can expect to protect these animals and provide human company, medical treatment and playtime for the animals. There is also capacity to run spay/neuter programs, rabies vaccinations at clinics, fundraising events and lead educational programs in local schools.
Laura Austin (28, USA) “Volunteering at a vet clinic in La Antigua, Guatemala was one of the best decisions I have ever made. When I first registered for the program I was beyond nervous and questioning if I had made the right the choice. By the time I had boarded the plane I knew this would be a great adventure and I was right. From meeting a bunch of awesome people to living with a local family, eating local food and experiencing their holidays and culture - my entire two weeks was filled with breathtaking moments. I climbed an active volcano, spent an amazing day at Lake Atitlan and celebrated all saints day. I highly suggest making a list of all the things you want to do and completing some daily so you don’t miss out.”
Mexico - Animal Care/Animal Rights
Peru - Cusco - Animal Care
Both projects offer a very similar structure to the Guatemala animal care project, within their own unique environments. Volunteers have the opportunity to work in cat/dog shelters, where they bathe, brush, train, walk, and play with the cats and dogs to prepare them for adoption. Cleaning cages and providing maintenance to their facilities is also important work. Educating the local community is an integral part of these programs and a way forward in reducing current issues. Depending on the experience you hope to gain from your volunteer trip, Mexico and Peru have a wealth of history to explore and should be on every adventurers must visit list.
Portugal - Wolf Conservation
With the threat of extinction looming, wolves are protected under Portuguese law. Long seen as predators to Portuguese farmers, great efforts by conservation groups have been made to prevent extinction and support the coexistence of farmers and wolves through education campaigns. The key role of volunteers on this project is to support the wolves in their environment, helping out on a variety of day-to-day tasks at the center, including assisting with animal feeding, checking water, maintenance of the center, fire prevention, cleaning, observing wolf behavior and movement, assisting with visiting school groups, clearing Eucalyptus trees, reforestation, and monitoring of visitors. Located in the town of Mafra, 25 minutes from Lisbon, this beautiful oasis allows you to live in cabin-style accommodation right by the wolf enclosures and you will truly feel immersed in during your 2 weeks.
Being such a unique project, there is nothing that compares to the Portugal Wolf Conservation project. Therefore, here are some great tour options to enjoy whilst you’re there, here are our top recommendations:
- Explore the mysterious, yet wonderful town of Sintra.
- Visit the beaches of Cascais.
- Go surfing in Ericeira.
- Immerse yourself in the cultural capital of Lisbon.
Sri Lanka - Wild Elephant Conservation
The Sri Lankan Elephant subspecies is the largest of the Asian countries, holding great cultural and religious significance in Sri Lanka. They have come under great threat due to the loss of forests and clearing for human settlements and expanding agriculture. Sri Lankan elephants are viewed as a nuisance by many rural people, as they invade farms looking for crops. The aim of the Wild Elephant Conservation project is to develop effective measures to resolve human-elephant conflict. Volunteer tasks include assessing human-elephant conflicts, mapping biodiversity using surveying techniques, assisting with the implementation of human-elephant conflict resolution projects, and developing sustainable rural livelihood initiatives. Listed as an endangered species, you will play an integral role during your 2 weeks to ensure longevity is maintained in conservation efforts.
Further Wildlife Expeditions
Whilst in Sri Lanka, you will be surrounded by beautiful animals throughout your stay and for those willing explorers, there is the opportunity to witness Sri Lanka’s Big Five, which is The Blue Whale, Sperm Whale, Leopard, Tropical Bear and Asian Elephant, which you will be familiar with during the program. Wildlife tours can be booked for long weekends or added on to the end of your trip. These can be booked prior to departure or in consultation with the local team.
Victoria Falls - Wildlife Conservation
It isn’t everyday that you get to experience living inside a wildlife reserve with “Big 5” animals such as, lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo.Volunteers on the Wildlife Conservation project in Victoria Falls are based within a private game reserve which also serves as an intensive protection zone for the critically endangered black rhino. Here you have the opportunity to get involved in conservation management practices, all of which are vital for the successful operation of the game reserve, its surrounding areas and their ecosystems. Conservation activities may include alien vegetation removal, applying soil erosion control methods, vulture feeding ground maintenance, fence patrols, bush walks with International Anti-Poaching Foundation, waterhole creation, maintenance and monitoring, freshwater ecosystem analysis, game, predator and bird monitoring, tracking and counting, road maintenance, upkeep of river crossings, predator culvert checks and reserve clean-up operations. Accommodated on site at the conservation center, you will truly feel at one with the wild.
Jennifer Gao (25, Australia) “It was such a surreal experience volunteering at Victoria Falls and I’ve learnt so much about the African wildlife and the importance of the conservation efforts here. One of the highlights was working right next to the rhinos as we were building the bomas for them. I’ve really been able to develop a new appreciation for the beautiful wildlife that live in this world”.
Whilst on the Victoria Falls program, there is no shortage of weekend activities to take part in and you will struggle to find these anywhere else in the world! Must do’s include:
- Sitting in Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls
- Safari through Zambezi National Park
- Whitewater rafting, Bungee jumping, Abseiling, Zip lining, or Gorge swinging at the Zambezi river