Did you know that over 56% of the global population lives in cities? This means over half of the people on earth don’t see nature or wildlife on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. For most of us, what is out of sight is out of mind.
While humans have made huge advancements in the last few decades in urban settings, we’ve compromised the health of our natural environment and the animals that live in it. Human-driven causes such as overpopulation, deforestation, consumer culture and climate change are leaving mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish at risk - but it is never too late to make a difference.
At International Volunteer HQ, wildlife conservation is always top of mind. Our Wildlife Conservation programs and wildlife volunteers are integral to helping protect species, preserve habitats and prevent extinction. We tackle both the seen and the unseen impacts of human life.
From protecting critically endangered black rhinos on the plains of Africa to tracking sea turtles on the beaches of Costa Rica, we’ve compiled a list of the best wildlife volunteer opportunities abroad. If you’re wanting to explore long-term careers in wildlife conservation or if you’re an animal lover who wants to play a hands-on role in helping to protect wild species, we have a program waiting for you. We only have one earth after all - let’s look after it.
Learn more about wildlife conservation and explore the best conservation volunteer opportunities below:
- What is the goal of wildlife conservation?
- What's it like to volunteer abroad on a wildlife conservation program?
- Is wildlife volunteering abroad cheap?
- What are the best wildlife conservation volunteer programs?
- Seeking a career in wildlife conservation?
IVHQ’s Wildlife Conservation programs all work towards the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations.
What is the goal of wildlife conservation?
Wildlife conservation is defined as the conscious human effort to protect plant and animal species and their natural habitats. By conserving wildlife, we’re ensuring a healthy ecological balance so that future generations can enjoy our natural world and the incredible species that live within it.
The importance of wildlife conservation goes beyond saving our flora and fauna, however.
Animal, plant and marine biodiversity keeps ecosystems functional, and healthy ecosystems allow humans to eat, survive and thrive. When species are at risk of extinction or disappear all together, our ecosystems suffer. The result? Human beings suffer - specifically those in under resourced communities.
Our community of IVHQ volunteers hold a deep respect for the delicate human-animal relationship and play a hands-on role in protecting wild species to prevent extinction, one volunteer at a time. Our goal is to leave every place better than we found it. Over the last 16 years, we’ve seen first hand the powerful results of effective wildlife conservation across jungles, forests, coastlines and more.
As the only certified B Corporation in our field, IVHQ’s impact on volunteers, communities, the environment and wildlife is audited and held to the highest ethical standards.
IVHQ is the only volunteer travel company to be a member of the Volunteer Groups Alliance - a global coalition of organizations committed to sustainable development through volunteering. All of our Wildlife Conservation volunteer programs align with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, with a particular focus on building more sustainable communities, taking climate action, protecting life below water and conserving life on land.
What’s it like to volunteer abroad on a wildlife conservation program?
Check out this incredible video from IVHQ wildlife volunteer, Hunter, on his recent Wildlife Conservation project on a private game reserve in Victoria Falls, Africa. Hunter saw wild elephant, black rhino, lion, cape buffalo, hyena, crocodile and helped protect their precious home through a range of conservation activities.
Here’s how he got on:
“This program left an incredible mark on me and I really feel like I left a little piece of my heart there. I can’t wait to go back. I worked on roads being reclaimed by vegetation, uprooted poisonous Lantana plants, saw wild elephant, black rhino, lion, cape buffalo, hyena, crocodile and more! Dean, Justine and the rest of the local team at the game reserve were incredible. The accommodation was perfect and the food was outstanding. I learned so much and truly had the experience of a lifetime.”
Is wildlife volunteering abroad cheap?
At IVHQ, we believe that wildlife volunteer opportunities should be available to everyone. Our fully-hosted volunteer experiences are organized for you by our knowledgeable local teams, making it the most affordable, convenient and hassle-free way to become a wildlife volunteer.
You’ll also get exclusive access to discounted IVHQ add-on activities, such as safaris and volcano tours. This means you can immerse yourself in the natural environment and local culture at an affordable rate while making a positive impact on wildlife conservation.
Across our wildlife conservation programs, associated costs feed directly into local economies to support communities and their wildlife initiatives. IVHQ prioritizes the longevity of each local project to ensure that wildlife and environmental conservation remains top of mind for local and international communities.
What are the best wildlife conservation volunteer opportunities?
We’ve rounded up our favorite Wildlife Conservation programs across Africa, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Pacific to help you find the program that best suits your skills, goals and personal interests.
Best Africa wildlife volunteer programs
Spanning nearly 2 million hectares, Kruger National Park is one of Africa’s largest and most renowned game reserves. Home to an abundance of wildlife, including the ‘Big 5’ (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalo), there is no shortage of spectacular sights. Immerse yourself in life on the reserve and enjoy the diverse environment, all while making a difference towards wildlife conservation.
South Africa Wildlife Conservation volunteers complete an introductory period to learn about the reserve and basic bush ecology. You’ll then be placed on a range of seasonal conservation projects from vulture nest monitoring to vegetation sampling, dependent on climate changes, environmental factors, animal behaviour and external human intervention.
As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the iconic Victoria Falls attracts people from around the world based on its sheer size and beauty. The Victoria Falls game reserve also acts as an intensive protection zone for the critically endangered black rhino.
While Wildlife Conservation volunteers in Victoria Falls don’t deal with animals directly, you’ll play a critical support role in ensuring the conservation and upkeep of the game reserve. Activities include animal tracking, camping out on the reserve and supporting partner organizations including Birdlife Zimbabwe, Endangered Wildlife Trust and Zimbabwe National Parks Authority.
The rainforests of Zanzibar - located off the coast of Tanzania - are home to some of the most fascinating ecosystems in the world and is famously home to the Red Colobus Monkey which are an endangered species only found in this region.
As a wildlife volunteer in Zanzibar, you’ll have the unique opportunity to reconnect with nature, immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture and stay in a rustic jungle camp. Go into the wild and support conservation initiatives to protect native snakes, lizards, tortoises, chameleons and more. Tasks include planting, reforestation, tackling coastal erosion on the island and providing environmental education to local children so that these initiatives can continue for future generations.
Nosy Komba - a Madigascan Island - is home to much of the iconic wildlife that Madagascar is known for. Sadly, many of these endemic species are endangered due to habitat destruction from deforestation and increasing infrastructure.
As a Forest Conservation volunteer in Madagascar, you’ll help to monitor and assess local lemurs, reptiles and birds by spending time in the forest using specialized equipment and a range of surveys and techniques. While you won’t be physically handling animals, the information you gather will help local communities and national and international organizations to create management plans for the forest on Nosy Komba. This is integral to protecting the highly threatened Sambirano forests of Northwest Madagascar and the diverse species that call it home.
Based at a wildlife sanctuary in Namibia’s central highlands, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience living in the African bush while supporting a world-renowned wildlife conservation organization.
IVHQ’s Wildlife Rescue project in Namibia gives you the chance to get up close and personal with iconic African wildlife. Volunteers help care for orphaned, injured and conflict wildlife that reside at the sanctuary, such as lions, leopards, antelope, baboons, and more. The aim is to nourish these animals back to health and release them into the wild again, where possible. You’ll also get the chance to track and monitor wildlife on the reserve to support ongoing conservation research.
Best Latin America wildlife volunteering
Based on a private island off of mainland Belize, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to explore the stunning marine environment of the Caribbean. Volunteer efforts in this region are instrumental in combating the effects of climate change and preserving Belize’s marine wildlife.
As a Marine Conservation volunteer in Belize, you’ll enjoy an action-packed program, taking part in 13 dives each week to explore the ocean floor and get to know the diverse marine ecosystem. Other tasks include helping local marine biologists to gather data, conduct surveys and remove invasive species. In addition to daily dives, you’ll also be taught how to spear fish and carry out coral surveying.
Peru’s Amazon rainforest is a magical place, overflowing with lush scenery and exotic wildlife. Unfortunately, the recent rise of deforestation is threatening its native species and their natural habitats.
Based in the heart of the jungle, this is an immersive volunteer experience where you’ll contribute to the preservation of Peru’s rich biodiversity. As a conservation volunteer in the Amazon, you’ll enjoy tasks including reforestation, trail conservation, home-base maintenance, animal inventories and research projects. Immerse yourself in the outdoors while enjoying a rustic lifestyle without the hustle and bustle of city life.
Costa Rica is home to a range of stunning turtle species. Sadly, many are critically endangered - notably the Leatherback, Green, Olive Ridley and Hawksbill. While they produce thousands of hatchlings, only a few survive to reach adulthood.
As one of the top wildlife volunteer opportunities in Costa Rica, protecting these spectacular species will be at the heart of all your volunteer work. If you love nature, the marine environment and being part of rewarding volunteer work within a coastal setting, this is the program for you. Tasks include beach patrols, building hatcheries to protect eggs from predators, beach cleaning, counting and tagging sea turtles, locating nesting females, collecting eggs and replanting mangroves.
Best wildlife conservation volunteering in Europe
Wolves are mysterious and wild creatures, often associated with a mythical allure. In Portugal, wolves are largely unable to live in the wild and are often found in zoos, trappings and other poorly maintained confinements. Conservation centers are thus critical to ensuring wolves can live healthy and happy lives.
As a volunteer, you’ll join the Wolf Conservation project, located 30-minutes outside of Lisbon - Portugal’s vibrant capital city. Tasks include feeding and cleaning, animal observation, monitoring and facility maintenance. While you won’t have direct contact with the wolves themselves, your volunteer efforts will be instrumental to the longevity and health of the animals.
Help conserve wildlife at an ecological park in the town of Miranda do Corvo. You’ll be based in the beautiful Portuguese countryside, dotted with traditional Portuguese slate villages, hiking trails, medieval castles, and riverside beaches to relax on.
As an IVHQ volunteer, you’ll have the chance to help care for and protect populations of deer, wild boars, eagles, llamas, Euro-Asian lynx, Iberian wolves, European otters and brown bears. These animals have been rescued from zoos, private owners, and other situations in which they were mistreated. The ecological park also has a strong environmental and social inclusion mission, by employing those with disabilities, growing food locally, providing therapeutic horseback riding, and much more!
When you think of the Croatian coast, you likely envision sparkling clear Mediterranean waters, beaches full of swimmers and an abundance of sea life. While this is often the case, keeping the water clean with minimal pollution requires hard work from dedicated marine conservationists.
As a Marine Conservation volunteer based in the coastal Croatian city of Split, you’ll help a local dive school to restore and maintain the natural state of Croatia’s marine ecosystem. Tasks include scuba diving to conduct ocean clean-ups, logging information on items collected and observing and identifying fish.
Want to help preserve and protect bear populations in the picturesque landscapes of Kuterevo, Croatia? You’ll get to experience living in a traditional Croatian village surrounded by beautiful forests and mountains, and become part of the tight-knit local community, while doing something meaningful!
IVHQ’s Bear Conservation project is based at a sanctuary for bears who suffered maltreatment or were left in the wild without mothers when they were too young to be on their own. As a volunteer, you’ll be involved in maintaining the forest and surrounding environment, ensuring the wellbeing of all animals at the center, and supporting the visitor center’s needs. Join the mission to help safeguard bears’ habitats, protect the environment, and foster harmonious human-wildlife relationships!
Best wildlife conservation programs in Asia and Pacific
Located off the coast of Queensland, Australia is the Great Barrier Reef - the world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs. If you’re looking to volunteer with wildlife in Australia, this is the program for you. As a Marine Conservation volunteer, you’ll join a unique conservation project focused on the protection of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem.
Activities include coral reef surveying and marine data collection with direct training provided to volunteers on the ground. Based out of Cairns - the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef - you’ll get to explore the beauty of Queensland while making a positive difference.
Bali is one of the most sought after destinations in the world, notorious for its crystal clear blue water, picturesque beaches and beautiful sea turtles. Unfortunately, turtle populations have plummeted in recent years, leaving them highly endangered.
As a Turtle Conservation volunteer in Bali, you’ll have a hands-on role in caring for the turtles housed at a local conservation center. You’ll help with feeding and cleaning sea turtles, cleaning equipment at the center and other proactive conservation efforts. Based on the small island of Nusa Penida, this is a unique opportunity to get off the grid in a remote destination and experience first hand the importance of wildlife conservation.
Based at a small sanctuary on the outskirts of Chitwan National Park in Nepal, you can help conserve elephant populations by looking after rescued, old and injured elephants. Before coming to the sanctuary, elephants who require medical care are generally considered ‘worthless’ by their owners who only use them to make money for elephant rides. But at the sanctuary, they can live out their days and move around freely, in a safe and comfortable environment.
This is an amazing opportunity to assist local caretakers to care for these magnificent creatures. Volunteers who are practicing vets or veterinary students may also have the opportunity to assist with medical treatments and minor surgeries. You’ll also help educate local schools, communities and international travelers about the challenges elephants face for tourism.
Seeking a career in wildlife conservation?
If you’re interested in an active career with purpose that won’t be spent behind a desk – then volunteering on an Wildlife Conservation program will allow you to gain the relevant skills and experience, boosting your resume, job and college applications.
Another excellent option is a Conservation internship with our sister organization Intern Abroad HQ. Whether you’re after lab experience or ecology training, this will help you get your foot in the door and set you up for success in the conservation world. You’ll get the chance to work in an international conservation organization customized to your academic major or career path.
With flexible overseas and remote internships available, you can achieve all this from the comfort of your home, or in one of the world’s most sought after destinations. Intern Abroad HQ’s exclusive experiential learning curriculum works alongside your internship to enable you to gain a deep cultural intelligence, make your resume stand out and articulate your unique experience to future employers.