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 Volunteering abroad with animals: help lions like these ones in South Africa while on vacation. Janis Turk photo.Volunteering abroad with animals: help lions like these ones in South Africa while on vacation. Janis Turk photo.
Helping Animals While on Vacation

Do you love animals as much as you love to travel? Then a volunteer experience where you work with endangered animals may just be the trip for you! is a database with a wide range of volunteer projects. Visitors to the site can search anything from working in healthcare to working in education, or from working with children to working with animals. GoVoluntouring also understands that not every volunteer project is for everybody, so the site works to search for projects that fit each individual’s needs and interests.

So what essentially is “voluntourism”? “Its a holiday alternative.” Says Aaron Smith, the website founder. “And its one that has purpose behind it. “Voluntourism, in my mind, is swapping that all-inclusive for a project or program that has a positive impact at the end of the day.”

And helping save endangered animals is one trip that can have a very positive impact. Through, here is a sample of four destinations and projects that volunteers can take part in if they are interested in animal conservation.

A Leatherback Turtle. Photo by Sandy NesbittA Leatherback Turtle. Photo by Sandy NesbittSea Turtles in Trinidad

Trinidad is an island off the coast of Venezuela and hosts a program through Earthwatch Institute. It is home to sites such as the Rio Seco Waterfall, but is also home to one of the most important nesting beaches for leatherback turtles. These large reptiles, known as the “last living dinosaur,” are an endangered species.

As a volunteer, your job will be to patrol the beach each night with the staff of Nature Seekers to gather data for conservation efforts by tagging, measuring, and weighing turtles. Volunteers will spend time on the field gathering data to be used by researchers.

Working hours will be at night, which leaves volunteers to explore during the day. They can journey to nearby forests, swim in rivers, hike local trails, and see monkeys and birds in their natural habitat.

Lodging for volunteers also includes modern conveniences, shared double rooms, and home-cooked traditional Trinidadian meals. Yum!

Elephants and Gibbons Thailand

A growing population and an increase in urban development is having a negative effect on the wildlife of Thailand. Local wildlife also faces poaching and the threat of being sold on the black market. Animals like elephants and gibbons need our assistance by protecting their parks from habitat destruction and species loss.Thai ElephantsYou can help save elephants like these ones in Thailand. photo IS

As a volunteer, on this project through, you will be working with local grassroots organizations to assist in operating rescue and rehabilitation centers. The volunteers work with animals directly, so prepare to see some elephants up close!

The project also allows volunteers to experience the culture of Thailand during their stay. Volunteers are encourage to sample the local cuisine, explore temples and rainforests, and maybe even visit a beach or two.

Black Rhinos and Leopards in South Africa

Volunteers can choose from projects through or African Impact. Volunteers are tasked with monitoring endangered species of Africa such as black rhino, elephants, cheetahs, and leopards within a private game reserve.

The focus of the project through will be on the black rhino, whose population has rapidly decreased over the years due to hunting and poaching. The project includes tracking movements of the rhino, monitoring their movements and health, and removing snares which can threaten the animals. The focus of the project through African Impact will be on big cats and participating in animal observation and data gathering.

Lodging for volunteers are shared cabins on the game reserve, and are fed three meals a day. Other things included are airport pickup, laundry service, 24 hour support, and transportation to and from your project.

After volunteering on Thanda Private Game Reserve through African Impact, volunteer Lisa Viataris was asked what her favorite part of the experience was. “Watching over a lion who had been darted.” Says Lisa Vitaris. “The lion escaped into another section of the park and refused to come back. Darting it was the only option, and we were lucky enough to watch it come-to.” Here is just one example of how up-close-and-personal this volunteer experience can be!

Tracking rhinos in South Africa. Janis Turk photo.Tracking rhinos in South Africa. Janis Turk photo.Macaws in Peru

On this excursion with, volunteers have the chance to work with animals such as the endangered blue headed macaw, as well as jaguars and monkeys. Volunteers will be making a difference by helping preserve the Amazonian rainforest in Peru and supporting conservation in the Manu region.

What can you expect on this trip? You will be doing scientific research, learn about human impact on biodiversity, work on research surveys and conservation projects, and have the chance to explore Peru! “Some early mornings I would be mist-netting or going to the Colpa.” Says volunteer Rebecca Crane about her daily activities on this project. "I tried a night out too, seeking out the night birds. Other times I was around the MLC imputing data, sewing butterfly traps, leaf sorting, or helping out in the kitchen.”

The website states that lodging for volunteers is an “award winning Eco lodge in the heart of the Peruvian rainforest.” Volunteers also are given a four-day jungle excursion if volunteering for four weeks or longer.

Even More!

These are only a few of the many trips that can be found on If you are interested in travelling for animal conservation but none of these trips intrigue you, I encourage you to make your own search through the GoVoluntouring database. I guarantee you will find an experience that suits you!

Rachel Siden is a graduate of the University of Mass who lives in Amherst MA.

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Tags: storySection: Animal Stories,Helps
Location: Africa
author: Rachel Siden
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