6 Endangered Animals Asking YOU to do Wildlife Volunteering

by Kelsey Haynes

You freed the frogs on dissection day. You sobbed when Mufasa died. You asked your parents for just about every pet imaginable. You are an animal lover, and it’s about time you turned your passion into action.

Hundreds of wildlife volunteer opportunities are available for those of you wanting to help the endangered animals. From working to protect specific animals (like the great white shark!), to conserving habitats abundant with life (such as the Galapagos Islands!), there is a demand at every site. With most wildlife volunteering, aside from doing what you were born to do (help animals, of course), you will also have the opportunity to explore a new country and gain valuable life skills.

Closeup of a lions face
The King of Beasts needs your help!

Here are six endangered species in desperate need of care and how you can help them by becoming a wildlife volunteer abroad:

1. Lions

Volunteer in Africa and offer your services by working with big cats. Today, there are fewer than 30,000 lions roaming African savannahs and they have gone extinct in 26 countries. Though lions populate 29 countries between Africa and Asia, the expansion of farms and communities into their natural habitat presents a large threat to this vulnerable species. Not only are they rapidly losing natural space, lions are also being killed illegally by farmers wanting to protect their land and resources. The sport-hunting of lions’ natural prey, like zebras, buffaloes, and young elephants, is problematic and causes lions to look to livestock for a food source.

What you can do:

Mane-y opportunities to volunteer with wildlife abroad entail working with big cats. Zimbabwe and South Africa offer the most wildlife volunteer opportunities for those who want to specifically support the conservation of big cats. As a big cat volunteer, you could be tasked with bottle feeding cubs, sweeping for snares, preparing meat for the cats to eat, cleaning enclosures, patrolling boundaries, preparing young lions for release by walking with them in a natural habitat, and educating local communities on conservation efforts. Volunteering in Africa with animals has never looked so good!

Note: make sure you aren’t going to be volunteering in a place that is anything like the recently closed Tiger Temple in Thailand.

Sea turtle in the open water
These sea turtles need more than just their shells for protection; they need you!

2. Sea Turtles

Sea turtles are a vital part of the marine ecosystem, but currently three out of seven species are critically endangered. Climate change poses a threat to their nesting grounds, and turtles are highly coveted by poachers for their shells, eggs, meat, and skin. Tacked onto the list of causes of sea turtle endangerment include pollution, accidental entrapment into fishing nets, and beachfront developments are also legitimate and undeniable threats to the sea turtle population. Not so “RIGHTEOUS” after all, huh?

What you can do:

Look into wildlife volunteering in Ecuador, Costa Rica, or Malaysia to help with sea turtle conservation! As a volunteer focused on sea turtle conservancy, you might collect sea turtle measurements, tag sea turtles, count eggs, collect vulnerable eggs and take them to the local hatchery, observe eggs in the hatchery, release baby turtles, and patrol the shores. Can you picture your dream destination yet?

3. Primates

This is some serious monkey business: it’s estimated that 25 percent of primate species are close to extinction; however, most all primate species are considered endangered. The massive and continuous loss of primate habitats, due to the burning and clearing of forests, threaten the animal’s safety from predators and environmental hazards. Other threats include poaching, illegal wildlife trade, and the hunting of primates for food. Ready to be the next great ape monkey volunteer abroad?

What you can do: 

Become a wildlife volunteer abroad in South Africa, Indonesia, or Thailand to help protect human’s closest biological relative. Depending on which wildlife volunteering program you choose, you could be responsible for preparing food for animals, feeding the young primates, assisting keepers with husbandry (on breeding conservations), planting food for primates, and building and cleaning enclosures.

Girl smiling and riding an elephant in the rainforest
Wrap your arms around the best cause through wildlife volunteering abroad!

4. Elephants

African and Asian elephants are quickly shrinking in population, due to ruthless droughts, sizable deforestation, and illegal poaching. With less than 600,000 African elephants and—alarmingly— no more than 40,000 Asian elephants left in the wild, these two species need an immense amount of help and protection. With such high prices placed on their coveted ivory tusks, elephants are reduced to price tags for poachers even despite the placement of the Ivory Trade Ban in 1989. Before you sign up to volunteer with wildlife abroad at an elephant sanctuary, be sure to ask questions to suss out the legitimacy of each wildlife volunteering program.

What you can do:

Sri Lanka and Thailand are popular destinations for wildlife volunteering focused on elephant conservation. Volunteering abroad with elephants will put your heart and skills to work in feeding, bathing, and exercising elephants, caring for baby elephants, educating the community on the importance of elephant conservation, and conducting important maintenance and cleaning tasks.

5. African Penguins

The population of African penguins has decreased dramatically since the boom of industrialism. Commercial fisheries force these penguins to search for food further offshore than usual, which leaves them open to predators, or otherwise forces them to settle for less nutritious or no meals altogether. Seemingly small-scale affairs, the incredibly low number of penguins now fall victim to seagulls stealing eggs, being preyed upon by seals, and bad weather. These small issues transform into major problems as the penguin population decreases. These African penguins can’t catch a break as they are also been hunted illegally and have fallen victim to oil spills and other sea pollution.

Two penguins standing on a rock
Keep these “happy feet” moving and volunteer to help preserve these penguin’s homes!

What you can do:

Head to South Africa to work with these little creatures! Volunteers wanting to work with African penguins can expect to wash penguins, clean swimming pools and pens, help with feeding, and administer necessary medications. Remember to always, always, be sure you are making a REAL difference as a wildlife volunteer abroad.

6. Giant Pandas

Currently, fewer than 2,000 giant pandas inhabit the earth. The most critical threat has been and continues to be habitat loss due to China’s population growth and industrial expansion. Forests are continuously being cleared which leads to food shortages—along with no home—for these pandas. Their main food source, bamboo, is struggling to maintain its presence as it is being cut down to make room for farmland.

What you can do:

Travel on over to China and assist the giant pandas in their struggle to stay in their natural homes and have enough food to grow and thrive. Wildlife volunteering with pandas may require volunteers to prepare food, clean panda enclosures, observe behaviors, and collect data for continuous research.

Change begins first with education, and then by thoughtful and calculated action.
A panda eating bamboo
Don’t sit around! Volunteer abroad to get pandas like these to safety

These are only a few examples wildlife volunteer opportunities working with endangered species, as these six animals cannot solely represent an entire population of endangered species around the world.

Choose a wildlife volunteer abroad program, a cause of worldly importance, and make plans now to support these animals on their long journey back to safety!