If your ideal volunteer abroad experience involves hiking up mountains, crossing rivers and streams, backpacking trips into the wilderness, or wading into oceanic habitats, all while exploring a new and exciting place, then you may be fit to volunteer with wildlife abroad. Every year, government organizations and charities from all over the world collect data on various wildlife species, both on land and in the sea, to use for research projects and conservation efforts. Many countries with high populations of wildlife especially struggle to complete this important work, therefore international volunteers are needed to conduct surveys and collect essential data.
Many countries, with rare wildlife species, conduct wildlife surveys only rarely because of issues with staff shortages or other resource limitations. Developing countries especially struggle to obtain the needed resources to collect this important wildlife data. To help combat these issues, wildlife surveying volunteers can help understaffed organizations collect vital information, which will help ensure the survival and archival of a multitude of animal species.
Though some argue about the methods involved in wildlife surveying, the data collected from such surveys illustrates important data trends related to things such as animal migration patterns, eating habits, or environmental needs. Once collected, this data ensures that conservation organizations and government entities have the necessary information to make responsible decisions about wildlife care, habitat restoration, and numerous environmental programs. Furthermore, surveying endangered or threatened species may provide data critical to the species future survival.
As a volunteer with wildlife abroad, your work will go beyond helping animals, it will become an investment in the Earth’s future.
Fortunately for lovers of the outdoors, wilderness exists in nearly every country, and, with it, comes opportunities to volunteer with wildlife abroad. If you’re interested in rainforest habitats, South American countries such as Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru are home to unique creatures found nowhere else in the world. Whether you’re observing birds like the toucan, parrot, or quetzal, or mammals like gorillas or chimpanzees, hiking into the rainforest to collect important data will be a demanding and enriching task.
Coastal regions, like Costa Rica or Belize, see an average of 200 different kinds of birds each season, so many important research projects in these regions revolve around bird migration patterns.
If you are looking into volunteering in animal conservation corps, such as in refugee centers, a large number of Asian countries have sanctuaries that utilize wildlife surveying volunteers to gather data about various animals’ natural habitats and to ensure sanctuaries are doing everything in their power to make the lives of animals healthy and comfortable. Those interested in volunteering with wildlife abroad should consider volunteering with elephant orphanages in Thailand, bear sanctuaries in Vietnam, or dog rescues in the Philippines.
Africa is a rich and diverse continent, providing plenty of opportunities to volunteer with wildlife. Wildlife surveying in South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania, are important ventures, as many wildlife research projects are just beginning in these areas of the world. Madagascar is a wildlife hotspot, as the unique island environment means that nearly 90 percent of wildlife found in Madagascar are endemic, found nowhere else on earth. Wildlife volunteering in Madagascar will be a truly once in a lifetime opportunity.
For those wishing to travel to a specific region, country, or even city, you are in luck. Wildlife surveying is one of the only volunteer roles available that can be performed nearly anywhere, from sandy beaches and rainforests to arid landscapes or dense forests.
The act of surveying wildlife involves the observation, counting, and diligent recording of animals in their natural habitats. Oftentimes animals to be observed are exotic and live in specialized locations, such as specific areas of rainforests, coastal environments, or high altitude rivers or streams. This is the ideal volunteer placement for people who don’t want to be trapped in an office all day, but would rather hike several miles taking field notes of animal related activity.
Depending on where you choose to volunteer abroad, you could be working with a conservation organization collecting survey data, looking for information on endangered or threatened species, supporting a wildlife sanctuary or rescue center, or helping a government department gather accurate data for hunting and fishing state departments.
Those who volunteer with wildlife abroad will likely work with a group of peers, and most often a supervisor. As your become more competent in your responsibilities, you may end up completing a portion of your field work alone, however.
No matter the position, volunteering with wildlife abroad involves relatively similar daily tasks. A typical day might involve traveling to a location, potentially tagging animals or observing their scat or other markings they leave, recording your observations carefully, and at the end of the day turning in your collected data to superiors for further exploration. If you’re a biology or wildlife student in their junior or senior year, or a recent graduate of a wildlife related degree program, you could potentially be involved in the post-analysis of collected data too.
The organization you choose to volunteer with wildlife abroad with will typically arrange your living situation during your volunteer program. Government housing in some areas is a possibility depending on the country of your choice, but the more common housing is in camping grounds or bunkhouses with other volunteers. The period of volunteering can vary from a few weeks to an entire summer period, up to three months, based on the institution or program provider.
- Irreplaceable Field Experience. Whether you’re working toward a degree in biology, wildlife, or a related science, or have recently graduated and are looking for some experience working in the field to pad your resume or practice relevant skills, volunteering abroad as a wildlife surveyor can be extremely beneficial. With a flexible schedule and active field duties, this is the ideal volunteer experience, which can be tailored to your expertise or your locational preferences.
- Physically Demanding. Though sometimes physically demanding, the benefits of volunteering with wildlife abroad are plentiful.
- Experience with Unique & Diverse Species. This type of volunteer placement can expose you to environments containing creatures and vegetation you have only read about in textbooks, introduce you to a foreign land in a hands-on manner, and familiarize you with a culture of conservation, education, and love for wildlife around the world.