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Voluntary work with the world’s animals

There are countless voluntary opportunities worldwide, but one of the more popular types of project is working with animals, which can take place in a variety of settings and prove very rewarding.

Why volunteer?
If you enjoy experiencing new cultures and love animals, there can be no better experience than to take part in a voluntary role that allows for both interests. By working with animals abroad, you are in a unique position to learn about a different culture, while helping to take care of animals that you may not otherwise come into contact with.

The animals will vary depending on the country visited, but for example, a project in Australia may involve work with injured Koalas, while an African project could see rare chances for contact with lion cubs. Perhaps you see yourself with an interactive job such as handling the animals or taking a less involved role in research or as a guide or ranger.

Types of project
There are numerous opportunities for hard-working and enthusiastic volunteers, from working in zoos to experiencing life in a nature reserve or hatchery. Whatever option you choose, be prepared to reap the rewards of helping animals, as you may never get the chance to be this hands on, or volunteer abroad again.

Roles are varied and in a zoo, may involve educating visitors about conservation, hand-rearing baby animals, food preparation and general site maintenance. A rescue position can hold different challenges and may require volunteers to help facilitate rehabilitation, or even play a key role in rescuing abused or abandoned animals.

Typically, whatever the capacity, it’s not unreasonable to consider that volunteers can be instrumental in rehabilitating animals, caring for them, learning about their habitat, guiding visitors and even releasing animals back into the wild.

Whatever the role, it is sure to be varied and allow you to gain first-hand knowledge of animal care, as well as supporting you in developing a range of caring skills and a better understanding of conservation, which is a key issue everywhere.

Making the best of the experience
The best way to be an active participant in any project is to go in with an open-mind, as well as a willingness to learn and of course work hard.

While the work is extremely rewarding, it may also be emotional, so prepare for that, allowing experienced staff to lead the way. Take the opportunities given, especially when it comes to sharing your own skills, or helping to educate others.

Another important thing to be aware of is how your own actions may impact on the often fragile local environments, so be sensitive to the communities you are living in and respect the culture and traditions you encounter.

Whether you are a gap year student, retired, or on a career break, its possible to volunteer abroad and make the most of unique opportunities working with native creatures, some of which may even be rare or endangered. This is a privilege and by grabbing the opportunity with both hands, you can make a real difference to the lives of animals across the world.

Adriana Frederick has been lucky enough to have had several chances to volunteer abroad and in doing so, she has enjoyed close contact with a range of animals in different settings.


2 Responses to “Voluntary work with the world’s animals”

  • This is something i’d LOVE to do if I ever get the chance. I can imagine it to be super rewarding, but I think to get on a lot of these programs they actually charge a fee just to help, which in my opinion is ridiculous!

  • Helen says:

    There are some great places to volunteer to work with animals in Peru. A friend of mine volunteered at an animal sanctuary for endangered rain forest animals in Iquitos and he got to look after a baby ocelot.
    Best of all he didn’t have to pay to work there.