Volunteer in Europe
European Conservation Organizations Seek Volunteers
Volunteering for conservation projects is a fantastic way to see endangered species in the wild, meet interesting people from all over the world, and travel to beautiful areas. Several European wildlife and conservation organizations are looking for volunteers to work with endangered species and spaces. One week is often enough, but many volunteers spend an entire summer or longer on the projects.
Last year, as assistant editor for Green Volunteers: The World Guide to Voluntary Work in Nature Conservation (www.greenvolunteers.org), which lists hundreds of projects throughout the world and a large number in Europe, I visited a few of the many conservation projects in the Mediterranean that accepts volunteers.
The Tethys Research Institute (based in Milan), www.tethys.org/index_e.htm, takes groups of 10 volunteers to scan the horizon for whales. Every day was exciting, whether it was watching a group of the rare Rissos dolphins, with young calves leaping and swimming all around our boat, or a fin whale, one of the largest whale species in the world, swimming alongside us and dwarfing our 66-foot motor-sailer. At night we had dinner on the boat and discussed the days work or walked into one of the towns along the coast before settling down on deck for a contented sleep under the stars.
The Adriatic Dolphin Project, www.blue-world.org, studies bottlenose dolphins. Located on the island of Cres off Croatia, researchers take volunteers out on a small motorized boat to help with the sightings.
The Griffon Vulture Project, www.supovi.hr/english/index.php, on the same island, works to rehabilitate injured or sick birds. Marked trails lead through the flora to tiny nearby villages. The islands of Croatia are beautiful, and I spent my recreation hours swimming, hiking, and sightseeing.
The projects in Greece are very affordable for the low-budget traveler because volunteers stay in their own tents and pay a small daily food allowance.
Pylos Lagoon Chameleon Project, www.ornithologiki.gr/en/hos/envol_05_pylos.htm, is trying to protect one of the last populations in the world of the African chameleon.
Archelon, www.archelon.gr/eng/volunt.htm, works to study, protect, and rehabilitate the various species of sea turtle that nest on the beaches of Greece. Loggerhead sea turtles were nesting when I came to visit the projects on the islands of Zakynthos and Crete. The work was hard but highly rewarding. A hatchling watch starts at 5 a.m. to ensure that any late hatchlings make it to the water before the sun rises and they become disorientated and exhausted. The group receive little or no funding and must rely heavily upon volunteers to provide labor and revenue.
For More Info
Extremely dedicated and prepared researchers are involved in similar projects all over Europe. The cost that is sometimes required to volunteer is often much less than that of similar projects offered by American organizations. I cannot think of a better way to do something to make a difference with my vacation time. Check out the Green Volunteers web site at www.greenvolunteers.org for more information.