Wildlife Volunteer Programs Ideal
for College Students and Grads
Help is Needed for Endangered Species
By Lavanya Sunkara
Resources updated 12/30/2023 by Transitions Abroad
Lions are endangered in Africa
for a variety of reasons, but there exist volunteer
projects to protect them from poachers.
The king of the jungle is slowly marching
towards extinction. The bears of Asia are whiling away in
cages in bile farms. Marine life is facing threats from
climate change and pollution. The mighty elephants are being
worked to death. Our closest relatives, the chimpanzees,
are fighting for survival. While humans may be responsible
for the plight of these animals, we also have the power
to turn things around. We can promote animal welfare on
social media, refrain from visiting aquatic theme parks
and circuses, and we can send money to wildlife conservation
organizations. But the best way to really help animals is
by learning and doing.
With an increasing number of opportunities
available across the globe, it’s become much easier
to participate in programs crucial to species conservation.
Spending a considerable amount of your time on the ground
allows you to witness the change you are making for the
wildlife and local communities, and inspires you to enact
change in the future.
Whether you’re seeking your calling
post-college, looking to gain experience in a particular
field, or simply hoping to make a positive difference during
a transition period, we’ve put together six amazing
volunteer experiences that could make an indelible impact
on both you and the animals.
Nature Park Project in Thailand
Help protect elephants from abuse
as a volunteer in Thailand.
When you imagine elephants in Thailand,
your first thought is probably to ride them. Sadly, elephants
found in parks and trekking companies have undergone tremendous
torture in order to be suitable for riding. They are chained
when not working, and poked with bullhooks by their handlers
when they don’t cooperate. Elephant
Nature Park (ENP), located north of Chiang Mai, is a
true sanctuary for abused and neglected elephants, where
they can live out their lives in peace. There are no chains
and no rides given, only love and care. Volunteers have
a life enhancing opportunity to be around these majestic
creatures, get a fascinating look into the lives of Asian
elephants, and come away with a real sense of the issues
they face. They help with preparing food, planting trees,
maintaining mud pits, and the most fun part: feeding and
bathing elephants in the river. Volunteers can also spend
time at the Dog Project, which hosts several rescued dogs
at ENP. Onsite, comfortable accommodations are provided
along with meals, including vegan and vegetarian options.
Age: 18+; Teens must be accompanied
by legal guardian
Duration: From 1 day to 1 week. See the many options
on their website.
Sea Turtle Rescue
Volunteer to care for injured
sea turtles in Bali received from local fisherman.
Our oceans are getting increasingly
polluted. You may have seen distressing images of sea turtles
with plastic forks and straws embedded in their noses. Thankfully,
there are organizations helping to rescue these marine animals
in need. On the island of Nusa Penida, a 45-minute speedboat
ride from mainland Bali, GoEco
volunteers work with an organization that spreads conservation-based
knowledge while assisting and caring for turtles. The project
receives the injured reptiles from local fisherman and cares
for them until they can be released into the sea. Volunteers
nurture new hatchlings until they are old enough to survive
on their own. Mornings are spent with specific projects
at the sanctuary, while afternoons are dedicated to the
community, teaching local children about the environment
and marine life care. Free time activities include yoga,
relaxing at Sanur beach, trekking up volcanoes, cycling
through town, and enjoying the beautiful culture of Bali.
Accommodations are provided within a five minute walk from
the project site.
Duration: 13 days-8 weeks
Price: US$1050 for 1 week + 6 days.
Big 5 & Wildlife Conservation, South Africa
Join African Impact field guides and
their research team for an African safari. Experience daily
drives through South African wildlife reserves to monitor
and study the African "Big 5." Help protect
the elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, and buffalo from poaching
and starvation. The volunteer work involves a wide variety
of activities to protect these endangered and at-risk species.
You will participate in tracking the movements and behaviors
of herds of elephants and prides of lions. Your volunteer
work will help in the conservation of the incredible animals
for future generations.
Duration: Minimum two weeks
Price: From US$3,555 for 2 weeks
Bears in Asian countries are in desperate
need of our help. They are imprisoned and tortured in bear
bile farms where their digestive fluid is extracted for
traditional Asian medicine. Globalteer works
with The Bear Rescue Sanctuary, located 25 miles south of
Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh. The Sanctuary
is dedicated to the rehabilitation of sun bears and Asiatic
black bears poached for their bile, exploited as pets, used
for profit within the tourism industry, or rescued from
illegal wildlife trade. Many of these bears cannot be reintroduced
into the wild due to the serious physical abuse they have
endured or because they were raised in captivity. The Sanctuary
gives the bears the quality of life they deserve, providing
large areas that match their natural habitat. Volunteer
tasks involve feeding the bears, along with repairing, maintaining
and cleaning enclosures. Most of the work is geared towards
enriching the lives of the bears, to make their existence
as interesting and challenging as possible, to avoid boredom
and stress. Volunteers share housing on the outskirts of
a rural Cambodian village, roughly 6 miles from the sanctuary.
Weekend getaways include visiting the temples of Angkor
Wat and the beach resort of Sihanoukville.
Duration: 1-8 weeks
Price: US$630 for 1 week.