The Whole Wild World

Wildlife conservation volunteering

Become a wildlife conservation volunteer and help preserve our world’s most wonderful – and most vulnerable – habitats.

A jaguar stalking a nesting turtle on a Costa Rican beach. Lions roaming the African savannah. A forest full of Asian elephants. These are only some of the spectacular and rare sights you can hope to see – and study – if you join one of our wildlife conservation programs.

Cutting Edge

Cutting Edge

Our programs contribute to world-class research that is leading the critical fight against biodiversity loss.
Ethical

Ethical

We pledge to do good only through meaningful, considered action that can make a proven difference in the world.
Sustainable

Sustainable

Using the UN’s SDGs as a framework, we’re committed to conservation solutions that are built to have a lasting, positive impact.

What’s wildlife conservation volunteering all about?

Overview
How it works
Species
Locations
Ethics and impact

A jaguar stalking a nesting turtle on a Costa Rican beach. Lions roaming the African savannah. A forest full of Asian elephants. These are only some of the thrilling sights you can hope to see – and study – if you join one of our wildlife conservation programs. 

What is wildlife conservation? 

All over the world, ecosystems are in trouble. From the Amazon forest to island coastlines, the jungles of Eastern Asia and the beaches of Europe, habitats are shrinking or being destroyed, and the animal populations that live in them are vanishing alongside them. This is called biodiversity loss. Which is largely the result of human activity.  

Wildlife conservation works to protect and restore biodiversity, reverse habitat destruction and prevent species extinction. It is very important work. 

Why is wildlife conservation important?

Healthy ecosystems mean a healthy world.

Imagine if all the insects in the world vanished. We need insects to pollinate crops, which we eat. Without insects, we would lose a significant amount of our food. 

Or imagine if forests were destroyed. Forests regulate carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, which in turn regulate temperatures, which are already rising due to human-induced climate change. Without forests, the planet would get hotter, and we would experience unpredictable and extreme weather conditions, putting thousands of lives at risk. 

These might seem like scary examples, but they highlight why healthy ecosystems are so important. Every plant and animal in an ecosystem is needed to keep that ecosystem healthy. Humans are part of the natural world and we depend on healthy ecosystems to survive. Disrupted or destroyed ecosystems affect, amongst many other things, weather stability, water safety, food security, and air quality.

Wildlife conservation is what keeps our ecosystems healthy and balanced.

How can we conserve wildlife?

There’s no single or set way to do it. Wildlife conservation is vital work, and it’s full of variety, opportunity, and adventure. 

At GVI, most of our work is done through volunteer conservation projects, including:

What is wildlife conservation volunteering? 

Wildlife conservation volunteering with GVI includes volunteering programs and internship programs, both of which give you a chance to get involved in conservation research, scientific project work, and environmental education. 

If you join one of our programs, you will travel to some of the world’s most remote and biodiverse places and live and work directly in the natural habitats you are helping to preserve. 

You will contribute to project work in a number of ways. 

What does a wildlife volunteer do?

The work you do will depend on where you are, what project you’re working on, and which species you are working with. In general, wildlife conservation volunteers do a variety of the following:

  • Species monitoring 
  • Species census 
  • Collect and record data 
  • Camera trapping
  • Habitat restoration
  • Environmental education 
  • Field guide training 
  • Community outreach 
  • Social awareness

How do I become a wildlife conservation volunteer?

Just like there’s no single way to contribute to wildlife conservation, there are many routes to becoming a wildlife conservation or animal conservation volunteer. 

GVI has a wide variety of programs in locations all over the world where we work on the conservation of all kinds of habitats and species. 

Each of these programs promises a uniquely fulfilling, thrilling and impactful experience. You can apply here

Read this article to find out why wildlife volunteering is an excellent way to make an impact abroad: Why animal conservation may be the best way to volunteer abroad.

Becoming an animal conservation volunteer with GVI is a chance to work with some of the world’s most vulnerable and wonderful animals. All of our wildlife conservation volunteering programs contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #15: Life on Land.

African mammals

In Greater Kruger South Africa, you will work with a variety of mammal species, including:

  • Elephant
  • Cheetah
  • Lion
  • Leopard 
  • Rhino 

Why it matters 

Many of these animals are endangered or under threat, and all of them are crucial to the stability of local ecosystems. They are all also considered big tourist attractions, which the local economies and communities rely on for survival.  

Our conservation work is done in partnership with local organisations like Elephants Alive, the Endangered Wildlife Trust and the Karongwe Reserve Management Team. 

You will learn how to conduct biological surveys and track local wildlife, specifically big cats, gaining both practical wildlife conservation skills and theoretical knowledge 

Aldabra giant tortoises

In the Seychelles, our wildlife conservation volunteers get a chance to work with one of the largest tortoise species in the world, the Aldabra giant tortoise. 

Why it matters 

Giant tortoise populations used to be spread far and wide across most of the world. Now they can only be found on a few island outposts, including Curieuse Island in the Seychelles. 

We’ve partnered with the Seychelles National Parks Authority to make sure this species is protected and their habitat is preserved.

As part of this team, you’ll develop surveying and monitoring techniques – while living among the tortoises on a beautiful beach on the island. 

Asian elephant 

The Asian elephant is endangered and struggling with significant habitat destruction. 

Why it matters 

In Thailand, a unique relationship exists between elephants and humans. Elephant-keeping communities in Thailand have a long tradition and play a significant role in both the local culture and custom and the tourism industry. 

Working alongside the community to reintroduce elephants into a natural environment, wildlife conservation volunteers have the opportunity to witness the complex intersection of conservation and community. 

Jaguars 

In Cahuita National Park, where the Costa Rican jungle meets the Caribbean coastline, wildlife conservation volunteers have a chance to work with one of the world’s most elusive and dangerous cats – the jaguar.

Why it matters 

You will work with organisations like Coastal Jaguar Conservation and Panthera in an incredibly jaguar-rich area, contributing towards jaguar research and conservation. You’ll learn valuable and practical research skills while observing and tracking this singular animal in its natural habitat. 

Part of our project involves observing incredibly unique jaguar behaviour on Cahuita’s beaches. During turtle nesting season, the area is one of the only places in the world where jaguars are known to prey on adult nesting sea turtles.

Sea turtles

Wildlife and animal volunteers can work on sea turtle research and conservation in Greece, Costa Rica, and Thailand

Why it matters

Sea turtles are some of the oldest species on the planet. They rely on ancient nesting sites that have remained unchanged for thousands of years. But many of those sites are being disrupted by human activity, putting the turtles at much greater risk  of extinction. 

Turtle nesting sites are some of the rarest habitats in the world. Our wildlife volunteer projects give you the chance to get up close by living in, and learning from, these truly special habitats. 

Lemurs

Lemurs are exceptionally rare primates found in only one place on earth – Madagascar. 

Why it matters 

Madagascar is an island in the Indian Ocean with unique plant and animal species, including the lemur, which can’t be found anywhere else on earth. Sadly, nearly a third of lemur species are critically endangered – and nearly all are threatened with extinction. This makes lemurs the earth’s most at risk group of mammals. 

Based in Lokobe National Park, you will be working to conserve one endangered lemur species, the black lemur, and two critically endangered lemur species, the Nosy Be sportive lemur and the Nosy Be mouse lemur, one of the smallest primates in the world.

More wildlife and animal conservation volunteering

In addition to the species mentioned above, we also offer animal conservation volunteering in the following areas:

Where can you get involved in wildlife volunteering?

Whether you’re set on seeing the Big Five in the Greater Kruger or keen to clamber through the rainforests of Costa Rica, there’s no shortage of top-travel destinations where you can volunteer with wildlife.

Wildlife conservation volunteering in Latin America

You’ll find the rush of the jungle in rich, rampant and remote Costa Rica. Our wildlife conservation volunteering programs include: 

Wildlife and conservation volunteering in Africa

Travel to the Greater Kruger National Park in Limpopo, South Africa and work towards the conservation of African animals – including the famous Big Five.  

The following volunteer wildlife conservation programs are available:

Read more on wildlife volunteering programs in South Africa: Grow your conservation skills with a wildlife project in South Africa.

Sea turtle conservation volunteering in Greece

In Greece, our volunteers are based in Giannitsochori – a small, traditional village basking in the Mediterranean Sea. Our wildlife conservation volunteers in Greece work to preserve sea turtle nesting sites.

Read more about making a positive impact with animal conservation volunteering in Greece: Deepen your summer European travel experience by doing volunteer work in Greece.

Conservation volunteering in Thailand

In the mountainous jungles of Chiang Mai province, our wildlife conservation volunteering programs assist traditional elephant keepers with reintroducing Asian elephants to their natural habitat. 

Read more about elephants in Thailand: The history and future of elephants in Thailand.

Or travel to the beaches of Phang Nga province and contribute towards wildlife conservation efforts like:

Volunteer with wildlife in the Seychelles

On Curieuse Island in the Seychelles, we work towards island and coastal conservation. Curieuse Island is home to many important ecosystems – including ancient sea turtle hatching sites – and the entire island is classified as a national park. Our wildlife conservation work includes: 

Sustainable conservation volunteering programs 

Every GVI wildlife volunteering program is planned and implemented in collaboration with local partner organisations – creating solutions that will have a lasting impact and can eventually be maintained without external support. 

GVI’s wildlife volunteer programs are also aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) – global goals calling for worldwide action to address the largest global issues. By taking this approach, GVI guarantees that you’ll be contributing towards the most relevant and effective volunteer wildlife conservation programs. 

GVI partners with some of the most reputable international conservation organisations, ensuring we stay up to date with conservation science and contribute to wildlife conservation in the best ways possible. Our conservation volunteering programs also offer you the opportunity to earn internationally recognised qualifications that can improve your future employment opportunities, and even start you off in a career in wildlife conservation. 

We keep an eye on how effective our conservation volunteering programs are and set our goals against global benchmarks. You can read about the work we’ve done with the help of volunteers like you in our Impact and Ethics Report.

As part of our efforts to run our programs as ethically and safely as possible, all of our wildlife volunteering programs are governed by both a strict stance on animal interaction and our robust health and safety practises. In this way, our expert staff ensure that animal conservation volunteering activities are safe, ethical, and impactful.

How is ethical animal interaction ensured on a GVI wildlife conservation program?

GVI employs best practises when it comes to volunteering with wildlife, and is a British Standards 8848 compliant provider. Our programs are award-winning and endorsed by some of the biggest contributors in ethical conservation activities. 

We also partner with some of the most reputable international conservation organisations – ensuring that we stay up to date with conservation science, contribute towards large-scale ethical activities, and make a positive impact in wildlife conservation. 

How do volunteers interact with animals on an ethical wildlife volunteer program?

The key to ethical animal interaction is to avoid any contact with animals, unless for relevant scientific purposes or for activities such as health checks. All interactions must be supervised by trained staff.

Why is ethical interaction important in a wildlife volunteer program?

It’s important to remember that it can be dangerous to get close to wild animals under any circumstances. Organisations offering tours and leisure activities where you can get close to wild animals unnecessarily increases the risk of injury to human beings and animals. It can also have far-reaching effects for the animals themselves. 

Wild animals that become too dependent on human interaction can lose part of their ability to fend for themselves in nature. This can lead to these animals becoming injured or dying in a setting where they should be able to survive. It’s not sustainable for humans to continue caring for wild animals for a few reasons. For example, the mental and physical health of wild animals can be affected when they are kept in captivity, and most wild animals cannot be domesticated to the point that they can safely live in the same habitat as humans.

But perhaps the most important consideration is the fact that each animal belongs to a specific ecosystem, and the maintenance of these ecosystems depends on the presence of wild animals, and their innate capabilities – like hunting, foraging, and how they interact with other animals. 

Do you need to be trained before you can handle animals ethically?

Yes. Reputable conservation volunteering organisations should provide the necessary training before volunteers participate in any kind of animal-handling activities. Animal handling is only necessary when it is focused on animal care or conservation research.

All of GVI’s programs are run by experienced professionals. Volunteers who assist these professionals in animal-care activities are taken through comprehensive training before being allowed to interact with any animals. This includes standard volunteer health and safety training, as well as training in animal-handling and biological survey techniques – which could earn you a GVI Biological Survey Techniques certification. 

GVI also ensures that all wildlife volunteers are supervised during these activities. In this way we can be sure that volunteers are interacting with animals in the most ethical and effective way possible. 

Why should sustainability be a priority in ethical conservation volunteering activities?

By aligning our organisation’s activities with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), GVI is committed to efforts that not only make a positive impact in wildlife conservation but also contribute towards long-term goals.

Volunteer wildlife conservation organisations that focus on making a long-term impact factor sustainability into their programs. Sustainability means that conservation efforts:

  • Prevent the dependency of wild animals or local communities on volunteer activities.
  • Can continue through the efforts of local community members, even if GVI’s staff and volunteers are no longer present.
  • Make use of resources in a way that doesn’t compromise the access that future generations have to these resources.

By making sustainability a priority, GVI makes a promise to get involved in the most ethical, relevant and effective wildlife volunteering activities that can continue to make a positive impact on the future. 

Want to learn more about what makes a wildlife volunteering program ethical? Have a look at this article: Questions to ask when volunteering with animals.

Book by 30 September 2022
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