PSA: About Wildlife Volunteering

PSA: About Wildlife Volunteering

Wildlife volunteer work takes a special breed. Living conditions are not great. It’s usually in remote areas away from any city and you witness many painful things. Yet there is also so much joy and beauty that comes with it. Knowing you are doing something for animals and being in their presence is why I have loved doing it for the past twenty years. 

IF YOU DO NOT LIKE using a compost toilet, taking cold showers, waking up at dawn, riding a motor bike, being bitten by leeches and mosquitos or maybe even a scorpion, sleeping under a mosquito net with open walls to the jungle, having no air conditioning or heat, having a subpar mattress and bedding to sleep on, washing your clothes by hand, sleeping in a dorm with shared bathroom, not being able to choose your menu, being in a culture where almost no one speaks your language, losing electricity and being without internet access, witnessing humans in the poorest living conditions, seeing the hardest parts of wildlife exploitation and endangerment, or seeing domestic animals in the worst possible conditions, hard work (including getting dirty cleaning poop from enclosures, working in very hot or cold conditions and doing dangerous tasks like climbing trees), then this is NOT FOR YOU!

IF YOU CAN HANDLE ALL OF THAT AND YOU LOVE being with animals, seeing animals in the wild, doing tasks that help the proliferation of wildlife, seeing some of the most beautiful natural places in the world, being in the wilderness, learning about new cultures, eating exotic foods, helping communities, being a steward of the environment, being around people who are happy to be alive and interacting with traditional people using very few words, then this is PERFECT FOR YOU!

BEWARE that some projects are only a front to make money and do not actually help the animals. I have especially heard of this happening in Thailand with the bathing of baby elephants where they work long hours during the day and then are brought to a “sanctuary”. Here the volunteers get to do simple tasks which make them feel like they are doing some good, not knowing the animals are captive exploited workers. So, vet your volunteer organizations well before you decide to support one.

If you too want to make a real difference for animals, you may consider trying wildlife volunteering yourself. To get started, I suggest this great resource where you can find projects and check the reviews. You can also take a look at this document I have created of wildlife volunteer projects that I have worked for and my experience with each, for some initial suggestions of where to begin. Wildlife Volunteering Opportunities

And here are a couple of videos from my early years as a wildlife volunteer, to give you some inspiration. I am sure you could get a good laugh from my earliest folly when rescuing baby ducks.

Being a wildlife volunteer gives me more joy than I ever imagined it could. It feels good knowing I am actually doing something to help wildlife.





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