Table of Contents
Introduction to Wildlife Volunteering
Wildlife volunteering is an amazing way to travel to exotic locations while conserving endangered species worldwide. You have probably been thinking about working with animals for a long time, and have a particular interest in becoming a volunteer in wildlife conservation. Despite strict hunting laws, illegal poaching and trading continue to be problematic. The IUCN publishes its well known “Red List of Threatened Species”, which includes the black rhinoceros, the African lion, or the majestic elephant for example. But, luckily, it is never too late to take action! There are a lot of projects around the world, that are concerned with wildlife conservation, to ensure the survival of populations by actvely protecting individuals and their ecosystem.
- Gain awareness: It is a hard scenario to imagine that one of nature’s most spectacular wildlife will no longer exist. Imagine a world without tigers or lions? By becoming a volunteer in wildlife conservation, you’ll gain tools that’ll help you to better understand this problematic. You will learn how to prevent this from happening, and tell others what they can do to protect wildlife.
- Protect the environment: Habitual loss is one of the main reasons for animal extinction. During the active participation in conservation efforts, you will be directly involved in preventing habitat deterioration for endangered species.
- Have a sense of pride: Lots of these projects allow for visitors and are open for the public to learn more about conservation efforts; as well as the dangers of illegal, unethical wildlife activities. You’ll gain a sense of pride in knowing you made it possible that these animals live a better life, in a safer environment BECAUSE OF YOU. It is certainly important work!
- Interact with animals at their natural habitats: Which -wow!- is amazing by itself! I have never seen an African lion other than caged in a zoo (or similar enclosures). So, the idea of interacting with these creatures on a daily basis, feeding them, taking care of them and learning their habits is one amazing, life-changing experience.
When did wildlife preservation start?
When the process of industrialization began in the late 18th century, more and more space was needed to build cities, factories, and farms. The consequences were deforestation and environmental pollution, which caused a rising extent of damage to wildlife. Over the time the voices of conservationists became louder and eventually treaties and laws for wildlife protection were enforced. The Game Laws (also known as Forest Laws), for instance, originated in England and were used to restrict forest hunting to the king and his royalties. Nowadays they are used worldwide to define an appropriate hunting behavior.
Some countries like Botswana even enacted a poaching ban for elephants, which is why it has the world’s largest elephant population today. After five successful years though authorities decided recently to lift the ban, because of increasing conflicts between elephants and locals. Nevertheless, Botswana ranks first as the country with the best wildlife protection worldwide, followed by Namibia and Tanzania.
Which Wildlife is in need of Conservation Efforts?
The African Elephant is currently the largest animal walking on earth! There are two subspecies of this great animal: the Savannah Elephant and the Forest Elephant. And they are currently in a vulnerable situation, because poachers kill them for their ivory their tusks to sell them.
Many elephant populations are currently endangered; even though trade of its parts is illegal. Conservation programs and special task forces that specialize in the protection of the grey giant, work relentlessly to keep poachers away from these animals. Around 100 elephants are killed by poachers every day. This makes conservation efforts not only highly important, but necessary.
Black Rhinoceros Conservation
The actual population of black rhinos is highly endangered, because they have been hunted for years for their horns. Rhino poaching has reached levels never seen before, which is the reason why programs concerned with their protection are extremely important. Their horns are highly demanded, mostly, in Chinese markets, because they are said to have medicinal properties and cure all types of illnesses. Sadly the western black rhino and the northern white rhino have become extinct in Africa recently. But, by becoming a volunteer in wildlife conservation, you can help raise awareness about these and other issues and get actively and directly involved in their protection and conservation.
My whole experience was more than I would have ever imagined […] I encourage everyone to go and experience it for yourself – Ruth (25), volunteer from Australia
Lion and Big Cat Conservation
Is there a more majestic creature than the African lion? Yet, their current situation is considered as vulnerable. In only two decades, around 43% of Africa’s lion population has decreased. And, this is an alarming fact that needs to be taken seriously, to prevent further species’ deterioration. Humans are the number 1 reason, why lions are being pushed out of their habitats due to expanding human populations and illegal hunting.
The African Lion is extinct from around 80% of their historic range, and currently inhabits only 7 countries: Botswana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Zambia, Kenya and Zimbabwe. This is a dramatic statistic! However, as a volunteer, you can actively work with projects currently involved in the conservation and protection of this amazing predator, and learn more about the species. Still, a lot of work is needed, and help is always well-received.
And, talking about big cats. There is one particular big cat that has been featured prominently in the mythology of the Maya and Aztec, and other indigenous American cultures. The jaguar! These animals are also being threatened, because of illegal hunting and deforestation.
The jaguar is the third-largest feline (the tiger and the lion are the biggest ones), and it mostly lives in the American continent: sightings of this magnificent animal can be found from southwestern United States to northern Argentina. Its preferred habitat is the rainforest, but we can find this animal in a variety of terrains.
The numbers of Jaguars are declining and its considered to be near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). As I said, the main reason of this is deforestation across their habitat. But other reasons include increasing competition for food, poaching, natural disasters, and ranchers living in the area who are killing the cat, if it preys on their livestock.
How much closer to nature do you want to get? If I had the chance to go back tomorrow I would have left yesterday! – Pim (22), volunteer from the Netherlands.
The tiger is the largest big cat species, better known for its pattern of dark vertical stripes and orange/red fur. Tigers are native of densely populated places, which makes its existence -along humans- conflictive. Six tiger subspecies have been classified as endangered by the IUCN. Like is the case of other big cats, the major reasons for this is habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation, and poaching.
The tiger is the proud representative animal of Bangladesh, Malaysia, India and South Korea; but its range extends from India to China and Southeast Asia. Efforts are needed to prevent further habitat deterioration and to raise awareness about the dangers this animal faces. As a volunteer in tiger conservation, you can join efforts with projects that focus on tiger protection.
This amazing creatures are mostly recognized because of their funny “laughs”, and characteristic build. The most known subspecies of hyenas are the spotted hyena, the striped hyena and the brown hyena (which is currently in danger of extinction). They are mostly found in Africa. These animals face threats mostly from humans: by farmers who retaliate, because they prey on livestock; and because human populations are expanding and this causes loss of their habitats. Conservation projects focused on this interesting animal, are making great efforts to raise awareness about habitat destruction and aid these animals in a direct manner. As a volunteer in wildlife conservation, you’ll get to experience all of it too, and learn more about this misunderstood animal.
You probably didn’t know that some subspecies of this majestic creature are endangered. Hundreds of thousand of horses get slaughtered every year for their meat. Good news is that volunteering in wildlife conservation, you can surely aid conservationists and horse sanctuaries around the world to avoid a further deterioration of this species and their habitats. The term “wild horse” is commonly used, when talking about free-roaming herds of feral horses even though all truly wild horse species went extinct. Particularly one subspecies of the wild horse is endangered: the Przewalski horse: one can still find roughly 1500 Przewalski horses (in zoos or conservation sanctuaries) around the world.
Requirements to Volunteer in Wildlife Conservation
A typical program to volunteer in wildlife conservation usually asks its participants for some basic requirements:
- You must be at least 14 years of age, by the time of the beginning of the volunteer program.
- You need to present proper documentation to travel to the country you are visiting (visa, passport, travel permit, etc.).
- You will have to speak basic English.
- The approximate cost of a program ranges from $100-$1000 (USD), with a duration from 1-50 weeks.
- Check out the vaccination guidelines of the country you are visiting, with enough time before your travel.
- Volunteers under the age of 18, must be accompanied by an adult; or provide a legal document that explicitly says that the applicant is allowed by its parents/ legal guardian to volunteer/travel in another country.
- You need to respect the program’s schedule and compromise with the chores you are given.
I hope this little guide will help you to make a decision to volunteer in wildlife preservation. It is an opportunity of a lifetime, and I am sure you won’t regret the experience. Check out all the different volunteer programs for wildlife conservation that specialize in wildlife conservation and start you volunteering experience. Change starts with people willing to make a difference: you are up for a great start!