Wildlife volunteering – How to choose a project
If you are considering going on a different kind of holiday this winter, you might want to consider wildlife volunteering. It is a great challenge and will allow you to broaden your holiday horizons.
Once you know how long you want to go and who you are traveling with, sit down and ask yourself some essential questions.
Where do you want to go?
There are wildlife volunteer projects available all over the world and whichever country you might think of, they are likely to have an organisation offering volunteer opportunities. Choosing the country first will allow you to combine a holiday destination you want to experience as well as contributing to the conservation of the region’s wildlife. Many organisations offer full package trips, providing accommodation and food while you are working as a wildlife volunteer. If you wish to spend time seeing other sights in the country you can always contact a travel provider who can help you structure your trip either end of your expedition.
What animals do you want to work with?
You might have been drawn to wildlife volunteering because of the animals themselves, and a keen interest in a specific species.
For many, their ultimate travel goal is to visit Africa. And with such a range of threatened and endangered species, there are many conservation projects you can get your hands dirty on. On the African plains your wildlife volunteering project might include gathering data on animals such as African elephants, leopards, cheetahs and caracals. Most organisations here work in connection with the local government and the national parks. The main threat to the key species that are being researched is loss of habitat and the conflict between the wildlife and local farmers. By helping collect data and furthering the research you are providing the local population with information about how they can cohabitate with the animals in a peaceful manner.
If travel time is an important factor for you, there are wildlife conservation projects in Europe. Slovakia is a popular choice where you could work with wild boars, grey wolves and red deer. This is an ideal destination for winter and the research can help many other countries in Europe as the species are far spread, but few in numbers.
If travel time is no issue, there are exciting projects both in America and Australia. In South-America volunteers work with large wildcats such as jaguars and pumas, as well as monkeys such as the red uakari and the tiny pygmy marmosets. Down under in Australia there is work going on to protect species from the introduction of new animals as well as the threat of climate change. The focus here is often quokkas, quolls and chuditches.
What knowledge or certifications do you have?
If you have attended classes and obtained your scuba diving licence, then there are a number of organisations focusing on the underwater world of coral reef and exotic fish. This work is mostly focused in Asia and the waters of the Maldives or the Musandam Peninsula. The latter has especially
seen little research into its amazing coral reefs. When diving into these waters you can meet species such as spinner dolphins, sea turtles, whale sharks and parrotfish.
Other than that most wildlife volunteer expeditions do not require you to have any qualifications or certifications at all. All the training that you will need is provided when you arrive to your camp site. Most expeditions are also attended by fully trained and qualified biologists that have specialist knowledge about the region or animals you are studying. They will demonstrate all the equipment you will be using and filling you in on what you are expected to record.
Taking all of the above into account, you can choose your expedition with more ease. However, do not forget that you can always go on another one next year if you are finding it difficult to choose.
Ingunn writes about wildlife volunteering and other holiday adventures.