Volunteering Abroad with Animals: 8 Must-Visit Countries

October 12, 2012 by

Animal Encounters, Guest Bloggers, Things to Do, Travel Advice & Inspiration

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Lauren Seidl, a blogger for GoAbroad.com, the leading online resource in helping travelers find programs to work, volunteer and study abroad.

If your heart melts every time you look into the eyes of an animal, whether it’s a puppy or a frog, then it’s safe to say you’re an animal lover. Luckily for you, there are countless opportunities for animal people to help furry, feathery, scaly or slimy creatures while traveling the world.

How is this possible? By volunteering abroad, of course! Programs for volunteering with wildlife abroad are located all over the world, but we’ve compiled a list of eight countries that are worth a second glance. Take a look at some of the animals you can work with in each country and what you can do by volunteering abroad with animals to make a difference.

1. South Africa


Work with lions in South Africa

Head to South Africa and explore a variety of climates and landscapes, from dry and desolate to abundant with plants and animals. South Africa boasts a variety of volunteer abroad opportunities during which you can get up close and personal with African wildlife, such as volunteering with lions to help increase the population of these big cats. As a volunteer, you could be tasked with bottle feeding cubs, sweeping for snares and walking adolescent lions through savannah grasslands.

Volunteers in South Africa can also choose to work with great white sharks. If you decide to volunteer with these ancient animals, you can look for and observe great white sharks in the ocean. Volunteers can record observations to aid with research; they may even get the chance to enter a shark tank and look one of these creatures in the eye.

Find various animal tours in South Africa, including diving with great white sharks

2. Thailand


Volunteer with elephants in Thailand

Explore the mountain ranges and wetlands of Thailand while volunteering with wildlife. One popular volunteering opportunity in Thailand involves working with Asian elephants on an elephant conservancy. If you decide to do this you could help exercise, feed and bathe elephants. You can also educate local communities in Thailand on elephant conservation.

If you’d rather work with something smaller or furrier, sign up to work with gibbons. You can help by researching these primates, bottle-feeding young gibbons, cleaning enclosures and helping older gibbons socialize with their species.

Another way to experience wildlife in Thailand is with an elephant trek

3. Costa Rica

Sea Turtle, Costa Rica

There are lots of opportunities for volunteering with animals in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is often considered a modern-day paradise; its beautiful rainforests and rich coastline make it a destination worth putting on your bucket list. The country is known for its efforts in sea turtle conservation, so if you’re thinking about volunteering in Costa Rica, you should consider working with sea turtles. Tasks that volunteers can be given include patrolling beaches, counting eggs, observing newly-hatched sea turtles and releasing these tiny turtles into the ocean.

Instead of turtles, you could also volunteer to help protect big cats in Costa Rica. Wild felines such as pumas and jaguars are becoming rare in Costa Rica, so volunteers search for signs of these big cats and record what they find in order to get a better idea of what conservation measures should be taken.

Explore while on a Costa Rica nature and wildlife tour

4. Ecuador

Visit Ecuador and explore the well-known tropical rainforests located in this South American country. Rather than just exploring these habitats, why not work to conserve them? Volunteers can spend time on the exotic Galapagos Islands researching plants and animals or collecting, classifying and planting seeds.

You could choose to work within the Amazon Rainforest as well. Amazon Rainforest volunteers can observe birds, plants, mammals, butterflies and more to assist with conservation efforts. Some Amazon Rainforest volunteer programs need volunteers to assist in rehabilitating wildlife that was victim to animal trafficking. These volunteers repair and construct enclosures, play with animals and nurture traumatized wildlife.

Ecuador offers many opportunities for outdoor tours and activities

5. China

Giant panda

Find giant pandas in China

Home to mountains, deserts and an array of beaches, China is a diverse country with an equally diverse wildlife population. The giant panda is one animal that many volunteers in China choose to work with. If you volunteer with giant pandas, you could chop and haul bamboo, prepare food for pandas, clean enclosures and observe panda behaviors.

Volunteers in China can also choose to work with golden monkeys. These volunteers do research for golden monkey conservancies, prepare food for monkeys, keep enclosures sanitary and more.

Visit a giant panda breeding center in China

6. Vietnam

Vietnam is a tropical country that contains a variety of unique species. It is one of the top 20 biologically diverse countries in the world, making it a great location for volunteering with wildlife. Help protect endangered primates by working on a primate sanctuary. As a volunteer, you could help with food preparation, animal enrichment activities, garden maintenance and enclosure sanitation.

In Vietnam you can take the opportunity to work with a variety of animals if you volunteer with a wildlife rescue center. Care for species that have been rescued from illegal trade, including primates, bears, reptiles, monitor lizards, carnivores, turtles and pythons. Volunteers can prepare food, plant trees, maintain facilities, help arrange animal playgrounds and more.

7. Cambodia

Experience the lush climate of southeastern Asia and volunteer with wildlife in Cambodia. You could volunteer with a bear rescue center to assist in the preservation of Malaysian sun bears and Asiatic black bears. If you decide to volunteer with bears, your tasks may include preparing food, constructing bear enrichment items, repairing enclosures and feeding bears.

Or maybe you would rather work near the ocean. In that case, you could volunteer with marine conservation in Cambodia. Scuba dive into the depths of the Pacific Ocean to monitor and collect data on the coral reef and coastal breeding grounds. Volunteers may also be able to teach local children the importance of marine conservation or teach island children and teenagers English.

8. Australia


Volunteer with koalas in Australia

Head to the land down under and explore the island-nation of Australia. While in Australia, you can volunteer to assist with the conservation of wallabies and kangaroos and care for animals that have been abandoned or injured due to humans hunting these marsupials. Tasks for volunteers could include maintaining living quarters, feeding wallabies and kangaroos and assisting in feeding and raising baby marsupials.

Volunteering at a koala sanctuary is another option for volunteers traveling to Australia. If you decide to volunteer with koalas, you could collect and prepare food, help with behavioral enrichment programs and assist in keeping enclosures sanitary.

Find all kinds of animal activities in Australia, including Phillip Island: Penguins, Koalas and Kangaroos Day Tour from Melbourne

Lauren Seidl

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2 Responses to “Volunteering Abroad with Animals: 8 Must-Visit Countries”

  1. Traveler Says:

    What about Madagascar? I think Madagascar has the most different type of animal in world. I would like to recommend Brazil as well, amazon rain forest if biggest forest in world.

  2. Samuel Jeffery Says:

    I learned about some fascinating opportunities reading this article. Although I’ve been to Cambodia several times I had no idea about the volunteer opportunities to work with bears.