The best ethical animal volunteer programmes are difficult to find. There are thousands of organisations offering international animal volunteer programmes worldwide. For the thousands of people that embark on these opportunities, it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between and to find honest and ethical organisations. Below, we have compiled a list of the best ethical animal volunteer programmes. So what makes them the best? Well, the programmes listed below aren’t just honest about their work, they have proof of it. They are all internationally renowned for their lasting and positive impact on the environment, the animals and the local communities that they are aiding.
Volunteer with Elephants
This award winning elephant conservation team not only helps to protect elephants in Namibia but also undertakes pioneering conservation research on them. The project ultimately helps to reduce conflict between elephants and the local farmers. On the programme, you will be constructing walls to protect farmers’ water infrastructure and building drinking points for the elephants to help reduce this conflict within the local community.
For research, you will have the chance to record elephant movement patterns using GPS, compile and update herd identification notes and document new births and deaths. You will also be collecting elephant dung for DNA sampling and note any issues to the elephant’s general health and well being. The duration of the project can range from 2 -12 weeks. In this time, you’ll be camping in the beautiful Namibian desert whilst immersing yourself in this fundamental conservation work. For more information on this best ethical animal volunteer programme or to apply, click here.
Volunteers will contribute to all aspects of elephant research, education and husbandry. Your main activities will include assisting with research, monitoring and recording behaviour, night time observations and botanical surveys. You could also be sampling dung, urine and other samples as well as inputting and analysing data. Other volunteer jobs are varied but may include caring for elephants by preparing their food, making elephant enrichments, general maintaining and gardening. You can read more about this volunteering opportunity or apply here.
Thailand has always been popular with tourists for it’s elephants. In recent years, the elephant tourism trade has made huge and promising changes to the way elephants are treated in their culture. It can still be difficult to find honest and ethical elephant sanctuaries that promote non-riding practices for tourists and volunteers. The Elephant Nature Park in Thailand has centres all around the country and offer internationally acclaimed, award winning volunteering programmes.
As a volunteer you can embark on multiple 7 day volunteering programmes. Your roles depend on the programme you have chosen, but most include preparing the food, feeding and bathing the elephants, maintenance on the elephant sites and around the park, data collection, aiding the vets with vaccinations and educating the local community on the correct treatment of the animals. Visit their website to see a list of their best ethical animal volunteer programmes and to apply.
Help with Orangutans & Lemurs
The project combines research and fieldwork on endangered species (including lemurs, reptiles and amphibians) with community initiatives and environmental education. As a volunteer you will support the local team on their ongoing conservation work. Your activities may include; population, distribution and behaviour studies on animals such as lemurs, bats, reptiles, birds, amphibians and insects. You could also be habitat mapping, studying plants and monitoring endangered palms. Other roles do also include collecting seeds and planting a tree nursery.
The project is located in the heart of one of the coastal fragments of littoral forest, an ecosystem which is getting increasingly threatened. The forests that you will work in are at high risk from the mining industry. So the project works with the community to communicate the consequences of mining and formulates different strategies to stop or mitigate the impact of mining. Research is also of vital importance to these forests in Madagascar and aid hugely to the conservation strategy. Thus, your volunteer work will be contributing to the protection of many forest species before they become endangered. You can apply for this project here.
There are 5 or 6 different best ethical animal volunteering programmes that you can do via Great Projects.
Matang Wildlife Centre in Borneo – At the award winning Matang Wildlife Centre you will work in the beautiful rainforest surroundings of Kubah National Park and work as part of a team alongside the local facilitators to aid the Borneo orangutan sanctuary. Your roles will include improving husbandry standards, providing enrichment for the orangutans and assisting with construction tasks.
International Animal Rescue Sanctuary– The volunteering programme at the International Animal Rescue Sanctuary involves housing, rehabilitating and releasing orphaned or injured orangutans back into the wild. You could be helping with the new construction at the centre, maintenance, enrichment and farming. The programme is an extremely rewarding volunteering opportunity and is fundamental to the conservation of orangutans in Borneo. This is one of the highlights on our list of best ethical animal volunteer programmes!
Samboja Lestari Orangutan volunteering project – You will have similar roles on the Samboja Lestari Orangutan volunteering programme. However, the main difference is that you will also have the opportunity to work alongside sun bears. Most activities will include maintenance roles, enrichment, husbandry and forest plantation.
Volunteer alongside Big Cats
On this project, you will receive bush craft training and experience encounters with the Big 5 (lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard). Your main tasks will be to assist in research tasks and to monitor predators, aid in conservation research and the management of the reserve.
In the monitoring of leopards, you will look into their populations by installing, maintaining and checking camera traps. You will also assess the habitats of various animals, do bird point counts and you will have the chance to identify and manage invasive plant species. Manual labour tasks will also be involved. By completing your bush craft training, you will have a foundation of knowledge on animal identification, tacking and behaviour. Click here for more information or to apply.
Help to Save the Critically Endangered Rhinos
The Australian Rhino Project is a charity that are relocating 80 rhinos from South Africa, where poaching is at an alarming and damaging rate, to central Australia. As a volunteer, you will have the opportunity to help in many different ways. The project is mainly looking for volunteers to help with operating their many events. It is a unique opportunity to be a part of a pioneering project with the potential to save the fast diminishing rhino population. To find out more information or to apply click here.
Aid with Sea Turtle Conservation
You can join an active conservation team and help to monitor and protect sea turtle populations. To do this, you will be collecting data, placing eggs in safe hatcheries and patrolling beaches to reduce the likelihood of poaching. As a volunteer, you will be allocated to one of two research bases; North Beach or South Beach. All tasks in the project are managed on a rotational basis and there are two main volunteer roles.
The first is Hatchery Duty, which involves checking hatchery site at regular intervals. You will be on the look out for any new arrivals, recording data and then releasing the turtles into the ocean. On the night patrol, you will be working from 7pm to 7am, patrolling beaches. You will assist a research assistant with this and walk the length of the beach, looking for any adult turtles who are making their way to the land to nest. If you do encounter an adult female turtle, you will collect data and catch her eggs to place in the hatchery. You can find more information and apply here.
Whilst on this project you will live in the Bay of Lakonikos in the southern Peloponnese and volunteer with a team of international volunteers to conserve and protect one of the most important loggerhead turtle nesting areas in Greece. Activities involve daily morning surveys and recording nesting activity. You will also be protecting turtle nests against predation by mammals and inundation by sea water. This is the projects main aim and therefore, you’re main way to make a difference by volunteering. You will be patrolling the beach, doing important research and collecting data on nests, as well as relocating nests and assembling nest grids.
These tasks are fundamental and will help to preserve the amount of turtles there are in the area and ensures that as many hatchlings as possible are added to the population each year. Volunteers also contribute by doing presentations that provide important conservation information to overseas visitors and the local community. For more information follow here.
Contribute to Marine Conservation Projects
Learn to dive or improve your diving whilst contributing to whale shark, turtle and manta ray research in Sodwana Bay; one of the world’s prime dive locations. You will join an active research team and assist their contribution to global marine conservation. Your roles will include reef surveys, data collection, whale shark identification, turtle and manta ray monitoring. You could also be responsible for uploading photographs of individual sightings to global and regional databases. On the project you will learn numerous skills including the use of underwater equipment. How will you be making a difference? By collecting biodiversity data and monitoring species distribution on the reef you will be identify migratory patterns and population densities. You will be helping to follow conservation in South Africa’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. To find more information about other best ethical animal volunteer programmes and to apply follow here.
Blue Ventures is a highly regarded volunteering organisation working with with coastal communities. Their projects aim to develop transformative approaches for catalysing and sustaining locally led marine conservation. You can be involved in a wide range of projects involving community conservation, rebuilding fisheries, blue forests and aquaculture.Depending on the programme you have chosen you could be working in Madagascar, Belize or Timor-Leste. Your roles will include surveying and collecting coral for analysis or identifying different breeds of fish. In Belize, you will be mainly investigating the impact of lionfish on the reef and on juvenile reef fish. The research on this invasive species is fundamental as it poses a huge threat to Belize’s reef fisheries.
In Timor-Leste, you will assist the team of scientists with the collection of marine inventory data. As the waters here are a bio-diversity hotspot and a global marine conservation priority, you’re contribution to the data collection is hugely important.All of the programmes will include diving. However, whatever your experience, everyone is welcomed. You will also have the chance to gain a PADI registered diving certificate. You will also be given intensive training for the first two weeks which will provide you with the necessary skills and knowledge to carry out research dives.
Once you have reached PADI Advanced Open Water level and passed your science training you will carry out one to two research dives a day collecting relevant reef data. You will be diving 5 days a week with Saturday’s off for community conservation work and Sunday as a rest day and you can join us year-round for a period of 3 -12 weeks. Blue Ventures is one of the highlights on our list of best ethical animal volunteer programmes. You can read more about their responsible practices and apply here.
Embark On Animal Rescue & Veterinary Work
This placement is available for students considering a career in veterinary science or are already qualified as vets. The internship will allow you to develop your practical skills and knowledge by working alongside local wildlife experts in 3 different settings. These are the African wildlife game reserves, with livestock on farms and domestic animals in rural villages. You will learn about animal health and safety, management, behaviour, health and nutrition, ecosystem support and biodiversity preservation. The internship will also give you an insight into the difficulties that domestic animals face in South Africa. So assisting the team in raising awareness of good practices and the priority of the treatment of animals in South Africa is a unique and rewarding opportunity. You can find more information or apply here.
This volunteering programme is ideal for anyone wanting to join a wildlife rescue team and take care for animals in a sanctuary. The centre is located in beautiful rainforest surroundings and a coastal National Park. The project provides care for over 50 animals who have been rescued weekly. You will be responsible for providing food and enrichment for a variety of animals including monkeys, sloths and anteaters. These animals need round the clock care as they are usually injured, orphaned or have been mistreated. Your roles will include observing and monitoring the animals as well as collecting data for animals which are being rehabilitated for released. Find more information on this here.
Volunteer in Wildlife Management
On this programme you will be involved in the front line of the anti-poaching fight. Volunteers here are instrumental in supporting National Park rangers in patrols, tracking animals and collecting snares and traps and identifying poaching hot zones. You will also have the chance to record the activities, numbers and species of animals around the water points. These animals will include elephant, buffalo, lion and hyenas to name a few.
You will also be involved in research and data collection. This includes flying over the National Parks and conduction aerial game counts, carrying out large animal and bird population surveys. You will also collect and record poaching data information which is used by the dedicated Anti-Poaching Unit in the area. This kind of work is fundamental as the data is used to build heat maps that deploy scouts into specific areas. By collecting the data, you will also help the local Anti Poaching Units and local law enforcements to build an accurate and up to date picture of poaching activity in the area. In your role you will also help to engage this information to the local communities by giving presentations and teaching. You can visit their website and see more of their best ethical animal volunteer programmes here.
As a volunteer you will be working alongside researchers to document the Amazon ecosystem. You will also help to conserve the rainforest by supporting sustainable community projects. Living in the Peruvian rainforest, you will be involved in documenting rare Blue-head macaws, capturing footage of mammals, monitoring birds and collecting data. Data collection is fundamental to the programme and for the Forest Regeneration Project. So your work will be contributing hugely to the vital research needed to influence government policy on the benefits gained for allowing forests to regrow.
The project also helps to highlight the need for protecting areas which have been destroyed from various practices. So far, the volunteer team has helped turn 17 hectares of abandoned land into agroforesty plots. This has lead to an increase in biodiversity, they have also planted over 13,000 trees and created the first programme in Peru to ever commercialise carbon credits on behalf of a local community. You will also aid in supporting the community in building new sustainable bio-gardens. So far, over 50 family biogardens have been built. See more information and apply here.