Volunteering with Animals

Help vulnerable wildlife and animals abroad

Volunteering with animals on your gap year is the perfect way to have an amazing travel experience while also helping local animals and wildlife in need. There are hundreds of opportunities to volunteer abroad with animals, so you’re bound to find something here to suit you.

Whether it’s rehabilitating orangutans in Borneo, looking after lions in South Africa, or making sure elephants in Thailand are properly cared for, there are so many projects available where you can make a real difference. You might even end up working with some of the world’s most endangered species, helping to secure a brighter future for them.

You can volunteer with animals whatever your skills and however much time you have to offer. It also offers an opportunity to travel and gain fresh perspective on some of the most amazing destinations in the world. You just need to find the right volunteering project for you!

Below are some frequently asked questions about volunteering with animals to help you make it a reality.

Have a look at some of our favourite animal volunteering projects

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Belize Manatee Conservation

from £795

7 days

Belize

Belize is at the centre of a biodiversity hotspot with pristine subtropical forests, exotic wildlife, ancient Mayan ruins and the...

Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary

from £875

14 - 84 days

Namibia

Experience hands-on volunteering with cheetahs, baboons and much more!

Costa Rica Sea Turtle Conservation

from £1145

14 days

Costa Rica

Volunteering at a sea turtle conservation project in Playa Matapalo with tours of a sugar cane & coffee plantation at...

Costa Rica: Big Cats & Turtles

from £515

7 - 140 days

Costa Rica

Costa Rica covers just 0.03% of the world's landmass, but is home to 500,000 species. That's the highest biodiversity of...

Elephant Rescue and Conservation in Cambodia

from £725

7 - 84 days

Cambodia

Observe gentle giants in their natural forest habitat and assist the team in conducting elephant health checks.

Elephant Care in Thailand

from £599

7 - 84 days

Thailand

Work up close with elephants rescued from a life of abuse, live on site at a beautiful wildlife centre in...

IAR Orangutan Project

from £875

11 - 22 days

Indonesia

Work with International Animal Rescue on the rehabilitation of Indonesia’s beautiful orangutans.

Volunteer with Lions and Tigers and Other Big Cats in Africa

from £1795

28 - 84 days

South Africa

Volunteer with big cats in South Africa at a leading sanctuary. Care for lions, tigers, cheetah, leopards and more!

Wildlife Veterinary Assistance

from £2415

21 days

South Africa

A 3-week course run by professional wildlife veterinarians and game capture experts that gives hands-on experience in all facets of...

Wildlife Rescue in Costa Rica

from £1095

14 - 84 days

Costa Rica

Join a wildlife rescue team and care for the animals in the sanctuary, home to a variety of animals including...

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Sapporo Snow Festival & Japan Winter Highlights

from £3349

This 13-day trip brings together two Japanese islands to create one unforgettable experience that covers some of the major winter...

Roman Pathway

from £1019

Experience some of the best travelling that Northern and Central Europe has to offer as we make our way to...

Philippine Adventure

from £2395

Be mesmerised by the magic of the Philippines on this 19-day tour from Manila to Puerto Princesa. See the fusion...

East Coast Australia in Style

This comfort-minded journey up Australia’s eastern shore delivers the wonders of the region to you in fine style. Using a...

Inca Quarry Trail Extension

from £825

Retrace the steps of the ancient Inca civilisation on the Inca Quarry Trail hike. Explore Cusco's maze of ruins and...

Adelaide to Perth Overland

from £824

Travelling across the vast Nullarbor Plain is not only one of the world's great road trips, but a unique opportunity...

Churchill Polar Bears Independent Adventure

Churchill, Manitoba on Hudson Bay is considered the polar bear capital of the world, and this two-day trip will introduce...

Backroads & Highlands of Peru

from £999

Get off the beaten path in the highlands of Peru and discover stunning mountain scenery and remote cities few tourists...

Winter Spree

from £1429

Immerse yourself in the true spirit of the chilly season as you embark on a journey through some of Europe’s...

Tapas Trail

from £1029

Food connoisseurs unite to share a love of both French cuisine and Mediterranean food: fresh seafood, roasted vegetables, tapas and...

Advice and stories about volunteering with animals

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What animals can I volunteer with?

There are so many different animals you can volunteer with, all over the world, from the well-known likes of elephants and lions to lower profile but equally vulnerable animals such as sea turtles and sloths. We recommend choosing a project that will pair you with a species you are passionate about and working from there. So if you have a particular interest in marine creatures, look at volunteering with whales or dolphins, sharks, crocodiles, or conservation projects protecting marine environments. Otherwise, look at volunteer work with land animals such as monkeys, pandas, rhinos, and many more. It’s important to look at the whole volunteering project to make sure it suits you, but having a passion for the animals you’ll be helping is an important starting point.

Where can I volunteer with animals?

Where you do your volunteer work with animals will depend largely on what animals you’ll be working with. You’re not going to find many elephant projects in Poland, for example. Do a little bit of research into which countries have high populations of the animals you’re interested in: if you want to volunteer with bears, say, some of the best places to do it are the USA, Canada, or Romania, all countries with high native bear populations. Similarly, the majority of elephant projects will be found in South East Asia, South Asia and Africa (Thailand and Tanzania respectively being good bets), while for marine creatures you’ll need destinations with the right kind of ocean habitat. If you’re looking at volunteering with animals for a longer period, it’s important to choose a destination where you will be happy for the duration.

What time of year should I volunteer with animals?

Again, when you head out on your volunteering adventure can depend a great deal on where in the world you’re going and which animals you’ll be working with. There are times of the year when some land animals will be in hibernation, and when marine animals have moved elsewhere in the world or simply don’t require help at that time. Some volunteer projects will open and close accordingly. You should also look at the climate and weather in any destination you’re considering: some countries have intense monsoon seasons or periods of incredible summer heat (or both!). These can be difficult to cope with even if you’re just travelling for fun, but remember you’ll be working, often outside, during your volunteer project.

How do I know if an animal volunteer project abroad is ethical?

With so many different projects offering volunteer work with animals, it can feel difficult to find the best placements and to know if they are ethically run. There are a few things you can do to ensure you find a reputable volunteer project with animals. We recommend doing as much research as possible into any organisation. Read their website to find out their goals in caring for the animals in question, how they work with local communities, how they assess their environmental impact, how and where they spend their money, as well as looking closely as the kind of language and imagery they use to represent the animals and their work. You should be able to ask questions, read testimonials from previous volunteers, and even be put in touch with some for a chat if you request. Look at forums and online reviews. Do not be shy to find out as much as possible before you commit to anything.

Why do I have to pay a fee if I'm volunteering?

We appreciate it may seem odd to pay a fee for a place on a volunteering program. This money is usually used to cover expenses for having you on the placement, such as food, transport, and accommodation. It may also go towards other expenses such as up-keep of the animals, equipment, and paying local full-time staff. Lastly, many ethical volunteer programs will donate a portion of all their proceeds to investing in the local community, such as businesses, schools, healthcare facilities, or even related animal projects. There may also be other overheads such as admin costs. If you are concerned about how your money is going to be used, this is a fair question to ask any volunteer program before paying anything.

Do I need any qualifications to volunteer?

Most of the time you will not need any qualifications or previous training when volunteering with animals. If any training is necessary it will be given to you on-site after you arrive. We always recommend listening closely and paying full attention – it’s for both your safety and that of the animals!

One exception to this is that some marine volunteering projects may require you to hold a PADI Open Water Diving Certificate. As you can probably guess, this qualifies you to scuba dive and use diving equipment in natural environments. It can be gained before you leave home, and many destinations where diving is common will also have plenty of places to earn it. If a volunteering project requires you to have a PADI it will be made clear in the listing.

Will I need a visa to volunteer with animals abroad?

As with any volunteering program on your gap year, you’ll need to make sure you have permission to enter and work in the country of your choice, and this usually take the form of a visa. Although some countries don’t require tourist visas from UK nationals – particularly those in the EU – if you plan to work, you’ll almost certainly need a working visa. These must be arranged before you fly.

Do I need any vaccinations to volunteer with animals?

If you plan to work with animals and/or visit developing nations it is always wise to check with your doctor which, if any, vaccines and immunisations you should have before you travel. This becomes especially important if working with animals, which can spread diseases, including rabies in some instances. It is also vital that you get travel insurance to cover your time abroad. Medical expenses can escalate into the tens of thousands without adequate cover. Make sure your policy will cover volunteering with animals.

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