Imagine waking up in the middle of the night on a wildlife reserve in Africa and hearing a lion’s mighty roar. Picture yourself walking barely-trodden footpaths in the Amazon Rainforest as you track a family of rehabilitated spider monkeys. Can you feel the warm sun on your face as you think about standing on a gently rocking boat, preparing to dive with sharks in Fiji’s sparkling blue waters?
None of the above is a dream out of your reach. Our animal volunteer opportunities abroad open the door to work with animals of all shapes and sizes worldwide. Whether it’s fur or scales, you can work with various species, including wildlife you’ve never encountered before and familiar, cuddly domestic animals.
Read on to find out more about our favourite animal volunteer projects abroad for animal lovers and aspiring conservationists.
1. Rehabilitate wild animals in the middle of the jungle in Peru
Wildlife rehabilitation is the beating heart of the work we do at the Taricaya Ecological Reserve in the Amazon Rainforest. Together with our partner, Animal Defenders International (ADI), we dedicate ourselves to caring for wildlife rescued from circuses or lives as illegal pets. If an animal was born in captivity, and can’t be released, we provide an environment as close as possible to the life they would’ve had in the wild.
By doing animal volunteer work abroad in Peru, you’ll encounter fascinating wildlife species. You’ll meet our rehabilitated spider monkey troop, who live (and breed!) freely in the surrounding forests. You’ll get to know our resident endangered Spectacled Bear, Cholita, who exchanged years of abuse in a circus for a life spent dozing in the sun, surrounded by trees.
Taricaya is at the forefront of conservation efforts and wildlife rehabilitation in South America, and you can be in the thick of it. You’ll do hands-on work, getting involved in activities geared toward rehabilitating not only animals but the forest itself.
2. Help African Penguins waddle back to the oceans in South Africa
If you’ve travelled to Cape Town, chances are high that you visited Boulders Beach, a local tourist hotspot. And if you’ve been here, you’ve definitely heard the distinctive donkey-like braying of the African penguins!
Boulders Beach is home to one of the biggest colonies of breeding African penguins, and the only place you can see these charmers waddling around this close. Even though it’s a protected area, their numbers are dwindling. Sadly, what used to be a thriving population has shrunk to a colony of fewer than 3,000 birds, leaving the species endangered and highly vulnerable.
In South Africa, you can volunteer with African penguins (and other seabirds, like pelicans) and support their rehabilitation when they’re injured or ill. You’ll work alongside full-time carers and expert conservationists, assisting with general care, feeding, and rehabilitation. It’s critical work, as the centre has its hands full, and it relies heavily on volunteers, especially during egg-laying season.
Working with penguins in South Africa is an incredibly unique opportunity for you to actively learn about animal rehabilitation (specifically related to seabirds) and give back as a volunteer abroad at the same time.
3. Move it, move it with lemurs in Madagascar
Lemurs may pop up all over the place in movies - we can only wish this was the case in real life. These adorable primates are found only on the island of Madagascar, where they thrive as the only primate species. In recent times, however, lemurs have struggled against deforestation, competition with invasive species, and poor waste management in human settlements.
To strengthen and ensure the survival of Madagascar’s endemic species, we’ve partnered with under-staffed local national parks to combat these issues. With the support of volunteers like you, we’re able to:
- Remove alien plants
- Plant indigenous trees
- Run regular clean-ups
- Monitor the number of lemurs and other wildlife living in the park
- Share knowledge with the community to increase awareness of the need to protect animals and the environment
Did you know? Madagascar has more than 100(!) species of lemur living on the island. Join our animal conservation volunteer opportunities in Madagascar and help ensure that these species survive for future generations.
4. Extend a hand and take a paw in need in Belize
At any shelter, the end goal is to give dogs and cats the warm and loving forever home they each deserve. This is true wherever you go in the world, no matter if it's a tiny kitten or senior pooch looking for a human to live out his golden years with.
In Belize, we work with the only non-profit, non-governmental animal shelter in the coastal community of San Pedro. Here, domestic animals like dogs and cats get basic care, along with exercise, socialising, and training. There’s also a vet on board to perform procedures like spaying and neutering animals to help control the number of strays.
A big part of our efforts in Belize is centered around raising awareness of animal cruelty. You’ll help teach communities to treat animals kindly, and encourage people to “adopt, don’t shop”.
If the idea of being smothered in puppies, walking alongside a bouncing dog on the beach, or snuggling a kitty in your lap brings a smile to your face, working in animal care as a volunteer abroad in Belize is for you! It will give you practical experience with socialising and training domestic animals, and you’ll be able to shadow a qualified vet.
5. Dive in paradise… surrounded by sharks
This might sound just a little bit terrifying, but diving with sharks in tropical Fiji is something magical that you’ll talk about and remember for the rest of your life - we promise. It’s also a twist to the tale when you share your story of volunteering to help animals abroad. No one’s going to expect that animal to turn out to be a shark!
Sharks are in decline worldwide, and the Fijian government has made protecting sharks in their waters their top priority. As part of our efforts to support communities in Fiji, we run a Shark Conservation Project to help protect an endangered and frequently misunderstood species.
As a volunteer, you’ll actively collect critical data used for research to inform real conservation policies. You’ll work closely with local communities to raise awareness of why marine ecosystems can’t thrive without sharks. You’ll support marine life in Fiji by planting mangroves, which is also one of the ways we fight climate change by offsetting carbon emissions.
Your fear of sharks may run deep (you could’ve been one of those kids who always pictured sharks in swimming pools), but you can rest assured that our dives are entirely safe. You’ll be supervised by expert diving instructors from our highly respected dive partners, Beqa Adventure Divers. Their safety record on shark dives is 100%.
6. Give meaning to your next beach holiday by adding turtles
Interested in spending a couple of weeks at the beach, but want to inject purpose into your trip through animal volunteering abroad? Our Conservation Project in Mexico sees you working closely with endangered sea turtles at a local ecological centre. You’ll combine working at the centre with working on a nearby black sand beach, lagoon, and at a crocodile centre.
It’s hard work, filled to the brim with adventure and moments of tranquil beauty. The breeze whipping through your hair at night while you scout for new nests from the back of a quad bike. Witnessing the miracle of life as you watch eggs hatch in protected corrals at the centre, and later seeing them scurry toward the ocean. Drifting around a lagoon, scratching notes about the birds you see.
Sounds like a dream holiday, especially with animals like sea turtles in the mix!
7. Protect elephants on a game reserve in Botswana
As you can imagine, these gentle giants eat a lot. This means they spend most of their day thinking about food, looking for food, eating food…sounds familiar to us! In fact, the average adult African elephant spends between 12-18 hours a day feeding.
Their feeding habits can have quite an impact on the environment. This is why a big part of our work at the Wild at Tuli reserve, located in Botswana in the south of Africa, focuses on:
- Monitoring population growth and movement
- Conserving water by building and repairing water holes, rain tanks, and boreholes (elephants need to drink plenty of water to wash the vegetation down, and water scarcity can be a problem in southern Africa)
In addition to working with elephants, we work on anti-poaching initiatives, doing things like removing snares set by poachers. This helps protect the elephants.
At this project, you’ll also encounter other members of Africa’s Big 5, like lions and leopards. It’s the perfect project if you’re interested in volunteering with wild animals, and want to learn from conservation experts in the African bush.
Other recommended animal volunteer opportunities abroad in Africa: Protect endangered giraffes and lions in Kenya.
8. Horse around in Argentina... and help kids at the same time
There’s been a strong bond between people and animals for thousands of years. Taking advantage of this bond, the role of animals in therapy has grown over the years. Pets provide comfort to people struggling with illnesses and conditions like cancer, PTSD, and those living in long-term care facilities.
While dogs and cats have a prominent role in pet therapy, other animals are also taking a bigger part on the stage. In Argentina, we work with an equine therapy centre, which uses horses to treat kids and adults with physical and mental conditions and disabilities. Our volunteers actively participate in therapy sessions, helping patients gear up, to riding with them, or leading the horse.
It’s hands-on animal volunteer work abroad that gets you involved at every level. You’ll help care for the horses, from feeding to grooming, and you’ll learn about the theoretical and practical aspects of equine therapy, and how they help people.
You can also work in South Africa at a similar equine therapy programme.
9. Add real-world veterinary work experience to your CV in Ghana
If you’ve dreamed of becoming a vet, or if you’re currently a student on the way to achieving that dream, our Veterinary Medicine Project in Ghana is for you.
You’ll shadow a qualified vet, seeing what the day-to-day life of a working vet is really like. You’ll attend consultations, observe treatments and procedures you’ve only seen in textbooks or on TV, and assist under supervision. In Ghana, we work with domestic and farm animals, providing great insight into the balance of work you’d likely do back home in urban and rural areas.
The most valuable experience you’ll get out of an internship in Ghana is the perspective you’ll gain of veterinary practices in a developing country. Think diseases that have been eradicated in your home country, or methods of treatment relying on outdated equipment.
Do you offer free animal volunteer programmes abroad?
We aren’t able to offer free animal volunteer programmes abroad. This is because we run several of our own centres and initiatives (such as Taricaya and Wild at Tuli) without relying on other sources of funding, and we offer a high level of support to our volunteers at the same time. We also have a comprehensive animal welfare policy in place to guide our volunteers and ensure the safety of the wildlife and animals we work with.
The fees you pay include:
- Three meals a day
- Airport transfers
- A full project, with everything you need to do the work
If you’re looking for cheap animal volunteering abroad, we can recommend ways to make the experience more affordable for you. Read our fundraising advice, and if you’re able to secure funding through a scholarship or bursary, you’ll be able to use it for a Projects Abroad programme, as we’re an official organisation.
How do I get involved in helping animals overseas?
Our animal conservation volunteer opportunities are open to anyone aged 16 and older. While some of our programmes have requirements - for example, you need to speak some Spanish to join our Equine Therapy Project in Argentina - most are open to people of all backgrounds and skills. If a project has requirements, we’ll state it clearly on the project information page.
We also offer special animal volunteer programmes for high school students in:
When you’re researching the type of animal volunteering abroad that you want to do, feel free to reach out to our Project Experts for help at any time!