Wildlife conservation volunteering

Preserve our world’s most vulnerable habitats.

A turtle hatchling making its first journey to the open ocean. Lemurs chattering in the jungle canopies of Madagascar. Lions roaming the African savannah. A forest full of Asian elephants. These are only some of the thrilling sights you can hope to see – and study – if you join one of our wildlife conservation programs.

Overview

A turtle hatchling making its first journey to the open ocean. Lemurs chattering in the jungle canopies of Madagascar. Lions roaming the African savannah. A forest full of Asian elephants. These are only some of the thrilling sights you can hope to see – and study – if you join one of our wildlife conservation programs. 

What is wildlife conservation? 

All over the world, ecosystems are in trouble. From the Amazon rainforest to the tropical island coastlines of Seychelles and Fiji, from the jungles of Eastern Asia and the grasslands of Africa, habitats are shrinking or being destroyed, and the animal populations that live in them are vanishing alongside them. This is called biodiversity loss. 

Wildlife conservation works to protect and restore biodiversity, reverse habitat destruction and prevent species extinction. It is very important work. 

Why is wildlife conservation important?

Healthy ecosystems mean a healthy world.

Imagine if all the insects in the world vanished. We need insects to pollinate crops, which we eat. Without insects, we would lose a significant amount of our food. 

Or imagine if forests were destroyed. Forests regulate carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, which in turn regulate temperatures, which are already rising due to human-induced climate change. Without forests, the planet would get hotter, and we would experience unpredictable and extreme weather conditions, putting thousands of lives at risk. 

These might seem like scary examples, but they highlight why healthy ecosystems are so important. Every plant and animal in an ecosystem is needed to keep that ecosystem healthy. Humans are part of the natural world and we depend on healthy ecosystems to survive. Disrupted or destroyed ecosystems affect, amongst many other things, weather stability, water safety, food security and air quality. 

Wildlife conservation is what keeps our ecosystems healthy and balanced.

Our programs

Volunteering
Volunteer with Elephants in Thailand
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Wildlife Expedition in Costa Rica
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Wildlife Research in South Africa Expedition
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Island Conservation Expedition to the Seychelles
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Thailand Coastal Conservation Expedition
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Gibbon Conservation Volunteering in Thailand
Volunteering
Endangered Turtle Conservation and Research in Thailand
Volunteering
Volunteer with Turtles in Greece
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Sea Turtle Conservation in Costa Rica
Volunteering
Jaguar and wild cat conservation in Costa Rica
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Island Biodiversity Surveying Citizen Science Project in Seychelles
Volunteering
Bird Research in Costa Rica
Volunteering
Madagascar Lemur and Wildlife Conservation Expedition
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Coastal Conservation Volunteering in Madagascar
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Elephant and Endangered Sea Turtle Coastal Conservation in Thailand
Volunteering
Plastic Pollution and Conservation In Thailand
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Island Nations Climate Change and Biodiversity Volunteer in Seychelles
Volunteering
Rainforest Exploration and Biodiversity in Costa Rica
Volunteering
Marine, Island and Coastal Conservation Exploration in Fiji and Thailand
Volunteering
Reptile and Amphibian Diversity Research in the Costa Rican Rainforest
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Big Cat Conservation Research in South Africa
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Citizen science bird conservation in Thailand
Volunteering
Citizen Science Program in Costa Rica
Volunteering
Coral Reef Conservation in Thailand
Volunteering
Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo Research and Conservation in South Africa
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Rhino Poaching Awareness in South Africa
Volunteering
Cheetah Conservation and Research Project in South Africa
Included in your program, at no extra cost

Make the most of our unique programs with these exclusively curated local adventure and wellness experiences.

Offered once a month, expand your adventure with GVI Experiences. These are just some of the activities offered on your program!
Learn to cook Malagasy cuisine
Learn to cook Malagasy cuisine
Handcraft your own canoes
Handcraft your own canoes
Forage for local medicinal plants
Forage for local medicinal plants
Visit the island of the lemurs
Visit the island of the lemurs
Snorkel in a marine wonderland
Snorkel in a marine wonderland
Gaze and wonder at the southern constellations
Gaze and wonder at the southern constellations
Watch the sunset at Banyan tree
Watch the sunset at Banyan tree
Sleepover on a remote volcanic archipelago
Sleepover on a remote volcanic archipelago
How it works

How can we conserve wildlife?

There’s no single or set way to do it. Wildlife conservation is vital work, and it’s full of variety, opportunity and adventure. 

At GVI, most of our work is done through volunteer conservation projects, including:

 

What is wildlife conservation volunteering? 

Wildlife conservation volunteering with GVI includes volunteering programs and internship programs, both of which give you a chance to get involved in conservation research, scientific project work and environmental education. 

If you join one of our programs, you will travel to some of the world’s most remote and biodiverse places and live and work directly in the natural habitats you are helping to preserve. 

What does a wildlife volunteer do?

The work you do will depend on where you are, what project you’re working on, and which species you are working with. In general, wildlife conservation volunteers do a variety of the following:

  • Species monitoring 
  • Species census 
  • Collect and record data 
  • Camera trapping
  • Habitat restoration
  • Environmental education 
  • Field guide training 
  • Community outreach 
  • Social awareness

 

How do I become a wildlife conservation volunteer?

Just like there’s no single way to contribute to wildlife conservation, there are many routes to becoming a wildlife conservation or animal conservation volunteer. 

GVI has a wide variety of programs in locations all over the world where we work on the conservation of all kinds of habitats and species. 

Each of these programs promises a uniquely fulfilling, thrilling and impactful experience. You can apply here

Read this article to find out why wildlife volunteering is an excellent way to make an impact abroad: Why animal conservation may be the best way to volunteer abroad.

What are the three methods of wildlife conservation?

There are three main methods of wildlife conservation:

In-situ wildlife conservation

This method involves the protection and management of wildlife and their natural habitats. This can include the establishment of protected areas such as national parks and wildlife reserves, as well as the implementation of sustainable land-use practices and community-based conservation initiatives. 

Can I work on in-situ wildlife conservation programs with GVI?

Yes! This is the majority of our work. Scroll down for more information.

Advocacy and policy interventions

This method involves the development and implementation of policies and regulations to protect wildlife and their habitats, as well as public education and awareness-raising campaigns to promote conservation and sustainable resource use. This method is often used to address broader environmental issues such as climate change, pollution and habitat loss that threaten wildlife populations.

Can I work on advocacy and policy wildlife conservation programs with GVI?

Yes! A lot of our work is with community-led organisations focused on advocacy and education. Find out more about community-based wildlife conservation volunteering with GVI. 

Ex-situ conservation

This method involves the conservation of wildlife outside their natural habitats, usually in captivity or under controlled conditions such as breeding programs, gene banks and botanical gardens. This method is often used to protect endangered species that are at risk of extinction or facing threats in their natural habitats.

Can I work on ex-situ wildlife conservation programs with GVI?

Unfortunately not. Our work is on location and in the field, working directly with target species. Find out more about our practical wildlife conservation work with endangered species.

Locations

Where can I get involved in wildlife volunteering?

Whether you’re set on seeing the Big Five in the African savannah, monitoring rare and unique species in Madagascar, diving with marine megafauna in the waters of the Atlantic or Indian Oceans, or keen to clamber through the rainforests of Central America, there’s no shortage of beautiful and thrilling top travel destinations where you can volunteer with wildlife.

Wildlife conservation volunteering in Africa

In Africa, you have the chance to volunteer on wildlife conservation programs in three countries: 

 

Wildlife conservation volunteering with South Africa’s Big Five

Travel to the Greater Kruger National Park region in Limpopo, South Africa, and work towards the conservation of African animals – including the famous Big Five. 

The following volunteer wildlife conservation programs are available:

 

Read more: Grow your conservation skills with a wildlife project in South Africa

Wildlife conservation volunteering in Madagascar

In Madagascar, GVI is actively involved in a number of conservation initiatives, including the protection of endangered lemurs and their forest habitats

We conduct research on the behaviour and ecology of lemurs and other wildlife, and collaborate with national park authorities to monitor and protect protected areas. 

We work closely with local communities to promote sustainable farming practices and alternative livelihoods that reduce pressure on the forests. 

Wildlife and island conservation volunteering in Seychelles 

On  Mahe Island in Seychelles, we work towards island and coastal conservation. Mahe is home to many important ecosystems. Our wildlife conservation work includes: 

 

Wildlife and conservation volunteering in Latin America 

In Latin America, our wildlife conservation programs take you to the lush and remote rainforests of Costa Rica

Wildlife and rainforest conservation volunteering in Costa Rica

When you join a conservation volunteer program you’ll live and work in Kekoldi, an indigenous reserve in the heart of the tropical rainforests that spread across Costa Rica’s eastern mountain ranges. Since Costa Rica has such a variety of terrains, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a multitude of different ecosystems where myriad types of fauna and flora flourish. Our wildlife conservation volunteering programs include: 

 

Wildlife conservation volunteering in Asia

Our wildlife conservation programs in Asia are concentrated in two locations in beautiful and tropical Thailand

 

Wildlife conservation volunteering in Chiang Mai, Thailand

In the mountainous jungles of Chiang Mai province, our wildlife conservation volunteering programs assist traditional elephant keepers with reintroducing Asian elephants to their natural habitat. 

We also work on the following wildlife conservation projects:

 

Read more about elephants in Thailand: The history and future of elephants in Thailand.

Wildlife conservation volunteering in Phang Nga, Thailand

Or travel to the beaches of Phang Nga province and contribute towards wildlife conservation efforts like:

 

Careers

Career opportunities in conservation and wildlife

Wildlife conservation is a rewarding and challenging career path for those passionate about protecting and preserving the natural world. Career opportunities in wildlife conservation vary widely, depending on an individual’s interests, skills and qualifications. Some common career paths in this field include wildlife biologist, conservation officer, wildlife rehabilitator, park ranger and environmental educator. As the field of wildlife conservation continues to grow, there are also increasing opportunities for professionals in areas such as policy advocacy, sustainable tourism and ecotourism. 

How to start a career in wildlife conservation

Completing a wildlife conservation volunteer program or internship with GVI can be an excellent way to gain hands-on experience and develop the skills needed to launch a career in conservation. GVI provides participants with opportunities to work alongside experienced conservation professionals and researchers, gaining practical experience in fieldwork, data collection and community engagement.

Volunteering with GVI can also help individuals to build a network of contacts within the conservation community, providing opportunities for mentorship, job referrals and professional development. Through their programs, GVI provides participants with the opportunity to develop valuable skills such as communication, leadership, problem-solving and teamwork, which are highly sought after in the conservation sector.

Overall, completing a wildlife conservation volunteer program or internship with GVI can provide individuals with the skills, experience and connections needed to launch a successful career in this rewarding and impactful field.

Species

Becoming an animal conservation volunteer with GVI is a chance to work with some of the world’s most vulnerable and wonderful animals. All of our wildlife conservation volunteering programs contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #15: Life on Land.

Big Five conservation volunteering in Africa 

In Africa, you will have the opportunity work on wildlife conservation projects in the Greater Kruger National Park area focused on all of the Big Five species, including:

  • Elephant
  • Buffalo 
  • Lion
  • Leopard 
  • Rhino 

 

Why it matters 

Many of these animals are endangered or under threat, and all of them are crucial to the stability of local ecosystems. They are all also considered big tourist attractions, which the local economies and communities rely on for survival. 

Our conservation work is done in partnership with local organisations like Elephants Alive, the Endangered Wildlife Trust and the Karongwe Reserve management team. 

You will learn how to conduct biological surveys and track local wildlife, specifically big cats, gaining both practical wildlife conservation skills and theoretical knowledge 

Asian elephant conservation volunteering 

The Asian elephant is endangered and struggling with significant habitat destruction. 

Why it matters 

In Thailand, a unique relationship exists between elephants and humans. Elephant-keeping communities in Thailand have a long tradition and play a significant role in both the local culture and custom and the tourism industry. 

Working alongside the community to reintroduce elephants into a natural environment, wildlife conservation volunteers have the opportunity to witness the complex intersection of conservation and community. 

Gibbon and rainforest conservation volunteering in Thailand 

Although there are about 20 species of gibbons found in Southeast Asia, the areas surrounding GVI’s hub in Chiang Mai are home to the white-handed gibbon.

Why it matters 

These small furry apes hold large territories, move very fast and love hanging high up in the tree canopy – but relatively very little is known about them. As a key species for rainforest conservation, the survival of the white-handed gibbon is an indicator of the health of their forest habitats, which are under threat from deforestation and habitat fragmentation. Additionally, gibbons play an important role in forest regeneration and ecosystem functioning, by dispersing seeds and maintaining the structure of the forest canopy. 

You’ll help local conservation teams record observations about gibbons (behaviour, movements, feeding patterns, mating systems and territories). This data will assist scientists in gathering more knowledge about the ecology and conservation status of gibbons. 

Sea turtle conservation volunteering 

Wildlife and animal volunteers can work on sea turtle research and conservation in Costa Rica and Thailand

Why it matters

Sea turtles are some of the oldest species on the planet. They rely on ancient nesting sites that have remained unchanged for thousands of years. But many of those sites are being disrupted by human activity, putting the turtles at much greater risk of extinction. 

Turtle nesting sites are some of the rarest habitats in the world. Our wildlife volunteer projects give you the chance to get up close by living in, and learning from, these truly special habitats. 

Lemur conservation in Madagascar 

Lemurs are exceptionally rare primates found in only one place on earth – Madagascar. 

Why it matters 

Madagascar is an island in the Indian Ocean with unique plant and animal species, including the lemur, which can’t be found anywhere else on earth. Sadly, nearly a third of lemur species are critically endangered – and nearly all are threatened with extinction. This makes lemurs the earth’s most at risk group of mammals. 

Based in Lokobe National Park, you will be working to conserve one endangered lemur species, the black lemur, and two critically endangered lemur species, the Nosy Be sportive lemur and the Nosy Be mouse lemur, one of the smallest primates in the world.

More wildlife and animal conservation volunteering

In addition to the species mentioned above, we also offer animal conservation volunteering in the following areas:

 

Ethics and impact

Sustainable conservation volunteering programs 

Every GVI wildlife volunteering program is planned and implemented in collaboration with local partner organisations – creating solutions that will have a lasting impact and can eventually be maintained without external support. 

GVI’s wildlife volunteer programs are also aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) – global goals calling for worldwide action to address the largest global issues. By taking this approach, GVI guarantees that you’ll be contributing towards the most relevant and effective volunteer wildlife conservation programs. 

GVI partners with some of the most reputable international conservation organisations, ensuring we stay up to date with conservation science and contribute to wildlife conservation in the best ways possible. Our conservation volunteering programs also offer you the opportunity to earn internationally recognised qualifications that can improve your future employment opportunities, and even start you off in a career in wildlife conservation. 

We keep an eye on how effective our conservation volunteering programs are and set our goals against global benchmarks. You can read about the work we’ve done with the help of volunteers like you in our Impact and Ethics Report.

As part of our efforts to run our programs as ethically and safely as possible, all of our wildlife volunteering programs are governed by both a strict stance on animal interaction and our robust health and safety practices. In this way, our expert staff ensure that animal conservation volunteering activities are safe, ethical, and impactful.

How is ethical animal interaction ensured on a GVI wildlife conservation program?

GVI employs best practices when it comes to volunteering with wildlife, and is a British Standards 8848 compliant provider. Our programs are award-winning and endorsed by some of the biggest contributors in ethical conservation activities. 

We also partner with some of the most reputable international conservation organisations – ensuring that we stay up to date with conservation science, contribute towards large-scale ethical activities and make a positive impact in wildlife conservation. 

How do volunteers interact with animals on an ethical wildlife volunteer program?

The key to ethical animal interaction is to avoid any contact with animals, unless for relevant scientific purposes or for activities such as health checks. All interaction must be supervised by trained staff.

Why is ethical interaction important in a wildlife volunteer program?

It’s important to remember that it can be dangerous to get close to wild animals under any circumstances. Organisations offering tours and leisure activities where you can get close to wild animals unnecessarily increases the risk of injury to human beings and animals. It can also have far-reaching effects for the animals themselves. 

Wild animals that become too dependent on human interaction can lose part of their ability to fend for themselves in nature. This can lead to these animals becoming injured or dying in a setting where they should be able to survive. It’s not sustainable for humans to continue caring for wild animals for a few reasons. For example, the mental and physical health of wild animals can be affected when they are kept in captivity, and most wild animals cannot be domesticated to the point that they can safely live in the same habitat as humans.

But perhaps the most important consideration is the fact that each animal belongs to a specific ecosystem, and the maintenance of these ecosystems depends on the presence of wild animals, and their innate capabilities – like hunting, foraging and how they interact with other animals. 

Do you need to be trained before you can handle animals ethically?

Yes. Reputable conservation volunteering organisations should provide the necessary training before volunteers participate in any kind of animal-handling activities. Animal handling is only necessary when it is focused on animal care or conservation research.

All of GVI’s programs are run by experienced professionals. Volunteers who assist these professionals in animal-care activities are taken through comprehensive training before being allowed to interact with any animals. This includes standard volunteer health and safety training, as well as training in animal-handling and biological survey techniques. 

GVI also ensures that all wildlife volunteers are supervised during these activities. In this way we can be sure that volunteers are interacting with animals in the most ethical and effective way possible. 

Why should sustainability be a priority in ethical conservation volunteering activities?

By aligning our organisation’s activities with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), GVI is committed to efforts that not only make a positive impact in wildlife conservation but also contribute towards long-term goals.

Volunteer wildlife conservation organisations that focus on making a long-term impact factor sustainability into their programs. Sustainability means that conservation efforts:

  • Prevent the dependency of wild animals or local communities on volunteer activities.
  • Can continue through the efforts of local community members, even if GVI’s staff and volunteers are no longer present.
  • Make use of resources in a way that doesn’t compromise the access that future generations have to these resources.

By making sustainability a priority, GVI makes a promise to get involved in the most ethical, relevant and effective wildlife volunteering activities that can continue to make a positive impact on the future. 

Want to learn more about what makes a wildlife volunteering program ethical? Have a look at this article: Questions to ask when volunteering with animals.