Make Contact: Wildlife Conservation
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If I join a wildlife conservation project, will I actually get to see animals or will I be confined to doing paperwork?
Wildlife conservation depends on meticulous record keeping, so paperwork will constitute an important part of your task. Radio collars are often used to track animals, and the signals have to be recorded. Moreover, since you are a volunteer and not a specialist, your safety is an issue. That being said, volunteers have been known to experience close encounters on these holidays:
- Biosphere Expeditions (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/expeditions/index.htm) offers worldwide conservation tours. This Responsible Tourism Award winner runs projects that require visual monitoring of animals. The monkeys and macaws project in Peru relies on direct observation, as does the chamois monitoring project in the Tatra Mountains of Slovakia.The Slovakia trip also entails recording signs of wolf and bear presence based on tracks and scat. This expedition costs $1870 for 12 days with room and board.
- You increase your odds of being in direct contact with animals if you volunteer at shelters and rehabilitation centers, such the Noah's Ark project in Namibia (http://www.globalcrossroad.com/wildlife_volunteers/noahs_ark_namibia.php). The animals residing here are victims of injury and abuse. Many are disabled and cannot be returned to the wild. Your duties usually include cleaning cages, preparing meals, hand feeding orphaned baby animals and learning to be a guide in the reserve. A two-week stay including room, board and training is $1295.
- Global Crossroad (http://www.globalcrossroad.com/wildlife_volunteers/index.php) provides links to a variety of wildlife volunteering opportunities in Africa, Thailand and Guatemala. The Guatemala project involves feeding and caring for young animals, such as ocelots, macaws and monkeys, that were rescued from smugglers. Volunteers may also help clear trails and build cages. A four-week stay costs $1449 with room and board, and volunteers receive Spanish lessons as part of their preparatory training.