A wilder way to learn

Volunteer with animals

An immersive practical experience in the heart of the wild

Ecosystems like rainforests, tropical islands and mountainous cloud forests aren’t usually just beyond your doorstep. Here’s your chance to work towards a career as a conservationist, wildlife researcher, or animal-care project supervisor by volunteering with animals in some of the most isolated, varied, and beautiful habitats in the world.

Cutting Edge

Cutting Edge

Our programs contribute to world-class research that is leading the critical fight against biodiversity loss.
Ethical

Ethical

We pledge to do good only through meaningful, considered action that can make a proven difference in the world.
Sustainable

Sustainable

Using the UN’s SDGs as a framework, we’re committed to conservation solutions that are built to have a lasting, positive impact.

What is volunteering with animals all about?

Overview
Species
Locations

Sunset, Costa Rica. As you walk out of the jungle and onto the twilit beach, turtles have already begun emerging from the surf, carrying bellies full of eggs. 

Mid-morning, Thailand. You are walking through lush tropical forest, fresh from rain, keeping pace with elephants gently browsing for food. 

Late afternoon in Seychelles. You are about to dive into the warm ocean – the balmy, sunlit waters are lapping against your bare legs, the tropical breeze brushing against your face while lemon shark pups are playfully swimming around their nursery. 

If you’ve landed on our Volunteer with Animals page, you’re probably already halfway to answering the question, “What volunteer work can I do abroad?” Or, “How can I get experience working with animals in the field?”

Well, you’ve come to the right place. 

GVI offers volunteer opportunities across two sectors: community volunteering and conservation volunteering. One of our main conservation focuses is volunteering with animals. This means working directly with certain species of animals to rehabilitate and protect both them and their habitats. Specifically, if you join one of our animal care volunteer programs, you will take part in stimulating on-the-ground work experience – engaging with sea turtle rehabilitation centres, forest-based animal care organisations, or marine-based centres that do work in some of the world’s most biodiverse waters. By collaborating with reputable local and global animal care organisations, you’ll gain international work experience.

Volunteer abroad with sea turtles 

 We offer sea turtle volunteer programs in 

Our project work focuses on four species of sea turtles: green sea turtles, leatherback turtles, loggerhead sea turtles and hawksbill sea turtles. 

Our sea turtle animal care and research efforts centre around studying the nesting success and habits of adult turtles, including collecting and collating information such as tag numbers, carapace (shell) measurements, and number of eggs laid. You will also carry out nest evacuations to measure hatching success rates. 

Volunteer abroad with lemon sharks

Lemon sharks are critically endangered and understudied. Join us in Seychelles, where our international team of passionate volunteers and qualified experts have dedicated their time and efforts to the survival of sicklefin lemon sharks. As a volunteer on this animal program, you will work in our lemon shark catch and release program, searching the waters surrounding the island for shark pups, and gathering valuable data on population growth and breeding habits.  

Volunteer abroad with Asian elephants

Leaving behind their lives in the tourism industry, these gentle giants now live a wilder life in  Chiang Mai Province in northern Thailand, an area famous for its traditional elephant-keeping communities. Observe the elephants in their natural habitat and learn about elephant history, behaviour, training, biology, and social interactions directly from the people who have cared for and worked alongside these beautiful animals for centuries.

We offer animal volunteer opportunities across four continents in terrains ranging from rainforests to tropical islands. 

Thailand 

Thailand is an abundant tropical territory where jungles, beaches, and colourful coral reefs are home to thousands of species of mammals, fish, reptiles and insects. This will be your office while you are participating in an international animal care internship in Thailand. We offer two opportunities for animal lovers in Thailand: 

  • Volunteer with Asian elephants in the northern mountains of Chiang Mai, working alongside the local elephant-keeping community to re-establish elephants from the tourism industry into a natural habitat.
  • Work in Phang Nga on turtle conservation and care alongside experts in the field. Our partner organisation in Phang Nga is the Thai Royal Navy. 

Seychelles 

The Seychelles is an archipelago of over 100 islands off the east coast of Africa – providing plenty of opportunities to work in unique habitats that include kilometres of coral reef, mangrove forest, coastline, and jungle.  

Our animal volunteer projects focus on turtles and sicklefin lemon sharks. These projects are based on Curieuse Island, an otherwise uninhabited island that forms part of a large national park. Our local research and community partner in Seychelles is the Seychelles National Parks Authority, and your animal volunteering project can focus on either sicklefin lemon sharks or nesting sea turtles. 

Greece 

Set on the shores of the sparkling Mediterranean, our project hub is a 10-minute walk from the village of Giannitsochori, a small and traditional village and beach resort with historical ruins close by. The area – Kyparissia Bay in the western Peloponnese  – is an ancient nesting site for one of the world’s most endangered (and oldest) marine species: the loggerhead turtle. Our animal volunteer project is focused on critical conservation efforts to preserve and protect this vital habitat, and will give you the unique opportunity to contribute to – and learn from –  the work, the community, and each other.

Our local partner organisation in Greece is ARCHELON, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece

Costa Rica 

Our animal volunteer projects in Costa Rica are based in Cahuita National Park, where more than 22,000 green sea turtles – one of the largest species of sea turtle on the planet – lay their eggs every year. The park is one of our remotest hubs, surrounded by protected tropical rainforest, and perched on the Caribbean Sea. The park’s freshwater creeks and lagoons, which can be navigated by boat or canoe, shelter spectacled caimans and river turtles. The surrounding dense rainforest is also rich with wildlife, from monkeys to jaguars to tropical birds. Working alongside other animal care volunteers, researchers and our local partners organisations, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

​​What do animal volunteers do?

Animal volunteers work on conservation projects that are dedicated to the preservation of a single animal species and its habitat. One of the most striking features of an animal care internship is that it provides a real-life demonstration of how animals, environments and human beings can – and do – interact positively within an ecosystem.

Is animal volunteering ethical?

Yes. GVI has a very strict and robust ethical animal handling policy on all our animal volunteer programs and research projects, which is constantly monitored and updated. You can read more about it here

Is it necessary to handle wild animals on an animal care internship abroad?

It’s not always essential to interact with wild animals to contribute to their conservation. But, in some cases, the benefits of interacting with wild animals, under the supervision of experts, outweigh the risks. All of our international animal care internships only allow for interactions that are essential to the well-being of the animals involved.

Is it safe to handle wild animals?

If you’re working with a reputable and ethical animal care organisation you can rest assured that you’ll be taking part in work that won’t put you at risk of being injured by a wild animal. All of GVI’s local staff and partners have expertise in the field and will supervise you in a way that is safe, while still allowing you to gain valuable experience. GVI also has a strict stance on animal interaction that is applied to every animal care internship we run.

Join a conservation internship and get an exclusive offer

Book by 31 October 2022
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