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Wildlife Conservation Volunteer
Wildlife conservation volunteer in mountain environment.
Wildlife research volunteer with captive Andean condor
Wildlife conservation volunteers in mud
Wildlife research volunteers in Ecuador observing condors for wildlife management project
Animal conservation volunteer with sealion pup, Galapagos Islands
Volunteers for wildlife surveying forest, Ecuador

Volunteering on a wildlife conservation project
is a great way to see another side of Ecuador.  Volunteer with animals, carry out research or intern on a wildlife management project.


Wildlife Conservation Volunteer

As a wildlife conservation volunteer or intern you could get involved in a wide variety of projects in Ecuador.  Wildlife conservation might involve working directly with animals, but more often covers the work of conserving their habitat, researching their behaviour or surveying population numbers.  Volunteers for wildlife often do a lot of physical work, trekking to remote locations and working in rain, wind and mud, or scorching sunshine.  Volunteer opportunities range from fun projects with no skills required to serious wildlife management initiatives requiring interns with specific skills and experience.
Most wildlife is shy and elusive.  Unless you volunteer in the Galapagos Islands, you are likely to only catch the odd glimpse of something moving in the undergrowth rather than have wildlife crawling onto your shoes or posing for photos.  If you want your volunteer work to include a lot of contact with animals, you might prefer to volunteer in an animal rescue centre or educational zoo.  Even so, don't expect volunteering with animals to be all cuddling cute bear cubs or baby monkeys.  It is just as likely to include cleaning out cages, chopping up raw meat or caring for tarantulas and snakes.  Try searching for terms like "animal conservation volunteer" or "voluntary work abroad with animals", and bear in mind that summer volunteering opportunities with animals usually book up well in advance.
Summer volunteering may be more of a holiday break than a way of gaining career experience, especially if you are not a trained biologist or wildlife vet.  A couple of weeks as a conservation volunteer clearing invasive introduced plants or planting native trees on a sustainable conservation project is a productive, fun and healthy holiday and makes a welcome change from a desk job or high powered career.  Take a look at the current volunteer opportunities on wildlife conservation projects in Ecuador.
A wildlife management role making a genuine impact in endangered species conservation is a wonderful opportunity for a serious wildlife conservation volunteer.  For this kind of role (which might be better described as a wildlife internship, so try searching for that too), relevant studies and/or experience will probably be needed, for example a biology degree or similar.  Wildlife conservation internships might offer the chance to help with data collection, behavioural observation or tracking.  Note that wildlife research in Ecuador requires a permit from the government, so check your internship project has one.
If you are planning a career in wildlife conservation or research, look for internships or volunteer opportunities which will allow you to help with data collection in the field.  Think about the experience you want to gain and choose a conservation project in a relevant area.  If you don't yet know where you want to focus your career as a field biologist or wildlife technician, try to volunteer for a month or so each on different projects in a range of ecosystems with different species.  Ask questions before booking and explain your objectives to the project manager to ensure you will have the chance to develop your skills on a genuine research project and gain some impressive experience for your conservation career.
Before deciding to apply as a volunteer on an environmental or conservation programme, make an honest assessment of your personal fitness, patience, attention to detail, and tolerance for working in harsh weather conditions.  You might need to carry heavy loads at altitude or camp out for days at a time waiting to spot some elusive animal.  Consider whether you are more interested in wildlife research or prefer to work on the implementation phase of a conservation project.
If you will be involved in research, especially in taking samples of material from forests or other ecosystems, check carefully who owns the project and its results.  It is rumoured that pharmaceutical companies may be using innocent volunteer researchers to extract plant samples from areas belonging to native peoples in order to patent them.  Be wary of "scientific" wildlife research projects with glossy brochures which look more like a tropical holiday - they may be just that, especially if they are asking for a substantial arrangement fee and have an expensive advertising campaign.  (In Ecuador, a contribution of around $600 to $900 a month, i.e. $20 to $30 a day, is a realistic reflection of what it costs to keep, feed, train and supervise a volunteer.  Fees significantly higher than that could reasonably be viewed with some suspicion.  The exception to this is the Galapagos Islands, where almost everything costs 2 or 3 times more, and $50 to $80 per day is a reasonable sum). Your research should begin before you select your wildlife research project!
Environmental education and involvement with local communities is very important if conservation projects are to have a sustainable impact.  Many rural communities in Ecuador know little about their local wildlife.  The daily struggle against poverty does not encourage farmers to conserve animals which destroy their crops.  Information and creative solutions are needed for farmers and wildlife to live in harmony.  Ask how local communities are involved in your prospective volunteer project and how it is ensuring that local people have an incentive to conserve wildlife and habitats.  Learn some Spanish before you get to Ecuador so that you will be able to explain to locals what you are doing on your wildlife conservation project and why.
Volunteer work on a conservation project in the Galapagos Islands is an attractive option but opportunities are limited and often costly.  Some projects charge $150 per day or more, depending how long you stay.  Make careful enquiries about project ownership and ask how the local community is involved.  The social aspects of a conservation project are often forgotten in the Galapagos Islands but for true sustainability they are just as important as the environmental component of the project.  
See volunteer opportunities in conservation, environmental projects and wildlife research in Ecuador and consider internship opportunities on wildlife research projects.  Notes on travel insurance for wildlife conservation volunteers.

Wildlife Conservation - Volunteer in Ecuador
Volunteer work in conservation & wildlife management, volunteers for wildlife, summer volunteering, voluntary work abroad with animals, wildlife internships, environmental volunteer projects in Ecuador.  No responsibility can be taken for the content of external websites.  Assess conservation volunteer opportunities carefully, based on your unique requirements and abilities.