Endangered animals need intervention from volunteers to help them survive. More than 900 species have already disappeared from the planet. Habitat destruction, the introduction of nonnative species, hunting, and overexploitation by humans are among the main reasons animals become endangered.
Endangered Species International notes that there are approximately 17,000 known threatened species, including elephants, great apes, marine turtles, snow leopards and polar bears, and scores of different birds, among many others. More than 1,200 threatened or endangered species live in North America.
Protecting endangered animals is not just critical for their own survival, but often for the survival of many other species as well. Many endangered animals serve as "umbrella species," which means that helping them also helps others that depend on the same habitat.
Conservation centers and individual scientists around the globe seek volunteers to support the research, rescue and rehabilitation of endangered animals.
Sample projects include:
- monitoring nesting
- helping with wildlife rescues
- computer and office assistance
- coral reef research
- cleaning holding cages, or building new cages and nest boxes
- conducting tours for visitors
- working with school children on environmental education projects
Efforts to save threatened and endangered animals have achieved real successes, including bald eagles, gray whales and grizzly bears in the United States. So next time you have a vacation to plan, make your mark on history and spend it saving endangered animals.
I Did This!
- Responsible Travel arranges a variety of volunteer travel expeditions, many of them focused on endangered animal conservation. One, for example, studies endangered Grevy's zebras in Kenya.
- Through Biosphere Expeditions, you can volunteer in Sri Lanka to save endangered elephants, go to Sumatra to help save the tigers, or join other volunteers in Malaysia to help preserve the coral reefs and marine life, among many other conservation projects.
- The Global Volunteer Network organizes trips to Ecuador, which is home to more than 100 species of endangered animals.
- Global Vision International coordinates a wide variety of wildlife conservation projects ranging from a few weeks to a few months, including several projects in South Africa and Seychelles.
- If you have 3 weeks or more to spend, Wildlife Friends of Thailand welcomes volunteers to assist with the care and conservation of numerous native Thai species, including endangered gibbons.
- i-to-i offers several working vacation projects dedicated to conserving endangered animals, including one focused on endangered species of turtles in Costa Rica.
- The Hawai'i Wildlife Fund welcomes volunteers to help with conservation projects focused on hawksbill sea turtles and monk seals, among others. You can choose to help build fences to protect turtles from crossing highways, monitor turtle nests, ensure the safety of monk seals, and many other critical tasks.
- Explorations in Travel offers wildlife conservation programs in Australia, Belize, Costa Rica, and Mexico for self-reliant and easy-going volunteers who prefer greater savings and cultural immersion than the comforts of a hotel. For accommodation, volunteers stay in the homes of local families or live in on-site bunkhouses.
- Earthwatch offers 1-3 week projects that match members of the public with scientists at sites all over the world, including one dedicated to protecting Australia's endangered forest marsupials.