Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Tips to Find Animal Volunteering Opportunities in Australia

Animal lovers are often looking for ways to take an active part in wildlife conservation efforts, however their attempts to locate a place where they can have a meaningful impact can often end at the doors of dubious ‘voluntourism’ organisations. Unfortunately, some organisations are companies that rely on profits rather than preservation, and others, although well-meaning can unknowingly do more harm than good. If you would like to go beyond a photo opportunity, you will need to dig deep and do your research.

Here are some pointers to help you get started:

Find out about the roster. Volunteer work can be arduous and require long hours working in less than ideal conditions (heat, cold, etc). Other projects only work a few hours a week. Do not commit more time and energy than you can afford or you may be left with your expectations not being met.

Bring a partner or friend. Animal volunteer work is rewarding and challenging. If you have a friend to share the experience with, it is less difficult when you arrive home as you have someone local you can share your laughs, memories and experiences with, good and bad.

Find out the physical requirements. Find out how physically demanding the volunteer work is. Chopping corn for elephants on a 40 degree day is not easy! You may prefer feeding squid to turtles and scratching their backs instead. Choose an animal volunteering program according to what energy output you are seeking and ensure that you can manage the work if you have a medical condition. Many projects offer programs for mature age and people with special needs. Speak to the project coordinator and get a good feel for whether it is for you. Ask them what project would suit. Choose your project according to your abilities and your limitations.

Find out if the work requires any special training or certification. Most organisations will provide you with all the necessary training, tools and materials. However, some special projects, internships and projects (vet work) may need additional qualifications or even a University degree.

Find out about the animals on the project. You will get the most out of your placement if you know about the types of animals you will be working with and how close you will be getting to them. There may be projects that you discard because of the local, wild animal population. For example, if you are hesitant about snakes and spiders, then don’t volunteer in the Amazon!

Find out about the health risks involved with animal volunteering and the vaccinations that are required for your placement. Contact with diseased wildlife can be risky if you are not properly protected. A good volunteer organisation will ensure you are up to date with all your vaccinations.

Find out if the organisation has a support system in place for medical emergencies. How does the organisation handle volunteer injuries or accidents? How far away is the nearest hospital?

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