Rehabilitation or research role?
All projects will accept that you are giving up your free time and that you want to make a valid contribution to their initiative, but how you make that contribution depends mainly – and this sounds obvious, but has tripped people up in the past – upon whether you are an animal person or not. Consider what it is that has driven you to enquire about a wildlife conservation vacation in the first place – have you done a trip before, but want to try something different? Or have you just seen a documentary and decided on a whim that wildlife conservation is your calling? You need to think about how much of a commitment a working vacation actually is. It’s a good idea to help out with a local animal sanctuary before you decide on a big trip because it’s a long way to go to find out that actually you’re not an animal person, or that the work involved doesn’t interest you. Read reviews, so you can hear about volunteer experiences in the words of other volunteers and that way you’ll ensure you’re joining a project that you’re really comfortable with.
Some projects require a more care-focused or rehabilitative role – volunteering with monkeys, for example, can involve rehabilitating young, orphaned primates for future release into the wild. Duties include assisting with medical checks, preparing food, playing with the babies to help their development and building enclosures. Others have a more research-based role – volunteering with endangered wildlife in South Africa, for instance, may involve working on a game reserve tracking and locating priority species in the wild, mapping sightings, observing behaviour and assisting with ongoing game counts.