Slowly edging our way along the riverbank, the light from our torch scanned for the unmistakable orange glint reflected in the eyes of this night-time killer. A close relative of the alligator, the caiman is a highly evolved predator, always ready to pounce. As we made our silent approach, my heart was pounding; this was my chance to finally catch this incredible creature. My hand shook as I reached down to the murky water, tales of lost fingers echoing in my head. And then nothing; it had seen me coming. As we moved on, I sighed with relief disguised as a disappointment.
Caiman hunting really was the tip of the iceberg during my time in the remote Peruvian rainforest. By the end of those three months, I had witnessed many of the animals I had grown up watching on documentaries with amazement. From feeding the jaguar at the rehabilitation center to early morning outings in search of the mysterious giant otters, my experience was unforgettable. A voluntary wildlife conservation project really can involve a vast variety of different issues. Not only could you be going to some of the most exciting, remote and beautiful places on earth, but you could also encounter the incredibly diverse and important species that these locations have to offer. Taking part in a wildlife conservation project is a worthwhile and memorable experience, wherever you choose to go.
Some possible wildlife conservation projects you could join are:
Coral Reef Conservation
If diving is your thing, then you could be helping to conduct vital research in some of the most beautiful and isolated locations on the planet. The world’s coral reefs are subjected to a variety of different threats, such as unsustainable dynamite fishing methods and rising global sea temperatures. As well as helping to conserve these important ecosystems, many projects will also include a diving qualification, a valuable and useful passport for your future marine exploration. With opportunities all over the world, you could find yourself swimming with impressive whale sharks in Tanzania, majestic manta rays in Fiji, and much more.
Working with Critically Endangered Species
With so many species classified as critically endangered, a vast number of projects worldwide work to save these threatened animals from going the way of the dodo. Some of the most iconic and high profile examples include the giant panda of China and the Sumatran orangutan. Placements vary greatly, from breeding centers that work to boost species numbers, to park ranger courses guarding against poaching. Clearly a vital vein of the conservation effort, why not be a part of it?
Documenting which species are where is an important part of wildlife conservation. It enables future conservation programs to be established and existing ones to become more effective. Many wildlife conservation projects will involve this area of work, with early starts often being vital for the best results. You could be waking with the birds at the break of dawn after a night spent in a canopy tree-house in the Amazon rainforest, or maybe you’d prefer a silent night-walk through the incredible jungles of Indonesia on the lookout for the elusive and critically endangered Sumatran Tiger.
Animal Rescue Centre
Young orphaned animals are frequently adopted as pets the world over. Once these animals become too much to handle, they are often abandoned. Many animal rescue centers have begun working to curb the negative effects of this issue, by rehabilitating species in an effort to eventually reintroduce them to their native environment. A rewarding and exciting opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the world’s most amazing species, animal rescue centers address an important and often over-looked problem within wildlife conservation today.
Educating local communities on the benefits of conservation is crucial if much of the planet’s wildlife is to stand a chance of surviving. Sustainable methods must be taught and damaging habits altered for conservation to be successful in the long-term. This important area of conservation work could see you spending time with young students in a Guatemalan village, as well as many other teaching opportunities worldwide depending on your personal interests.
I spent three months in the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian rainforest close to the Bolivian and Brazilian borders. Described as an Amazon rainforest conservation project, I had little idea I would be involved in so many interesting activities and issues.
See other projects available with Frontier.