7 Places to Volunteer in South America
for Animal & Nature Lovers
Volunteering abroad can be such a life changing experience. Here are 7 volunteer organizations in South America for animal and nature lovers.
This park is dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating wild animals and conducting conservation work. They nurse sick and injured animals back to health and, whenever possible, release them back into the wild. Some of the animals here have been rescued from the black market. Animals include monkeys, pumas, birds, wild swine, jaguars, toucans, and other native species. They work with Ministry of Ecology and other national parks and universities to monitor released animals and to foster their conservation work. Their conservation efforts include breeding rare species to increase their numbers.
The park is located in Candelaria near the town of Posadas, the capital of Argentina’s most northern Province of Misiones. Because of lack of financial resources, volunteers are essential to help care for all the animals. Please note that the majority of the staff at this project do not speak any English so a basic level of Spanish would be ideal.
To learn more about their volunteer programs, click here. I have volunteered at this park personally and learned a great deal although the language barrier for me was difficult as I only speak a small amount of Spanish.
2. Black Howler Monkeys Volunteer Center, Argentina
This rehabilitation centre is the only center for the rehabilitation of primates in Argentina. For over 12 years the center has been working with howler monkeys who inhabit the forests and jungles of Northeast Argentina.
The centre is located in the province of Cordoba and occupies almost 900 acres in mountains, rivers, waterfalls and forests at 4,400 feet above sea level. The region is very remote – 11 kms away from the closest village of La Cumbre.
3. Proyecto Asis: Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Center, Costa Rica
Proyecto Asis is a wildlife rehabilitation center that also has Spanish immersion programs. There is a large variety of animal species, many of which were rescued from the black market. Animals you’ll find include spider monkeys, white-lipped peccaries, raccoons, caimans, kinkajous, a large variety of bird species (including parrots, owls, and toucans), and more. Proyecto Asis has been featured on National Geographic and is an extremely well-run volunteer organization. Volunteers of all backgrounds are welcome and the volunteer programs are hands-on, interactive and diverse.
4. Rancho Mastatal: Environmental Learning Center & Lodge, Costa Rica
Rancho Mastatal is an environmental learning and sustainable living center, a rural sanctuary and a lodge located in and on the edge of the last remaining virgin rainforest of Costa Rica’s beautiful Puriscal County. They practice, promote and teach about living responsibly in the tropics while educating visitors about the significance of the world’s disappearing tropical forests. They work tirelessly to help lead local efforts in conservation, education, natural medicine and community growth. Their site encompasses 550+ acres of picture-perfect waterfalls, crystal-clear rivers, idyllic swimming holes, impressive trees, extraordinary wilderness views, and pristine habitat for the area’s rich flora and fauna.
Rancho Mastatal gets amazing reviews and as they say on their website “volunteers work and live with amazing people at the Ranch…, make lifelong friends, and participate in a style of living that often times changes them forever.”
5. La Tortuga Feliz: Sea Turtle Conservation, Costa Rica
Poaching, fishing nets, pollution and other threats have caused an alarming decline in the sea turtle population. La Tortuga Feliz protects the critically endangered leatherback and green turtles that come to its beach line every breeding season to lay their eggs.
This project is located on a beautiful isolated Caribbean beach about 3 hours from San Jose. The beach is surrounded by a rainforest, rivers, canals and lagoons and it can only be accessed by motorboat. In addition to the sea turtles, you may also see monkeys, fish, crocodiles, 145 species of birds, iguanas, sloths, foxes, and the dogs the project has rescued. The organization employs local people to guard and patrol the beach. The income the locals earn eliminates their need to poach turtles and allows them to participate in establishing an ideal environment for turtles to lay their eggs.
6. Merazonia Animal Rescue Center, Ecuador
Merazonia is an up-and-coming rescue center for trafficked and abused Amazonian animals, located on 250 acres of rainforest, in Mera, Ecuador. Animals confiscated by the Ministry of Environment and the police are brought there for veterinary care. They care for monkeys, kinkajous, cats, and other mammals and parrots. Volunteers help care for the animals and construct enclosures and trails to improve the center. They rehabilitate and release the animals whenever possible.
7. The Ara Project/Hatched to Fly Free, Costa Rica
This organization is dedicated to the conservation of 2 native macaw species, both of which are endangered, the Scarlet Macaw and the Great Green or Buffon’s Macaw. This organization rehabilitates rescued macaws, breeds macaws to release them into to the wild and conducts conservation research on their patterns after they’ve been released.
This project was originally founded by an American couple who fell in love with Costa Rica and its animals and were determined to help repopulate these endangered creatures. The project now has one of the largest collection of Great Green Macaws in the world.
While at the project, the birds are provided with the ideal conditions that will allow them to survive and breed in the wild. As a volunteer you will work side by side with dedicated conservationists and biologists to protect these magnificent and endangered birds.
A few other volunteer organizations to consider: Biomindo: Environmental Conservation, Ecuador; EcoCiencia: Environmental Conservation, Ecuador; Santa Martha Animal Rescue, Ecuador; Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation, Ecuador; Foundation Zoobreviven: Environmental Conservation, Ecuador; Foundation for the Protection of Animals, Ecuador
Do you know of any other great volunteer organizations in South America for animal and nature lovers?
Photos from volunteer work in South America…