The Animal Addict’s Guide to Global Volunteer Travel by Nola Lee Kelsey
Our rating: ✮✮✮ of 5 stars
This guide provides a good international sample of various volunteering projects centered around the care of wildlife or animals. There now exists a few of these guides and they provide a good starting point to searching for a volunteering project. I certainly appreciate the effort for doing so. As a conservationist who volunteers on a regular basis, having a good starting point is certainly most helpful.
However it is critical to note that these guides should never be considered as recommendations, and certainly when it comes to wildlife conservation centered projects. Projects change; projects are not always ethical, and sometimes it is hard to realize this before you are already engaged in the mission. Before signing up for any wildlife conservation, animal welfare volunteering project, ask the pertinent questions. Do your homework to make sure that the project and the organization providing it is safe, ethical, professional.
This book exhibits a disclaimer warning the volunteer as I just did: That’s good. However, I only found it in the book after reading it, stumbling upon it when looking for the edition year. Regrettably it was kind of hidden and making it obvious, also possibly renaming it “Warning”, would be a definite improvement to the book. Or maybe could it make it in “The 10 commandments of volunteering with Animals” section of the book. Well that would then become the first one of 11…
Why is it so important? Surveying the guide, I noted a few conservation projects and organizations that I happen to know and that are not ethical. The reason why I checked the edition year, was to check if that book was published before the controversy of cub petting and walking with lions volunteering projects (tied to canned hunting) finally made it to the public knowledge.
Since the edition of this guide (2012), few of the African projects listed have been singled out as being tied to what is considered criminal by a large portion of the population that is environmentally aware: canned hunting. The author of the book surely did not know about it at the time and therefore I certainly do not blame her. But this illustrates the necessity for us volunteers to do due diligence and investigate in depth any organization that we would volunteer for or with.
At least one projects in China listed in this guide is also questionable, and unless going there and knowing about husbandry standards, I understand why it could be missed. As a proof of the results of bad husbandry the center I am referring to had to close for a long while, since a terrible epidemic disease of canine distemper hit the center and killed a good number of its residents (this disease is likely the result of high negligence that was already pointed out numerous times prior to this sad event).
Another note: the guide does not provide (enough) details about where the money goes. Once again this is hard investigative work, and I would not blame the guide for lacking those details, but I would certainly prefer seeing an explicit mention that if a volunteer is to sign for a project that he/she enquires specifically about the details of what the money is used for. A detailed explanation can’t be for instance “oh it goes to the project” (what does this mean exactly?) or “it goes to conservation”. It is now well-known that this is a fallacy in the latter case.
Details details details… are in this case critical to understand. Only this way can we really claim that we care about the wildlife and animals we say we love. So enjoy the list of volunteer projects mentioned in this guide, but do not forget to do your investigation homework if one was to tempt you…
[Other Volunteering Guides References]
Few good references include:
- Wildlife & Conservation Volunteering: The Complete Guide (Bradt Travel Guide) by Peter Lynch. 2nd Edition June 19, 2012.
- Green Volunteers: The World Guide to Voluntary Work in Nature Conservation (with access to online database).
- Ecotourists Save the World: The Environmental Volunteer’s Guide to More Than 300 International Adventures to Conserve, Preserve, and Rehabilitate Wildlife and Habitats by Pamela K. Brodowsky, National Wildlife Federation. April 6, 2010.
Questions to ask to volunteer organizations: