Looking to volunteer to do some conservation work with wildlife? A quick web search will throw up a confusing plethora of conservation volunteer opportunities offered by organisations, each claiming to be eco-friendly and ethically motivated, but many are just blowing a green smokescreen around their actual tour-operator status. This is not to say that they’re bad companies, but the question to ask is – ‘How good are they?’ and ‘How much of the cash you pay actually finds its way into conservation as opposed to overheads, publicity or shareholder payouts?’
“What is the best project” has to be one of the most frequently posed questions on volunteer chatroom forums. But it’s a useless question because ‘best’ is totally subjective – it all depends on why you want to go. Choosing a good company, one that meets your priorities rather than theirs, can be a hit and miss business unless you’ve got some inside information and that’s what this new book is all about. It has investigated and audited volunteer sending organisations and assessed them on their performance for: Credibility, Organisation, Where the Money Goes, Pre-Departure Preparation, In the Field, Environment and Culture, Safety, Achievements and Post-Trip Follow-Up. Companies don’t always explain these things, and their standards and criteria vary. This is the heart of the book – identifying those organisations that make a real difference.
The book also explains how to find projects that cost next to nothing but where you’ll need to make all the practical arrangements yourself and where there is no UK based backup if things go wrong. There are also practical details of how to go about raising funds for your trip.
Working on a good volunteer project is often more interesting than straight forward travelling because you get to meet and work with local people, get an insight into different cultures and get an in-depth experience with wildlife that no tourist excursion could ever provide. This book, published recently by Bradt and written by Peter Lynch, is a guide for prospective volunteers who want to get down and dirty with the natural world. It takes prospective conservation volunteers through every stage of the process, from the first inkling of what’s it all about to finally packing your bags and setting off.
Wildlife and Conservation Volunteering: The Complete Guide by Peter Lynch (Bradt, 2009, RRP gbp13.99)