Visiting volunteer wildlife projects, such as wildlife reserves and sanctuaries can be a highlight of of your vacation or volunteer stay, but keep in mind that there are a number of do’s and don’ts that can ensure your stay has a positive impact on the long term well being of the native species of a country. Here are some guidelines on how to promote sustainable experiences:
- We support transparency regarding where animals have come from and why they cannot be released into the wild
- Minimal or no-contact approach to their wildlife unless the animal is never going to be released (and then they must provide reasons why that animal will live the remainder of its life at the sanctuary).
- No breeding of wild animals in captivity, unless purely for a release program that has been approved by a conservation authority
- Check for positive reviews or scientific case studies which have been written about the volunteer program or facility
- There should be evidence of efforts to educate communities on animal welfare, the bush meat and exotic pet trades, wildlife/conservation
- Volunteers work more on data collection, habitat enrichment and enclosure maintenance, all of which have a positive impact on the lives of the animals at the sanctuary.
- No feeding, touching, teasing or provoking wild animals
- Do not support the use of animals as photographic props i.e. do not have your photograph taken with an animal used specifically for this purpose (lion and tiger cubs, chimps, snakes and exotic birds).
- No interaction in any way with dangerous wild animals
- Do not support the sale of souvenirs that are made out of wildlife products or other threatened natural materials – including turtle shell, feathers or ivory.
- Do not encourage people to move so close to wildlife that your presence disturbs it or interferes with its natural behavior
- Do not encourage people to pursue wildlife that is showing avoidance tactics e.g. displaying threatening/alarmed behavior or is moving away
- Do not drive off-road in protected areas when this is prohibited in the protected area
- When viewing gorillas, do not approach closer than 7 meters to help prevent the transmission of disease
- Do not approach breeding sites (nests, burrows, dens, etc.) as this can affect the breeding success of wildlife
- Try to avoid the use of flash photography to take photos of wildlife can alarm it leading to increased aggression
- For marine wildlife, when contact with animals is permitted and controlled e.g. when swimming with dolphins, do not approach the animals but allow them instead to approach you if they so choose.