volunteer with animals

Expedition: Guatemala, recap by Lauren

Why Volunteer in Guatemala?

Did you know that animal trafficking is the third largest illegal source of commerce worldwide? Wildlife trafficking, along with unsustainable forestation, over-hunting, and human population growth are the leading causes of species extinction. Illegal trafficking is primarily for the pet trade. Sadly, the survival rate of animal contraband is as low as 15%. Birds are the most commonly trafficked creatures; it’s estimated that two to five million birds are illegally traded worldwide each year…..

Want to read the rest? Check out Lauren’s blog: Justin Plus Lauren

Namaste Jan

Since May I have been trying to write something proper about Jan Salter MBE, founder of the Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre and my friend. She died in 2018 and it was clear to me she changed my life and I wanted to tell others how much. Unfortunately, during times like this words often fail us.

I had the wonderful opportunity to write something about my experience in Nepal for Musa Masala. Of course, I knew I couldn’t write about Nepal without writing about Jan. Words continued to fail me but at least I was able to write something. Please accept my humble offering of how Nepal, a country of tremendous beauty, welcoming smiles and impossibly interesting history changed my life by helping my path cross Jan’s.

Nepal: Inspiration for a New Beginning.

Namaste,

Nora

Adventures are in the speed bumps

Imagine you are going on the adventure of a lifetime to volunteer with a sea turtle conservation group in Australia. Everything is in place. Your pick up from the airport is all arranged - you know exactly where and when to meet the shuttle. You have accommodation at a local hostel and they have all your arrival information and are expecting you. The organization where you will volunteer is all set up, and you know exactly where to meet the group on your first day of volunteering and at what time. How exciting! And then at the last minute disaster strikes. One of your many flights has a gate change and you miss your connecting flight! Your new flight has you arriving in Australia a full day after you planned to get there. Your flight is boarding, you're hurrying to get on the plane and you have no time to make any changes to your many arrangements.

What do you do?!

If you have booked your travel adventure through Animal Experience International, you simply relax. A quick email to the AEI Coordinator, and you will know everything will be taken care of for you. Your shuttle will be re-booked. Your hostel will be notified that you will be delayed. The people meeting you from the sea turtle organization will be informed and a new arrangement will be made for you. You can get on your flight and relax, knowing everything has been taken care of for you. Animal Experience International is a registered travel agency. Not only are we animal lovers, we are also travel counselors and travel managers and active members of the Travel Industry Council of Ontario. Booking through AEI gives you peace of mind - knowing that you can sit back and enjoy your trip.

Including all the bumps in the road that make travel an adventure - not an inconvenience!

"Why is that monkey in a cage?"

monkey in a cage

I was recently talking to someone about our work at Animal Experience International, when she stopped me to ask why the photo I was showing her was of a spider monkey in a cage.

Did AEI support caging wild animals?

This was an important question, and a topic I am also passionate about as a wildlife veterinarian. I do not want to see wildlife kept in captivity if they can be living their lives free in the wild. The spider monkey in the photo was actually being housed at a wildlife rescue centre in Guatemala. This is an amazing organization that works tirelessly to rescue wild animals that have been captured as part of the illegal wildlife trade. When animals are confiscated from smugglers or from people using them to entertain tourists, they need somewhere to recover from their terrible ordeal. Some require medical attention. Others need supportive care. And orphaned babies need to be raised until they are old enough to care for themselves. While at the rescue centre, the animals are housed in enclosures that keep them safe, while protecting the humans that care for them.

So yes, they are in cages - but only temporarily. The goal is always to release them back to the wild. Staff and volunteers work hard to make the animals’ experience at the rescue centre as comfortable as possible. The wildlife are provided with environmental enrichment, places to hide and an enclosure set up that allows them to carry out their natural behaviours. The animals are moved to larger and larger enclosures as they begin to heal, and contact with people becomes less and less. For this spider monkey, he will eventually be housed with other spider monkeys in a large enclosure deep in the forest of the rescue centre and will see people as little as possible to minimize his exposure to humans. One day these spider monkeys will all be released to live their lives free in the jungle.

Gibbon Island in Thailand

Gibbon Island in Thailand


AEI also supports several wildlife sanctuaries that provide a safe home for animals that cannot survive in the wild, and therefore cannot be released. Our elephant and wildlife sanctuary in Thailand is an excellent example of an organization working to provide a dignified and comfortable home for rescued, non-releasable animals. Their enclosures help to protect the animals, and are as large and natural as possible to ensure the animals are comfortable. Take for example their gibbons that cannot be released for one reason or another. These amazing primates are given an island to live on, separate from the main centre and are even fed remotely using a pulley system so that they are very rarely in contact with people. They are allowed to live as naturally as possible without human interference.


It is a sad reality that wild animals need to be kept in captivity at times in order to help or protect them. AEI supports organizations that house wildlife on a temporary basis, as part of a rescue and rehabilitation program. If providing long-term sanctuary we ensure that the best possible care is being offered the animals and that their lives are enriched and natural behaviours are encouraged. This is something that is very important to us - because wild animals deserve to be kept wild.

Want to volunteer with us in Guatemala or Thailand? Check out our program pages to volunteer anytime during the year (animals need help all year round and so we send volunteers all year round). Want to volunteer in Guatemala WITH us? Why not sign up for Expedition Guatemala? Take part in the rehabilitation of wildlife with your own two hands and understand the amazing work that is being done, first hand. 10 days volunteering with wildlife in February, sign up today!

Introducing bite sized animal volunteer experiences!

We now have 1 week programs available!

You spoke, we listened! While we would love to all have months and months every year to go volunteer with animals, sometimes that just isn't feasible. Our jobs, families and lives are jam packed already. So what can we do to help even more people help animals: Introducing 1 Week Experiences! 

Over the next few days we will be rolling out new prices for our partners that can take volunteers for 1 week experiences. It won't be all of our programs, some have so much training that 7 days is just not enough to get the full experience, but there will be quite a few that welcome shorter term volunteers. 

This not only means a smaller investment of time, it means a smaller investment in fees. We won't be cutting any corners, the programs still receive donations, you still get travel insurance, your in-country travel is still carbon balanced and you still get to have one of the most amazing trips of a lifetime! Hopefully these amazing experiences will fit into your life just a little better. 

What programs will you be able to take part in for one week? Sea turtle conservation in Costa Rica, flying fox rehabilitation in Australia, dog rescue in Mexico, elephant recuperation in Thailand, baboon care in Southern Africa and many more! Check out the website and take a look!

Remember, we also run short expeditions once a year for those who want to volunteer on a program in a group! In 2019 we are going to Guatemala to volunteer at a wildlife centre. Our volunteer coordinator will be taking people to northern Guatemala so they can safely and humanely volunteer with toucans, wild boars, monkeys and more! No experience is required- all the training is on the ground. 10 days in Guatemala, what a way to live your dreams!

We are Elephant Friends, and friendly!

We are so proud to announce that we have been named one of the 215 elephant friendly travel companies by World Animal Protection!

That means when you volunteer with us you know for sure the elephant program is one that isn't just helping the animals, it's not hurting them. We couldn't agree more with World Animal Protection's elephant campaign, elephants are wildlife, they are not entertainers!  We are committed to elephants, to their protection and sanctuary. None of the elephants at our partnered sanctuaries will ever be chained up. They will never be part of elephant rides. They will always be given ongoing and consistent medical care. They will always be respected and loved for the gorgeous animals they are. 

If you love elephants, volunteer with them! Just make sure you volunteer on and visit centres that are certified elephant friendly by World Animal Protection!