This Wildlife Rescue Centre was originally created for a very specific and urgent purpose: to build a rescue center to care for and rehabilitate wild animals that were being confiscated on the black market by the Guatemalan government. Over the years it has grown into one of the largest and most complex rescue centres in the world. Each year it admits over 500 animals representing more than 40 species of wildlife.

The wildlife of Guatemala is under threat from habitat loss, hunting and capture by traffickers who sell the animals in the illegal pet trade. The loss of wildlife has been dramatic. The large noisy flocks of scarlet macaws reported by early explorers have been reduced to just 300 birds in the Laguna del Tigre Park. While fairly plentiful even 15 years ago, Baird’s tapirs and jaguars are becoming more and more difficult to see. The giant anteater and the Harpy eagle have not been sighted in recent years and are presumed extinct in the region.

The mission of the Wildlife Rescue Centre is to improve the chances of survival and conservation of endangered species and their habitat, and to assist with the management of natural resources. They aim to raise awareness among Guatemalans and visiting tourists about the need to conserve natural resources through a program of education and information dissemination.


Volunteer Activities

Volunteers learn how to give parrot medication to orphaned parrots.

Volunteers learn how to give parrot medication to orphaned parrots.

This is a two week medical placement specifically for veterinary professionals, veterinary students and veterinary technician / nursing students. The course is comprised of classroom time, lab work and hands-on experience with the wild animals at the Rescue Centre.

Lectures: 6 hours of lecture time covering such topics as primates, psittacines, reptiles, lesser mammals, medicine and preventive management, and chemical immobilization.

Necropsy review: 5 hours of necropsy review (documented past cases); 3 hours of case discussion (documented past cases); Participation in necropsies.

Capture and Management: 8 hours for practice of capture and management of primates, reptiles, lesser mammals, psittacines and non-psittacine birds.

Collection and processing of blood samples and fecals.

monkey exam

Treatments: Discussion and administration of needed treatments for patients in care (type of treatment dependent on cases in hospital).

Infant Care: Potential work with infant animals (case dependent).

Additional work in Petencito zoo (1 day a week).

Routine work at the rescue center helping to feed, clean and care for the animals in care which include parrots, macaws, spider and howler monkeys, margays, ocelots, coatimundis, tayras and kinkajous.


You will be staying at the rescue centre in their volunteer house located on the grounds in a beautiful tropical forest. The volunteer house includes bunk beds, mosquito netting, and regular “western” bathrooms with (sometimes cold) showers and flush toilets. The kitchen and dining area is a large, comfortable rancho where volunteers eat and socialize. All meals are included.


Do you have questions about safety? We have answers right here! Or read our guide to Safety in Guatemala.


Airport pick up and drop off (at the closest airport), accommodation, meals, on-site training, donation to Placement Partner, AEI Travel Manual, emergency support while at placement, carbon credits to offset 3 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, premium Individual Travel Insurance (up to $500, 000 USD in emergency medical coverage), travel discounts (through automatic membership to a volunteer only travel discount program), 24/7 travel and emergency assistance, enrolment with the Global Travel Academy to earn a certificate in International Volunteering. This 3-hour online course is curated by travel professionals and is designed to help you get the most out of your adventure, a guided trip to Tikal National Park (all accommodation and some meals (1 breakfast and 1 lunch) are provided, clients are required to pay the $25 park fee and for all other meals during their excursion).


Flights, entry visa costs, international and domestic airport taxes, immunizations and medications. Note: The rabies vaccine is recommended but not required for this Experience however, if volunteers are interested in becoming rabies vaccinated, the average cost is $600- $1000 in North America.

casa de volunteers

What is Serious

The rescue centre is situated on 45 hectares of land on a lake in northern Guatemala and includes a quarantine area, a veterinary hospital, and rehabilitation facilities with a large flight cages and enclosures scattered throughout the jungle. Nearly all of the animals at the centre have been seized from smugglers and are often very young, needing constant care and attention. The short course in Wildlife Rehabilitation Medicine will teach you about Guatemalan wildlife and how to manage, treat and care for them while in captivity. This will give you the foundations needed to work with these species in a professional capacity. As a veterinary professional you will be in a position to make a difference to wildlife rescue programs around the world.

What is Fun

There are always a lot of international volunteer at this placement - friends that you will meet and memories you will make to take home with you. Volunteers socialize in the volunteer house and in the Rancho (dining hall) where impromptu Spanish classes are often held. After a day of learning, you can relax on the beautiful floating dock at the lake and enjoy late afternoon swims. Although there is no internet available  at the centre, there is a water taxi (free a few times a week) that will take you into the nearby town for time in the internet cafes, shopping, eating out or just exploring the village. During your stay you will enjoy an overnight excursion to Tikal National Park  where you will visit Mayan ruins, stay in a jungle hotel and experience wildlife in their natural habitat - a great way to remind yourself why you are helping the wildlife of Guatemala!


You do not need to speak Spanish to volunteer at the Rescue Centre, but understanding a little Spanish will enhance your effectiveness as well as your satisfaction with your experience.  If you don’t already speak Spanish and you plan to volunteer for an extended period, we recommend that you consider spending your first weeks studying in Antigua, a world-renowned Spanish language center and a stunningly beautiful colonial city surrounded by volcanoes.  Contact us to for more information and a recommendation for schools that are not only reasonably priced, but also support local social and environmental causes.

Dates and Details

This is an ongoing program with operations every day of the year. There are no specific start or end dates. We work with you and your schedule so you can serve this community and help animals when you are available. Placements start on weekdays and volunteers are asked to arrive on the day they start their experience. 

2019 sessions:

  • May 13th - May 26th - Full!

  • July 8th - July 21st -one more spot available!

  • July 29th - August 11th

  • August 19th - September 1st


Are you thinking of fundraising for a portion, or all your fees? Many of our clients have been very successful with their fundraising efforts. To learn more about their successful fundraising projects and see how you can fund raise for your experience, please visit our fundraising page!

While I was there, I learned so much about wildlife rehabilitation medicine. I did physicals on coatimundis and spider monkeys, “wrassled” a crocodile on reptile check-up day, and helped move dozens of parrots from a training space to a full-fledged flight cage. To be a part of this was inspiring.
— Savannah from Indiana