Volunteer Work, Animal Welfare, Nature Protection
near Tena, Napo Province
Year-round. Arrival day in the project is always Sunday, departure day is always Monday.
In 1993, this project was founded by a Swiss couple who has since then worked tirelessly to build up the center to what it is today. Today, it belongs to one of the most efficient and well-run animal rescue centers in Ecuador. In addition to the animal rehabilitation center, our partners also manage other projects. There is a jungle lodge to promote eco-tourism and a reserve to preserve and protect the rainforest as well. At the moment, the animal sanctuary cares for about 350 different animals (number subject to changes).
The animal rehabilitation center is located in the protected rainforest and shelters different animals, some are in danger of extinction. Most of these animals come here in poor condition: malnourished, wounded, and often full of parasites. Approximately one fourth of the animals die on their way to the rescue center or in the first days of being there, and only one in four is successfully set free if the animal does recover. The remaining half must remain at the center either roaming free in the open area, or in enclosures that protect them from other animals and humans. In an ideal world, every animal that comes to the the rehabilitation center would be returned to the wild at some point.
Although releasing animals back into the wild may sound like a great idea to humans, it can sometimes be harmful for the individual animal, species, or even the ecosystem as a whole. When volunteering in Ecuador at the animal rescue center, please keep in mind that there are a number of reasons why returning an animal to its natural habitat is a difficult decision. When releasing an animal, it obviously has to be released somewhere. The change from captivity to the wild is stressful and disorienting, often leaving animals especially vulnerable to hunting if they are released in an unprotected area. It is fruitless and disappointing to spend a great deal of effort preparing an animal for release, only for it to be illegally recaptured or hunted immediately.
The rehabilitation center lies at the edge of roughly 11 kilometers (7 miles) of protected primary rainforest where hunting is prohibited. This is the area used for releasing animals that are ready for reintroduction. Unfortunately, this center is like an island surrounded by unprotected areas, which can lead to problems for the released animals.
One important part of the volunteers’ work in Ecuador is to guide visitors through the center, which is financed by entrance fees and donations. Therefore, motivated volunteers who enjoy guiding visitors, while enthusiastically speaking about the center and its animals, are required. Of course, you will receive a basic training course where you will learn all about the center and the animals.
You should, however, have the interest, leadership skills, and personal skills to handle tourists from all over the world. You must also be patient and willing to answer any questions they may have about the facilities and animals.
Another main task of volunteers includes feeding and taking care of the animals. Not all the animals live freely and can find food by themselves. Many of the animals must stay in enclosures, which means they need to be fed and have their enclosures cleaned every day. New arriving animals also have to be examined and observed extensively before determining how they will be incorporated into the center.
Apart from the main work with the animals, other tasks such as maintaining and fixing trails, cutting branches for the enclosures, and harvesting bananas also have to be fulfilled.
Volunteers must give a hand where they are needed most, and when possible, will have the chance to work in the area they are most interested in. As a volunteer, you will work five days a week, around eight hours per day. In the morning, volunteers begin the day by preparing the food and feeding the animals.
Visitors usually get there between 8:30 am and 5:00 pm to participate in the guided tours. In the afternoon, the second feeding for the animals typically begins at 1:00 pm. Days off (every volunteer gets two per week) are arranged at the beginning of the week to ensure that enough volunteers are working each day.
Important: Contact with the animals must be kept to a minimum, as the "wild" animals should also remain wild so that they can hopefully be released back into their natural habitat once the recovery and rehabilitation process is complete. This is why any kind of interaction with the animals is not allowed (touching, talking to them, hand-feeding them, getting close to them).
Note: The tasks may vary. They depend on factors such as number of volunteers, weather, season, current needs of the project, as well as self-motivation. Not every volunteer may be fully involved in all these tasks.
The volunteers live together in two different volunteer houses that are connected by a small bridge. There is enough space for up to 14 volunteers, who come from all over the world. Bedrooms are equipped with 2 beds, so you may share a room with another volunteer. It is very important that you are willing to share chores (e.g. cooking, cleaning etc.) in the volunteer house to avoid disagreements with other volunteers and to ensure that each person contributes equally. Living together is, on one hand, a challenge, but on the other hand, a rewarding, unforgettable experience. You will interact with people from all over the world, with different cultures and points of view and, ultimately, this will make your stay a culturally enriching and unique experience.
Please note that there is no electricity or telephone where you will be staying, and that candles and flashlights provide the primary source of light at night. If you want to call someone by phone, you will have to walk to the nearest town, or you will need a mobile phone adapted for local use or purchased upon arrival to Ecuador.
Each house has running water, a shower, and a toilet. Clothes have to be washed by hand. During the weekdays, local women prepare lunch for the volunteers. Volunteers are responsible for preparing their own breakfast and dinner each day, which is often a group effort.
On the weekend, volunteers prepare their own lunch as well. Food is provided by a truck that comes once a week and brings the food that was ordered the week before. If desired, you may purchase drinks (cola, beer) from the bar. The water is safe for drinking, and there are always fruits that can be used to make fresh juices.
The volunteer project is located in the province of Napo about 1.5 hours from Tena. Tena is approximately a 7 hours bus ride southeast of Quito, located directly in the Amazon basin.
The location of the project is unique and allows you to immerse yourself in the depths and adventures of the Amazon jungle. The trip to the project site is only possible by boat, through evergreen nature with exciting wildlife!
The city of Tena itself is touristy and offers a wide range of hotels, hostels, restaurants, shopping and a variety of agencies, offering excursions to waterfalls, rafting and other outdoor sports, wildlife observation, etc.
In our Wildlife & Nature projects, our volunteers get along well with English language skills.
For optimal program preparation and cultural integration in the destination country, we recommend participating in a Spanish course in Ecuador (optional).
Pre-departure and in-country support
Before arrival, our experienced team will be at your disposal to assist you throughout the booking process and travel planning. With the booking confirmation you will receive our 24-hour emergency number, so that you can reach us 24/7 in case of emergency.
In addition to the assistance given by our office staff you will be supported by the on-site volunteer coordinator in Ecuador.
Costs & Services
Our volunteer project in the Animal Sanctuary in Ecuador includes:
- Shared room in Volunteer House
- Breakfast, lunch, dinner
- Advice from our experienced staff
- On-going support via WhatsApp, phone or mail
- Elaboration of your application profile in Spanish
- Your placement in the volunteer project
- Pre-departure information
- Packing list
- Country handbook
- Intercultural guide
- Orientation upon arrival
- On-site volunteer coordinator
- 24/7 emergency number
- Advice on travel insurance
- Certificate of participation
Application fee: US$ 150
Program fee: US$ 690 (minimum stay 4 weeks)
Extra week: US$ 115
Note: Arrival day in the project is always Sunday.
Additionally, you can book:
Our tips (experience more + see more = save $$)
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If you need assistance in putting together your personal experience abroad, then please contact us. Our experienced staff will help you to set up your tailor-made stay abroad.