Wildlife conservation is a delicate and complicated process, with dedicated teams trying to rebuild complex ecosystems, manage large wildlife populations, and protect these areas from harm. Many of the world’s most magnificent areas of natural beauty are under threat from humans, and conservationists work hard to preserve these places for future generations, and to restore damaged areas back to their former glory.
There’s been an increase in recent years in volunteer wildlife conservation, where people on gap years or career breaks volunteer to help work as conservationists for weeks, months, or even a whole year. Conservation practices vary from country to country and from habitat to habitat, but these are a few of the things you are could get involved in as a volunteer conservationist…
Tracking and Monitoring
Animal monitoring is one of the most important elements of wildlife conservation. Whether it is by electronic tracking or by human observation, animal numbers must be monitored so that their populations can be controlled. If the numbers of a particular species grow too large they could threaten other animals, and if they fall too low steps need to be taken to protect them. Following the movement and migration of animals also provides the chance to research their behaviour. Of course, for volunteers, the chance to observe animals like lions and elephants in their natural habitat can be an unforgettable experience!
Habitat and Reserve Maintenance
There are all kinds of efforts that must be made to maintain the habitats in a wildlife reserve. Rock erosion needs be monitored and countered, and any alien plants and animals which could be a threat to the reserve must be found and removed from the reserve. Many reserves rely on perimeter fences to prevent animals from moving out of the reserve (and to prevent unwanted visitors!), and these need to be checked on and repaired if they are damaged. This kind of work may not be the most exciting side of wildlife conservation, but it is just as essential as any other element.
Rehab and Veterinary Care
Out in the wild, sick and injured animals soon become victims of predators, or simple starvation. However, on a wildlife reserve dealing with endangered species or low populations, the loss of even a single animal can be a terrible setback. Wounded, sick, and poisoned animals can be captured and brought back to a veterinary centre to be treated, rehabilitated, and then reintroduced back into the wild, and this is often an important part of any wildlife conservation program.
Wildlife reserves are fragile areas that need to be protected from humans. Some times, people cause damage unintentionally – tourists feeding animals without knowing that it is forbidden, or attempting to take out rare plants as souvenirs. Some times, of course, it is a deliberate effort, poachers being the most well known human threat that conservationists have to battle against. Most wildlife reserves are diligently patrolled to ensure that tourists and the local population are treating the environment with the respect and care that it deserves.
These activities often form the backbone of wildlife conservation, but there are many more elements to the process – and volunteer conservationists will get the chance to experience many of them first hand!