by Erin Hanley, Assistant Academic Director, Loop Abroad
Are you looking for a way to volunteer with big cats? Maybe you want experience at a zoo or sanctuary or are looking for a big cat internship abroad? There are many affordable ways to volunteer with big cats but it is important to do your research and choose the right program and location for you. Internships often provide the opportunity to gain valuable experience with a reputable placement while still having freedom and flexibility while traveling.
Choosing a placement that both fits your needs and would benefit from your time is the first step. It is extremely important to do a thorough investigation into the reputation of the location you are interested in. Whether you are looking at a zoo, clinic or sanctuary, a good general rule is that care for wild animals should never include petting or holding an animal simply for fun.
Ethical programs should have strict behavioral and animal interaction guidelines and provide captive animals with choice, freedom, and enrichment that allows them to display as many of their natural behaviors as possible. All interactions should be as stress-free as possible for the animal and healthy, safe and educational for you.
Out of respect for your hosts, be sure to educate yourself on common cultural practices in their country and be an informed, respectful guest. It is always a good idea to master common phrases in the language of the country you are visiting. You don’t have to speak perfectly but people always appreciate that you are attempting to learn their language!
In terms of planning financially for a big cat internship abroad, check carefully to see what is and is not included in the cost of the program. Are meals, housing and transportation included in your payment or will you be paying those costs separately? It is important to make note not only of the transportation to and from the program location each day but also to and from the airport on either end of your trip. Is there specific equipment you need to buy or a dress code that you have to adhere to that would require buying clothes that aren’t already in your wardrobe?
Your budget should also include any visas and travel and medical insurance that may be required to get to and from your internship location. How about out-of-pocket costs for any vaccines or medications that you may need to stay healthy while you are abroad? Keep in mind that you will probably also want to experience side trips or cultural excursions during your free time and those costs can add up fairly quickly. If you purchase too many souvenirs, you may even have extra baggage fees on the way home!
Unfortunately, even though you probably don’t want to think about chores while you are traveling, laundry costs are another important factor that you should not overlook. One thing that smart travelers do is create a solid budget for themselves, reducing headaches avoiding the shock of hidden expenses!
With solid research, planning and budgeting, your big cat internship abroad can be a life-changing experience! If you are looking for ways to volunteer with big cats, Loop Abroad is happy to help. You can start by checking out our programs here!