Australia Wildlife and Zoo Management - Loop Abroad - Veterinary Study Abroad

Summer programs
Australia Wildlife and Zoo Management

Koalas, kangaroos, echidnas, wallabies at the “Walkabout”

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A two-week adventure “down under” to volunteer at the Walkabout Wildlife Park in Calga Springs outside Sydney, Australia. Study zoology, practice conservation, care for wildlife, learn to run a zoo or animal conservation center, and work with all kinds of Australian wildlife including koalas, kangaroos, echidnas, wallabies, and more.

Enjoy a fun few tourist days in Sydney and a day trip to a nearby beach town, explore aboriginal sites in the bush, and go behind the scenes at Taronga Zoo.

Who It’s For

This program would be ideal for students or young adults interested in learning more about wildlife conservation and zoo management to prepare for a career or graduate study in conservation, wildlife, zoology, or related fields. The program is open to anyone age 18+.

There are no pre-requisites for this program. You do not need to be in school currently to apply. Individuals of any nationality may apply.

Each group will have up to 12 students.


• Assist in treatment rounds with Australian wildlife
• Go behind the scenes of  Targona Zoo to learn about zoo conservation
• Health check kangaroos and koalas
• Examine pythons and echidnas
• Learn to handle and assess possums and bandicoots
• Discover the anatomy, behavior, and care needs of Australian animals from a zoo conservation perspective
• Create enrichments for everyone from dingos to cockatoos
• Learn how to run a zoo or animal conservation center
• Enjoy two days exploring Sydney

See the itinerary here!

Dates open for applications

Program dates TBD


 apply now

*Subject to 1 days +/- on the schedule, includes travel days
*Dates indicate departure from and return to Los Angeles. Final dates may be adjusted 1 day in either direction to accommodate flight availability. Some flights depart early in the morning and may require students to arrive in Los Angeles the night before. Loop Abroad reserves the right to cancel any program at any time; in case of such cancellation by Loop Abroad, all payments will be returned in full.

Please note that Australia programs begin and end in Australia on SATURDAY. All other country programs begin and end in country on SUNDAY. Therefore, if you are combining an Australia program with another country’s program, you should schedule your Australia program FIRST so that you won’t miss any of either program.

Want a whole month abroad? Add a two-week program!

Our Australian program is a full adventure on its own, but it can also be combined with our Thailand College Veterinary Service, South Africa Zoo Medicine, South Africa Veterinary Service, or Amazon Veterinary Service program for new animal experiences around the globe. Combine two programs for an automatic $100 discount on each tuition, but you will need to pay for additional airfare.

Please note that our Australian programs begin and end in Australia on Saturday, where all our other programs begin and end in country on Sunday. So if you are combining Australia with another country, you should schedule your Australia program first to allow you to seamlessly combine programs without missing a beat!


Regular tuition is $3,950 for the two-week program. There is a $100 tuition discount for combining this program with another 2-week program.

Interest-free payment plans are available. Current college students may be able to use federal financial aid toward their tuition. Your space is not held until your $1,000 deposit (credited toward tuition) is paid.

Tuition is all-inclusive less airfare EXCEPT for “free day” meals (details below). Tuition does not include medical insurance (the policy we suggest is under $25), passport, visa (required for US citizens – can be obtained online for approximately $15US), snacks and souvenirs.

This program includes one “free time evening” in Sydney and one “free day” in Sydney. Housing is included for both days, and support staff are available. This means you are responsible for the cost of dinner on your free evening and meals on your free day, as well as activities of your choice on your free day – these are not included in your tuition.

There are many free things to do in Sydney, as well as many expensive things, so the cost of this day is dependent on what you like to do!

Airfare is not included. Group flights will be booked from Los Angeles, departing Saturday and returning Monday (subject to one-day change). Airfare is $1,310. You will have support staff at the Los Angeles airport for departure and at the Sydney airport on arrival, but may not have a staff member on the plane with you.

Travel off the group itinerary must be approved by Loop Abroad and carries fees. Please contact [email protected] before booking travel off the group itinerary.

Packing list

Hiking boots, canvas work pants, and a dark green shirt (and sometimes a jacket) are our daily project attire

Please note that the packing list requires particular clothing including canvas or cotton work pants, hiking boots, and certain colors of shirts, which would need to be purchased before travel. We will limit necessary items to only those required for safe animal interaction and for representing Walkabout in your role as an animal-handling staff with animal-enclosure access.

Groups and Staff

Groups will have a maximum of 11 students each, with a total of 2 to 3 groups on the property at a time. Your group will have its own conservation professional and you may learn from other Loop staff during activities as well. Much of your time in the field will be led by the conservation rangers on the property.

Housing and Meals

We will live at Walkabout for the duration of the program (except for two nights in Sydney). The three student groups share a house, which allows you to get to know one another and share meals together. Students will be in rooms of 2-6 students each separated by gender, with shared bathrooms. Breakfast and lunch are self-serve and include options such as cereal, toast, salads, and sandwiches. Dinners are prepared in one option each day (with a vegetarian alternative) and may include pizza, vegetable stir fry with chicken (or tofu), or hamburgers (or veggie burgers) and fries. Snacks and drinks are provided, but additional drinks and snacks (chips, chocolate, soda) are available for purchase. No alcohol is permitted at Walkabout’s facility. We can accommodate vegan, vegetarian, other dietary restrictions, or food allergies.

Don’t worry, your house is bigger than his

During our time in Sydney, we will stay at at the Sydney Central YHA, a highly-ranked youth hostel that’s central to everything. Students will be in shared rooms by gender, with only other Loop students and staff in their room. (Bathrooms may be shared with others.) The hostel has a travel agency to assist you in booking tours or other activities for your free day in Sydney, and it also offers free walking tours of Sydney and other free activities on most days. It’s a big space with lots of room to hang out and lots of guidance and fellow travelers for your free time in Sydney.

Want to travel with us longer?

Link this program to another two-week program and save $100 on each tuition. This program can combine with:


Walkabout Wildlife Park (“Walkabout”) is a one-of-a-kind conservation facility. For the last thirteen years, this organization has pursued the goal of conservation through education.

The 80-acre property is home to over 200 captive animals who are protected and cared for by the Walkabout staff. Many are rescues that are unreleasable, while some are wildly occurring. In addition, Walkabout cares for and conserves 170 acres of natural habitat.

Walkabout is ZAA accredited (the Australian version of the AZA) and holds itself to very high standards of care. For some animals, including Tasmanian devils, Greater bilbies and Eastern quolls, it participates in breeding programs when the animals can be released to help repopulate areas that have recently been made safe for that species.

Who lives at Walkabout? Animals that live naturally in the bush of Australia’s Eastern Central Coast Hinterland, including:

  • Lots of free-ranging macropods such as kangaroos, wallaroos, wallabies, bettongs, and pademelons
  • Possums and sugar gliders
  • Tasmanian devils and quolls
  • Bandicoots and potoroos
  • Echidnas
  • Wombats
  • Emus
  • Various species of parrots
  • Predatory birds including kookaburras and tawny frogmouths
  • Dingoes and flying foxes
  • Reptiles including pythons, dragons, skinks, and turtlesSome introduced farm species including alpacas, peacocks, and goats

This combination of native and exotic species, in a natural native environment, are cared for on a limited budget and with limited resources. Your tuition dollars help to fund conservation projects and to provide excellent care to the animals on the property (and of course to educate you, too!)

Walkabout functions as a small zoological park, welcoming day visitors who want to learn about the animals. Loop Abroad students living on the groups will use Walkabout as our classroom for studying wildlife and zoo conservation.

During your program, you will be able to get up-close with many of the animals, including touching and handling many of the animals on the property. However, the goal of zoo medicine and wildlife medicine is not to hold and snuggle as many animals as you can. Instead, the focus of this program is on learning about each of these Australian animals from a conservation perspective, from their anatomy to their diets to their enrichment needs, so that you can learn to properly handle and care for them.

Many of these animals are endemic to Australia and access to them in a learning environment is not available anywhere else in the world. Each day’s course-work will give you an understanding of Australian animals and their anatomy, handling, habitat, normal behavior, pathology, assessment, enrichment, and conservation of these mammals, birds, and reptiles.

(Yes, you will get to touch a kangaroo and a koala. No, you won’t get to pick up the koala – leave that poor koala alone!)


G’day mate! This is a sample itinerary and is subject to change. It is provided here to give you a feel for your program.

Arrive in Sydney with your group and head straight to Walkabout about two hours outside the city, traveling along the famous Australian coastline and through the tropical forest (or “bush” as they call it in Australia). You’ll be welcomed at Walkabout by not only the experienced staff but also the hundreds of animals who live there, from Kangaroos and wallabies to Tasmanian devils and wombats. Once we’re oriented and have our footing in the bush, we’ll get right to work!

This is a wildlife and zoo management program with a busy schedule, and all courses and volunteer work are focused on learning about, enriching, supporting, and caring for the animals at Walkabout. The special focus of this program is on learning the proper handling, maintaining, and caring for wild animals in a zoo or sanctuary setting, with unique opportunities to observe, interact with, and learn about Australian mammals, reptiles, and birds – practice that can be hugely valuable in future studies or career opportunities.

Rabies-vaccinated students will learn to handle flying foxes and may be able to help weigh, feed, and clip nails

The schedule will vary but a typical day schedule will look something like this:

  • Breakfast at the house
  • Two hours of class time, focused on Australian animals. Generally you will have class as a large group, and all the project conservation professionals will contribute to lectures throughout the program, so that you can learn from everyone’s experience.
  • Between class and lunch, you’ll generally have a workshop led by your conservation professional or ranger. This could be clinical rounds learning about the animals on the property or a study of animal behavior.
  • Lunch break! Usually sandwiches and wraps.
  • Time to help take care of the animals! Enclosure care and food prep are some of the afternoon chores that keep WWP going and give you a chance to learn everything from habitat to animal nutrition
  • Creating ethograms and designing, implementing, and evaluating enrichment projects is a huge part of zoo medicine, and will be a significant component of your time on project, often in the afternoons
  • Before dinner, you may have a cultural activity such as visiting aboriginal sites or presentations of animal care cases.
  • Dinner time as a group
  • Evening activities such as movie night or game night. Remember – it’s winter in Australia during American summer, so be sure to bring some warm pajamas and slippers for the cold nights!

This mix of coursework, training and practice in animal handling and care, husbandry, enrichment projects, and time with your conservation professionals as a group is designed to give you a deep understanding of the animals at the park. This underlying coursework and training helps provide the necessary “koala”-fications so that you can safely be in enclosures with the animals, handle them, or provide their necessary care.

You will be able to interact with most of the animals on the property, including learning to properly handle most of them, and have time to observe, care for, and create enrichments for them. Please note that a rabies vaccination is required in order to work with and touch the flying foxes– vaccinated students will likely have 2 opportunities to interact with and care for the flying foxes, for approximately 2 hours at a time.

All your animal work, service, and study will be supervised by a conservation professional and sometimes also an expert animal ranger. Your work will not focus on husbandry and maintenance, though there is some upkeep required daily, but will instead focus on animal welfare and care from a zoo perspective.

It’s not all work! You’ll have a chance to explore the Aboriginal sites on the property, practice your hand at throwing a boomerang, and do some stargazing in the Southern sky to learn how stars are still used today in telling Aboriginal stories.

Terrigal Beach

During the program, we’ll take a one-day break to the nearby town of Terrigal to enjoy a beautiful beach, do a little shopping and relaxing, and take in the 360-degree views from atop the skillion, where you can sometimes spot whales or dolphins.

On the final Thursday of our program, we will pack up and head to Sydney. In the morning, we’ll enjoy the famous Taronga zoo and get to spend some time behind-the-scenes with the zoo team, learning more about what they do each day. On the ferry from the zoo, you can see famous sites such as the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

Once we’re checked into our hostel in Central Sydney, you’ll have the chance to arrange your own adventure for Thursday evening and for all of Friday. (Please note that Thursday dinner, Friday meals, and Friday activities are not included in your tuition and are at your own expense. It’s easy to arrange day trips and tours from the travel desk at the hostel.) There is LOTS to do and see in Sydney for free or very cheap, including the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Rocks, Darling Harbour, and lots of famous beaches. You can self-cater very cheaply from the grocery store (walkable) or choose to try out Sydney’s famous restaurants throughout the day – it’s up to you!

On Saturday, we’ll head back to the airport as a group and get ready to say goodbye to the land down under.


Students working with the bat care provider

No vaccines are required but a rabies vaccine is required in order to handle the flying foxes. (Students without a rabies vaccine may interact with all animals except flying foxes.) Flying fox interaction will be available 2 times during the program for approximately 2 hours/time for vaccinated students.

Your orientation on site will include a “snake and spider safety” class – programs take place during Australian winter when snakes and spiders are not prevalent. We suggest that you speak with a travel doctor and follow his or her advice on what vaccines or preventatives are best for you.

During your free evening and free day in Sydney, you agree not to engage in any of the following high-risk activities: riding or driving a motorcycle or motorscooter, mountaineering, hang gliding, hot air ballooning, mountain biking, parachuting, bungee jumping, caving, cage diving, heliskiing, skiing, snowboarding, SCUBA diving, white or black water rafting, rock climbing, ziplining, wakeboard riding, or water skiing. You may also not rent a car or drive a rental car. Some of these activities may be available to book at the hostel; you are still not permitted to engage in them during your free time.

Reading List

Some books that might be interesting to students traveling to Australia who want to learn more about traveling and exploring in Australia, Australia culture, or Australian conservation. (None of these are required reading.)

You can purchase any of the books on our suggested reading lists at the links below.*

The Water Will Come, by Jeff Goodell. The Water Will Come is the definitive account of the coming water, why and how this will happen, and what it will all mean. As he travels across twelve countries and reports from the front lines, acclaimed journalist Jeff Goodell employs fact, science, and first-person, on-the-ground journalism to show vivid scenes from what already is becoming a water world.




In A Sunburned CountryIn a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson. Bill Bryson is a renowned author of books on travel who has lived both in the United States and Britain. Wanting to inform the international world about the often-ignored Australia, Bryson writes about his trips across the country, he names these sections: “The Outback,” “The Boomerang Coast,” and “On the Edges.” In his humorous style, Bryson informs the readers about Australia’s history, cultures, and sites.

The Road from CoorainThe Road from Coorain, by Jill Ker Conway. The Road from Coorain is the autobiography of Jill Ker Conway as she grows up in Sydney during the mid to late 1900s. Although it focuses on her coming of age, the story describes Australian life and explains the country’s culture from the perspective of a young adult.

Myths and Legends of the Australian AboriginesMyths and Legends of the Australian Aborigines, by W. Ramsay Smith. First published in 1932, this book describes Aborigine life and myths, including topics relating to hunting, witchcraft, and creation myths. Book Reads says, “With this colorful compilation of oral traditions, readers can savor tales as they were told by their aboriginal narrators—from reverent recountings of the origins of the world and human life, the stories about the roots of religious and social customs, to fanciful and humorous animal fables.”

Kangaroo DundeeKangaroo Dundee, by Chris Barnes. Amazon says, “Brolga (aka Chris Barns) is the 6ft 7in strong but sensitive Aussie star of the extraordinary BBC series Kangaroo Dundee. Brolga lives in a simple tin shed in the outback where he raises orphaned baby kangaroos. It is a sad fact of life that kangaroo mothers are at the mercy of speeding cars in this part of the world – killed on the road, their young still tucked up in their pouches. These young joeys holding on to life, have been given a second chance thanks to the kindness and dedication of Brolga, who carefully retrieves them and nurses them back to health.

Brolga has been rescuing these special creatures for years, slowly and painstakingly creating a kangaroo sanctuary for the many kangaroos he has saved, reared and loved. He has dedicated his life to observing how kangaroo mums care for their babies and does everything he can to replicate this. The baby kangaroos, traumatised by losing their mother so early, are tucked up into pillow cases and kept warm and comforted next to Brolga at night. We see him getting up at 4am to bottle feed them, washing them in a little tub, taking them to the supermarket and generally mothering them with heart breaking tenderness.”

Where Song BeganWhere the Song Began: Australia’s Birds and How They Changed the World, by Tim Low. Tim Low, an Australian biologist, writes many pieces on the topics of conservation and nature. In 2015, this book was the first nature book to win the best General Non-Fiction prize in the Australian Book Industry Awards. Where the Song Began gives insight about Australia’s unusual birds and their complexity and power within the country’s ecosystems and life. It is focused on the scientific nature of birds, although, it is still readable and thought provoking.


* Links are affiliate links – thanks for supporting Loop Abroad!

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"From handling wombats and pygmy possums to learning how to suture and perform necropsies, this was a once in a lifetime experience and I am so grateful for my time down under."

Alexandra H., Australia Veterinary Service 2018

University of California Davis