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8 Can’t-Miss Trips For Cat Lovers

Love animals, and especially felines? Make your next vacation a volunteer stint with an organization that helps the world’s biggest kitties. Here are some to check out, courtesy of

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1. South Africa: Large Predator Research and Conservation

It’s impossible to do a good job protecting wild animals without a thorough understanding of their behaviour and needs. One of the primary missions of the Thanda Foundation is to watch and collect data on lions and leopards in the wild. Volunteers join researchers in the African bush to observe hunting, social, breeding and territorial behaviour of these animals and monitor their nighttime movements. Work may also include game capture and habitat protection initiatives such as plant control and snare sweeps.


(Photo: Courtesy of Volunteer PoD)

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2. Namibia: Wildlife Conservation

Naankuse is a Namibia-based foundation that develops sustainable, long-term programs to protect wildlife and support the local community with free education and healthcare. Volunteers can work on research projects – tracking leopards and cheetahs, as well as helping with estate development – or in the wildlife sanctuary, which supports a variety of injured and orphaned wild and farm animals including lions, cheetahs, leopards and meerkats. Conservation volunteers often have the chance to participate in carnivore release projects; for instance, you might feed and track previously captive cheetahs as they adjust to the environment of an interim wilderness area.


(Photo: Courtesy of Volunteer PoD)

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3. Mexico: Cat and Dog Population Management

Feral cats and dogs – those who were born and live on the streets – are a common sight globally. Not only can this be problematic for people – feral and uncared-for dogs, in particular, can bite and transmit rabies – but it’s a sad existence for these animals, who are too often underfed and abused and have a life span of only one to two years on average. In Pueblo, Mexico, volunteers assist a local partner of Animal Experience International in two ways: first, through educating children and the general public on responsible pet ownership; and second, through providing health care and sterilization to the animal population, as well as helping with behind-the-scenes administration work.


(Photo: Courtesy of Volunteer PoD)

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4. South Africa: White Lion Conservation

White lions, like the spirit bears of British Columbia, are not a separate species but rather the manifestation of a recessive gene. Unlike spirit bears, however, they no longer breed and exist in the wild. The Tsau! White Lion Conservation Project is working to change that through a breeding and reintroduction program combined with local education and lobbying to prevent hunting of this sacred animal. Volunteers participate in lion monitoring, anti-poaching activities, habitat management, research and environmental education.


(Photo: Courtesy of Volunteer PoD)

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5. Zimbabwe: Lion Rehabilitation

The lion population in Africa has declined by a staggering 80 to 90 percent since 1975. At the Victoria Falls Lion Rehabilitation Project, staff and volunteers work to help this iconic animal survive and thrive into the future. Besides assisting in vital research, volunteers might participate in conservation education in local schools, and work hands-on with the group’s four-stage release program, which works to raise captive-born lion cubs as self-sufficient animals that can integrate into the wild population. Perhaps the most appealing part of the program? Walking alongside young lion cubs in the bush as they learn to stalk and hunt prey.


(Photo: Courtesy of Volunteer PoD)

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6. South Africa: Cheetah Reintroduction

Cheetahs are not an easy animal to breed in captivity: for every four that are captured, three will die of stress-related illnesses. This program aims to help cheetahs face extinction through both its expert breeding program and reintroduction of animals into the wild. Volunteer tasks include cleaning and maintaining enclosures, running the cheetahs, food preparation, weeding, and data collection. You’ll also have the chance to explore the local area, visit markets, even visit an elephant sanctuary.


(Photo: Courtesy of PoD Volunteer)

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7. Belize: Wildlife Rescue

The Caribbean Wildlife Centre cares for rescued animals and provides wildlife education to locals and especially Belizean students, more than 15,000 of which visit each year – a big number in a country whose population is just over 300,000. The centre is home to more than 125 species including jaguars, pumas and ocelots. Volunteers are assigned to zookeepers who will lead them in activities such as food preparation, enclosure cleaning and maintenance and caring for newborn or orphaned animals.


(Photo: Courtesy of Volunteer PoD)

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8. South Africa: Wildlife Photography and Conservation

Photographing wildlife as well as local flora is useful for conservation efforts to help with awareness and education as well as documentation. This trip begins with an intensive three-day photography workshop with a professional photographer. Then, volunteers will take photos on regular game drives, especially covering the “big five” – lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffalo – and help work on the foundation’s photo database. Photos taken during the program may be used for local education purposes or sold as part of fundraising initiatives.


(Photo: Courtesy of Volunteer PoD)