Volunteer in our Wildlife Custody Centres
- Volunteer Opportunity posted by Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi (CIWY)
Full time (30+ hrs/wk)
Short-Term (few weeks/months)
Volunteering in our wildlife centres is hard work. However it is also incredibly rewarding, unique and sure to be a memorable experience.
On this page you will find general information about volunteering in our centres. For specific information about each centre's work areas, facilities, costs etc, please visit the specific volunteering page for that centre: Parque Machía, Parque Ambue Ari and Parque Jacj Cuisi.
Last updated: June 2015
- Parque Machía urgently needs volunteers
- Parque Jacj Cuisi urgently needs volunteers
- Parque Ambue Ari urgently needs volunteers
We accept volunteers from all different walks of life. We do not require that volunteers have prior experience of, or a specific qualification in working with wildlife.
We do however need all volunteers to meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 18 years old (although we do accept volunteers who are 17 as long as they have provided us with written consent from their parents).
- Be in a good physical condition, adaptable and have a flexible attitude towards work.
- Be able to work under humid weather conditions, which include temperatures above 30°C (86°F) and humidity between 65% and 90%.
- Have basic understanding of Spanish or English.
- Volunteers heading to Parque Ambue Ari must be vaccinated against yellow fever.
- And most importantly - have a passion to help animals.
- Time commitment
Volunteer with animals
In order to work with the animals in our centres, volunteers must commit to a minimum of either 14 or 29 days, depending on the area of work. Work with all felines and certain monkey groups requires a minimum of 29 days.
Volunteer in construction
If you do not have two weeks to spare but still wish to help, we are currently accepting volunteers to help with construction and general maintenance work in Parque Jacj Cuisi for as little as one week.
Volunteer for longer
Lots of volunteers stay for many months or even longer, and often return for a second and third time. Long-term volunteers are essential to the work that we do. In addition to caring for the animals, they help manage certain parts of our wildlife centres and have a more intimate knowledge of the animals. If you would like to be a long-term volunteer but have questions about visas, please see our FAQ section.
Work hours & time off
For the majority of volunteers work begins between 7:00am - 8:30am, and ends between 4:30pm - 7pm (depending on the work area). Work schedules for each different area are listed in each centre’s volunteering page. Most volunteers receive breaks of 1.5 - 2 hours during the day.
Volunteers at Ambue Ari and Jacj Cuisi get one day off per week. Volunteers at Machía are entitled to one day off for every two weeks worked.
The cost of volunteering varies depending on which Centre you choose to volunteer at. Please see each Centre's specific volunteering page for the exact cost.
Payments made by our volunteers are our main source of funding, making up 85% of our total income. These payments are normally spent within a week on food and medical supplies for the animals, or to cover the Centre’s general operating costs. Volunteer fees also cover the cost of accommodation and, in two of our parks (Ambue Ari and Jacj Cuisi), three meals a day are also included, whereas at Machia only lunch is included.
Choosing a Centre
Choosing which Wildlife Custody Centre to volunteer at can be difficult decision. To help, we have summarized basic information about each Centre below. You can also have a look at each Centre’s profileand read specific information about volunteering on each Centre’s volunteer page: Parque Machía, Parque Ambue Ari and Parque Jacj Cuisi.
Average number of volunteers
Capuchin monkeys, spider monkeys, coatis, turtles, an ocelot, a spectacled bear, exotic birds and more.
Electricity, hot showers, kitchens, internet, cell phone reception, restaurants and shops.
Low season: 20 to 30
High season: 40 to 50
Villa Tunari, conveniently on the highway between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.
Jaguars, ocelots, pumas, howler monkeys, night monkeys, exotic birds, tapirs, peccaries and more.
Basic accommodation in dorm rooms, electricity from a generator and limited cell phone reception. Running water from a well/bore hole.
Low season: 15 to 30
High season: 60 to 75
45km from Ascensión de Guarayos and six hours north of Santa Cruz.
Basic accommodation in a dorm, with no electricity or cell phone reception. Filtered running water from a creek.
5 to 15
Near San Buenaventura, an hour outside of Rurrenabaque.
Everything relating to the subject of health (for example vaccinations, medication etc.) are personal considerations that we cannot advise you on. We highly recommend that you consult your doctor or travel nurse before travelling. We do however recommend that you vaccinate yourself against yellow fever; in fact this is a requirement for all volunteers at Parque Ambue Ari.
All the animals are under the supervision of the vets and follow an animal health calendar, ensuring they are up to date with all their required vaccinations.
When traveling abroad the following vaccinations are commonly recommended: • Hepatitis A • Hepatitis B • Yellow Fever • Tetanus • Tuberculosis • Typhoid • Rabies
All three of our wildlife centres are in areas that are perceived to be malarial risk zones by the WHO (World Health Organisation). However many of our volunteers choose not to take anti-malarials and the risk is perceived as low by locals.
Rabies vaccinations may be very expensive in your country. Fortunately the three necessary rounds can be administered cheaply in South America, sometimes at no cost. Deciding where to receive the vaccination, if you choose to do so, is completely up to you. We have never had a case of rabies within our wildlife centres.
If you are currently taking prescription medication, we recommend that you bring an ample supply with you. While most medications can be found in Bolivia, your specific drug may be unavailable.
The most common illnesses that foreign travellers in Bolivia experience are nausea and diarrhoea, due to food poisoning or other bacteria. To reduce the risk of food poisoning wash your hands thoroughly and often, and avoid eating food from informal street vendors.
For up-to-date health risks in Bolivia, please see your country’s foreign travel or health website - such as the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Australia’s Smart Traveller, or the United States’ Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
What to bring
The following lists are divided into: essential items, useful items and other recommendations.
- Clothing that you don’t mind throwing away. If you don't have anything suitable we provide or rent second-hand clothing at each of our centres.
- A head torch (this can be purchased cheaply in Bolivia) and a supply of batteries.
- Cash (in bolivianos). While there is an ATM in the town of Villa Tunari, it often does not work. The nearest cash point to Parque Ambue Ari is four hours away in Trinidad, and the nearest to Parque Jacj Cuisi is a flight away. So, no matter which centre you will be volunteering at, please bring enough cash with you to last the entirety of your stay. We prefer payment in bolivianos at all three centres. Machía and Ambue Ari will accept payment in US dollars if you do not have bolivianos, but Jacj Cuisi accepts bolivianos only (you will not be able to pay with US dollars at this centre). We also only accept payments in cash.
- Long socks to wear with rubber boots.
- Warm clothing and a sleeping bag if volunteering from May to September - when temperatures can become very low, especially at night.
- Waterproof clothing - especially if volunteering during the rainy season from November to April.
- Rubber boots - especially if you have large or very small feet. While we do provide or rent second-hand boots, we might not have your size available and we cannot guarantee hole-free boots.
- A brimmed hat to protect from the sun and rain, with a mosquito head net if volunteering during the rainy season.
- Natural insect repellent (free of synthetic chemicals and toxic ingredients) including eucalyptus oil.
- Some of your favourite foods and condiments.
- Talcum powder - to help keep your feet dry in the wet season.
- Biodegradable soaps and shampoos - especially if volunteering at Parque Jacj Cuisi where waste water enters the surrounding ecosystem.
Finally, if you have any extra space in your baggage, please consider bringing some of the items on our wishlist. Many of the supplies are cheap to purchase in other countries, but are difficult or impossible to get hold of in Bolivia.
How To Apply
Applying to volunteer
Option 1 - Simply turn up
We do not require volunteers to apply or reserve a space before arriving - we have no application process. We are always in need of more helping hands and volunteers can simply turn up without prior notification. You will be assigned accommodation, an area of work and be fully briefed upon arrival.
It is rare that we get so full that we are not able to accept new volunteers, and if one Centre is full we normally have space at the other Centres. You may however wish to bear in mind the following trends in volunteer numbers in choosing when to come:
- April - August: volunteer numbers tend to reach higher levels, this is our high season.
- October - February: volunteer numbers tend to be lower, this is when we have a greater need for help.
We also advise volunteers to check this page before arriving, since we post updates about each Centres’ current needs above - see 'current availability'.
Option 2 - Reserve a space
We are currently trialling a reservation system for those who would like the added reassurance of a guaranteed space at the centre of their choice.
In order to reserve a space you will need to pay a one-off (non-refundable) reservation fee of $100 USD per person.
To reserve your space please first read the requirements and conditions below, then email firstname.lastname@example.org with 'volunteer reservation' in the subject line.
Reservation requirements and conditions:
• You must reserve your space at least one month in advance. • You must commit to volunteering for at least one month (you will be required to pay a full month's package upon arrival). • In Machía and Ambue Ari your reservation guarantees you a bed and work with an animal/area of animals (we cannot guarantee what type of animal you will be working with). • In Jacj Cuisi: your reservation guarantees you a bed and at least construction work (due to the small number of animals at Jacj Cuisi we cannot guarantee that you will be able to work with an animal). • The $100 reservation fee is additional to our standard volunteering fees - it is not a pre-payment of your volunteering package. You will still be required to pay the standard volunteering fees in full upon arrival at the centre of your choice.
N.B. We will only ever allocate a limited number of reserved spaces at each Centre at any one time. This is to ensure that those who prefer to simply turn up can do so.