Lions, Rhinos, and Elephants: Oh My!

One Female of a Pride of Lions Resting in Afternoon Shade

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When I was a young girl, I lived in Kenya. I spent long days at Masai Mara game reserve, a massive wildlife park (and popular tourist destination) where the animals roam free. I watched the lions sleeping in the hot afternoon sun; the gazelles, fleet of foot and on the watch for cats; and the zebras swishing their tails, a black and white tangle of shivering flanks. The boars rammed each other in the tall grass. A herd of elephants circled to protect a single calf. As the sun started to set, the nocturnal animals emerged: the hammer-headed fruit bat; the aardvark with its long snout and shuffling gait; the bush baby with wide, staring eyes and a whip-like tail; and the civet who’s musk is used in the fanciest perfumes.

Rehabilitating Primates with the Darwin Primate Group

Rehabilitated Babboon Mother and Baby at the DPG

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Working with primates holds a special mystique thanks to the legacy of people like Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall (more on volunteer opportunities affiliated with their organizations soon). Primate is a large and diverse order of mammals that includes chimpanzees, our closest evolutionary ancestors. Many scientists are drawn to the study of primatology because they see so many similarities between the animals they work with and themselves. As a volunteer, working with primates offers a unique opportunity to experience the humanness of wildlife. No other animals can tell us more about our own evolutionary past, and yet, like so many others, these animals are in great danger.

The Crocodile Hunter’s Legacy: Volunteering Aboard the Steve Irwin

Steve Irwin Holding a Young Crocodile

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While some people might think it silly, one of the people I admire most is the late, great Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter. Yes, he was goofy and flamboyant. Sure, he hammed it up for the cameras. But when it came down to caring, generosity, and real work to make a difference, Irwin was a hero. While he wasn’t a volunteer himself—Irwin ran his family’s Australia Zoo—he welcomed volunteers from all over the world, encouraging them to learn about the Australian wildlife, and to spread his message of conservation.