Volunteer Abroad Portugal: Wolf Conservation
Travel to magnificent Portugal, make an active contribution to endangered species conservation and support the mission of a dedicated wolf sanctuary as a volunteer.
Due to human persecution and habitat loss, European wolves were almost exterminated within the past few decades. Whereas populations of the wolf are slowly recovering naturally in several European countries, the populations in Portugal are still extremely limited.
Our partner’s wolf conservation project created a safe sanctuary for rescued Iberian wolves that were born and/or kept in captivity under illegal circumstances and are therefore no longer able to live in the wild. Volunteers help take care of the animals that find refuge here, by feeding them, performing monitoring activities, help on the forest maintenance where the centre is located at and assist in maintaining the infrastructure of this precious shelter.
Become part of a committed conservation team, actively participate in protecting Portugal’s last big carnivore and experience nature and wildlife of the southwestern European country in an incomparable way.
- Actively contribute to conserving habitat at a wolf sanctuary in Portugal
- Live and work only 30 km north of Portugal’s capitol Lisbon
- Participate in a wide range of conservation activities in a wolf sanctuary
- Work and live together with volunteers from all over the world
- Explore Lisbon and other parts of Portugal outside project hours
Volunteering in Portugal
Become a conservation volunteer in beautiful Portugal, contribute towards the conservation and protection of the Iberian wolf and discover the natural diversity that the vibrant European country has to offer.
Arrival and orientation in Lisbon
The project is open for volunteers from February to November. Volunteers should arrive at Lisbon International Airport (LIS). Depending on where you are coming from, you can take a flight on the same day the project starts or arrive one day earlier and spend one night in the city. From the airport, volunteers need to get to the small town of Vale da Guarda by public transport, about 30km north of Lisbon, where they will be picked up in the early afternoon and taken to the project site. Here, you can settle in, get to know your team and receive an overview of the project, its aims and your upcoming tasks.
Activities in the wolf conservation project
Project participants will be part of a dedicated conservation team, working in a sanctuary that provides a safe haven for wolves that can no longer live in the wild. As a volunteer, you will be part of an international group, always instructed and trained by experienced supervisors. After you’ve been familiarised with the sanctuary and its facilities, common working structures and essential safety rules, the actual project work begins.
Core volunteer tasks mainly include forest maintenance (tree felling/pruning, vegetation clearing, fire watch during summer months) and infrastructure maintenance (checking walls and fences, painting, improving pathways) but also preparing food and feeding the wolves, checking the animals’ water supplies as well as monitoring and observing them. Most of the work is physical and demanding, but yet very rewarding. Working hours are usually from around 09:00 AM to 06:00 PM, with a 2-hour lunch break in-between.
Please note: You will not be able to touch the wolves as the goal is to give them a similar life to the one they have in the wild. Even observing the animals might be difficult sometimes. That’s why we cannot guarantee that you will see a wolf during your stay. Furthermore, the needs of the project will decide what and when a task has to be done. Please be flexible if the schedule changes out of a sudden.
Accommodation as a volunteer
During the project, volunteers will live on the sanctuary grounds in small but very cozy wooden cabins. Here they will share a dormitory with one to three other volunteers; the entire cabin can accommodate six people. There is also the option of getting a single room. The houses have a shared bathroom, a kitchen and a living room/dining area. The kitchen provides a stove, an oven, a microwave, a fridge, a freezer and cooking utensils. A washing machine, towels and blankets are also available.
Daily meals are at the volunteers’ own cost. Once a week our partner takes the project participants for grocery shopping to a large supermarket where all kinds of foods can be purchased. Volunteers can use the kitchen to prepare the meals in a group or individually. Please note: As a volunteer you are responsible for cleaning the kitchen and any utensils that you have used.
Leisure time during the volunteer project
As a volunteer, you usually have the weekends off (Saturday and Sunday). You can use this time, to go on a weekend trip – either by yourself or with your fellow volunteers – to explore Lisbon and other parts of beautiful Portugal. You can also use the evening hours of each working day for your own activities. Read a book, play card/board games or simply relax together with your team members.
Arrival in Portugal’s Lisbon District
Typical day as a conservation volunteer
Last day in the volunteer project and departure
FAQ – Learn more about this trip
“I really liked the proximity to the wolves. I could see every one of them, some of them even every day.”
“All in all, I look back on a wonderful time as a conservation volunteer in Spain.”
“Our team leaders in the projects were so friendly and nice. They picked us up every day, were very understanding and always helped us with questions or problems.”
“The project definitely exceeded my expectations; it was such an enjoyable experience and the work we did was so varied.”
1. Lisbon District
The Lisbon District is a district in Portugal on the west coast of the country. It covers an area of approx. 2800 km2 and is composed of 16 municipalities. As the name already reveals, the district capitol is Portugal’s capitol Lisbon.
A highlight of the Lisbon District is doubtlessly the city of Lisbon itself. Its picturesque narrow streets, beautiful squares, colourful buildings, iconic monuments and a history dating back to the Stone Age attract travellers from all over the world. But also the charming little villages, green landscapes, sandy beaches and panoramic coastal views that the Lisbon District has to offer surely provide each visitor with unforgettable travel memories.
Background of the wolf conservation project in Portugal
In 1907, Angel Cabrera described the Iberian wolf as a subspecies of the grey wolf for the first time. Until the late 19th century, wolves lived almost across the entire Iberian Peninsula. In the 20th century, however, people in Europe started to perceive the animals as a pest which led to intensive persecution and therefore a strong decline of wolf populations within the following decades.
Whereas wolf populations have commenced recovering naturally since the 1960s/1970s in many European countries, the populations in Portugal are still small due to the destruction of habitat, loss of potential prey, illegal hunting and other forms of human persecution. It is estimated that there are 300 animals left on Portuguese territory, occurring only in the north and centre of the country.
Our partner organisation, a Portuguese non-governmental and non-profit environmental association, was founded in 1985 and is dedicated to the preservation of wolves and their ecosystem in Portugal. They developed a combining concept of applied research, practical conservation measures and education/environmental awareness in order to contribute to the survival of the wolf in the country.
In 1987, our partner set up a large recovery centre for Iberian wolves to provide a suitable environment and a safe sanctuary for individuals that can no longer live in the wild. The wolves that are cared for were either born in captivity, including zoos, or illegally removed from the wild and raised in captive conditions.
The sanctuary’s spacious enclosures contain a wide variety of vegetation and landscapes features, providing the best natural conditions possible. As species conservation involves lots of time and efforts, and resources are often scarce, the helping hands of dedicated volunteers are an essential support for the development of the project.
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