Laos Wildlife Sanctuary

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Join the incredible team at Laos’s only wildlife sanctuary and help care for animals rescued from the illegal wildlife trafficking trade.

Located just 60km north of Laos’ peaceful capital, Vientiane, lies a wildlife sanctuary buzzing with activity. The Laos Wildlife Sanctuary is home to more than 500 animals, with many having suffered a lifetime of cruelty before being given a second lease of life.

Unfortunately, animal cruelty is commonplace in Laos and this is most notable in the prevalence of the wildlife trade. Laos is a major gateway for this illegal trade, and each day thousands of protected animals are smuggled in and out of the country. Recognising a need for intervention, a small group of conservationists sought support from the local government and other wildlife organisations to found what we know today as the Laos Wildlife Sanctuary, having transformed an old zoo into a place where animals could seek protection and receive care.

For many years, Laos Zoo had functioned without the expertise to care for such a wealth of animals, meaning proper nutrition and mental stimulation was not always available. However, since the current team started transforming it into a wildlife sanctuary, the site has become a suitable - and necessary - home for many of Laos in-need species; in fact, the Laos Wildlife Sanctuary is the first and only wildlife rescue and conservation organisation in the whole country.

While great efforts have been carried out to provide care for the animals resident at this former zoo, further help is still required. Your time spent volunteering will see you contribute to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of many vulnerable and endangered animals, and you will also help to provide ongoing care for those that sadly cannot be released into the wild. The Laos Wildlife Sanctuary serves as a pillar of hope for many of the country’s most in-need animals, and your contribution to the project will have a meaningful and lasting impact for many years to come.

Located just 60km north of Laos’ peaceful capital, Vientiane, lies a wildlife sanctuary buzzing with activity. The Laos Wildlife Sanctuary is home to more than 500 animals, with many having suffered a lifetime of cruelty before being given a second lease of life.

Unfortunately, animal cruelty is commonplace in Laos and this is most notable in the prevalence of the wildlife trade. Laos is a major gateway for this illegal trade, and each day thousands of protected animals are smuggled in and out of the country. Recognising a need for intervention, a small group of conservationists sought support from the local government and other wildlife organisations to found what we know today as the Laos Wildlife Sanctuary, having transformed an old zoo into a place where animals could seek protection and receive care.

For many years, Laos Zoo had functioned without the expertise to care for such a wealth of animals, meaning proper nutrition and mental stimulation was not always available. However, since the current team started transforming it into a wildlife sanctuary, the site has become a suitable - and necessary - home for many of Laos in-need species; in fact, the Laos Wildlife Sanctuary is the first and only wildlife rescue and conservation organisation in the whole country.

While great efforts have been carried out to provide care for the animals resident at this former zoo, further help is still required. Your time spent volunteering will see you contribute to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of many vulnerable and endangered animals, and you will also help to provide ongoing care for those that sadly cannot be released into the wild. The Laos Wildlife Sanctuary serves as a pillar of hope for many of the country’s most in-need animals, and your contribution to the project will have a meaningful and lasting impact for many years to come.

Elephant Eating at the Laos Wildlife Sanctuary
Animal Feeding
The sanctuary is home to over 500 animals of all species and sizes, and each of these animals needs to be fed! You will help to prepare a range of meals every day, in the correct portions and with the right nutrition for each respective animal. You will also help to distribute the food, making this a great opportunity to get up close to some of Asia’s most amazing species, such as elephants, monkeys, bears and pangolins!
Volunteers Creating Enrichment at the Laos Wildlife Sanctuary
Enrichment
To help increase the chance of release, the team have implemented an enrichment schedule which will see you creating puzzles and tasks for the animals, with each enrichment item designed to stimulate their minds and bodies and equip them with the skills they would need in the wild. Enrichment also helps to alleviate the animals’ boredom, which in turn can reduce their stress levels whilst at the sanctuary.
Building a Wall at the Laos Wildlife Sanctuary
Construction Projects
The wildlife sanctuary is ever-expanding, which means new areas are being developed alongside older areas which are in need of repair. You will help the project team work through their construction schedule by helping to build or improve enclosures for the animals, and you may also assist in the construction of other structures such as climbing towers, shelters, and even swimming pools for the animals to use throughout their rehabilitation.
Volunteers Cleaning Enclusres at the Laos Wildlife Sanctuary
Enclosure Cleaning
In addition to creating new suitable homes for the animals, you will also assist with the maintenance of the existing enclosures. Providing the sanctuary’s animals with a comfortable, clean place to eat and sleep is a top priority for the sanctuary team, and all volunteers play their part in keeping these areas habitable for the animal residents.
Volunteers Relax at the Laos Wildlife Sanctuary
Free Time
When the working day is done, you are free to relax at the volunteer house. You may wish to socialise with the rest of your group over a board game or take a little alone time to read a book in the comfort of your room. On days off, you can take the opportunity to visit some of the local shops, markets or bars and on occasion, the team may organise a trip to a nearby resort which has a pool and restaurant onsite.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
After arriving at Vientiane International Airport, you will be collected and transferred to the project site (approximately 2 hours away). Once you have reached the sanctuary, you will be shown to your room to settle in before being taken on an orientation tour of the grounds to learn more about the facilities and resident animals.
Day 2 - 13 - Project Days:
These are your project days, which typically run from 8:30am to 5:00pm. Each morning will begin with a briefing to discuss the day’s schedule, which will include some time to feed the animals and clean their enclosures. The remainder of your day will consist of construction activities or special projects, such as enrichment, and you will enjoy a 45-minute lunch break in the afternoon. Sundays are elected as days off, and you are free to spend this time as you wish!
Day 14 - Final Day:
Today is your final day at the project, so after saying goodbye to your fellow volunteers, the staff and the animals at the sanctuary, you will be transferred back to Vientiane International Airport in time for your return flight home, or to continue with your onward travel plans.

To secure a place on this project, a deposit of $245 is required at the time of booking, with the remaining balance due any time up to 60 days prior to your start date.

Select a duration below to see the available start dates. All dates shown are currently available for you to join this project!

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Accommodation

During your time on the project, you will stay in one of five bungalows located on-site. Each bungalow will be shared on a same-sex basis (with the exception of couples, friends or families), with two people allocated to each. All rooms come equipped with fans and electrical outlets, and fresh linens are provided. A laundry service is also available for a small fee. Away from the bungalows, there are shower blocks which are separated by gender and fitted with western toilets and both a hot and cold shower.

Meals & Beverages

All meals and beverages are provided during your stay at the Laos Wildlife Sanctuary. You will prepare your own breakfast using the items bought in for you by the sanctuary team (such as bread, eggs, cereal and milk), while lunch and dinner will be cooked for you. These meals usually consist of local cuisine, though occasionally Western food may be provided. Tea, coffee and water are available throughout the day.

When is the best time to volunteer?

As this project is based at a wildlife sanctuary, there are animals here year-round, which means there is no favourable time to volunteer regarding wildlife. That said, the weather may impact your decision on when to travel, and the seasons are explained in more detail below.

March to Mid-June: This period is considered the hot season, and you can expect temperatures of up to 33°C (91°F) and high humidity levels which reach approximately 75-90%.

June to October: This is considered the wet season, and though brief but heavy rain showers can be expected, temperatures are still high at up to 32°C (90°F).

November to February: This is the cooler season and is also the driest, with temperatures of around 28-30°C (82-86°F) during the day and dropping further below at night.

Average Monthly Weather in Vientiane, Laos

Getting there

You will need to fly into Wattay International Airport (VTE) in Vientiane, where you’ll be met in the arrival’s hall between 9:30am-10:00am by a member of the project staff and transferred to the sanctuary. Transfers are only available between 9:30am-10:00am, to ensure that you arrive at the sanctuary in time for lunch, where you will meet the team and be given a tour around the project site.

As flights are limited, we strongly recommend booking a flight that arrives the day before your start date and spending the night in Vientiane. Your transfer to the sanctuary can then be arranged from your accommodation.

For your departure, you will need to book a flight from midday to allow enough time for your transfer and flight check-in.

Visa Requirements

To join this project, you will need a tourist visa and most nationalities are able to obtain a 30-day tourist visa on arrival into Laos. You must bring two passport-sized photos with you and pay US$35 dollars for this visa.

If you join the project for longer than 4 weeks or plan to be in Laos for more than 30 days, you can visit the immigration office in Vientiane and extend your tourist visa for an additional 2 weeks.

If, however, you plan to be in Laos for longer than 6 weeks, you will need to complete a ‘visa run’, which requires a crossing over the ‘Friendship Bridge’ between Laos and Thailand. You will receive a free Thai visa upon your arrival into Thailand and will be permitted to re-enter Laos with a new visa on the same day.

Fitness & Skills

As a large focus of this project revolves around construction and maintenance, we recommend that all volunteers taking part have a moderate level of fitness. No specific skills are required but we do ask that you arrive with a willingness to get involved with every activity, that you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty and that you have a respect for the wildlife and sanctuary staff who you will be working alongside.

Vaccinations

There are no specific vaccination or medical requirements needed to join this project and as such, the vaccinations you require will depend on your medical history. We, therefore, recommend that you consult your GP/Doctor regarding your own vaccination needs.

No Contact Policy

The sanctuary has a strict ‘No Contact Policy’ and anyone found touching any of the animals will be asked to leave immediately. This policy is in place so that the team can ease the integration of wildlife with their own species, facilitate future releases back to the wild, and ensure the safety of the staff and volunteers.

Unfortunately, most of the animals at the sanctuary have already had too much contact with humans as most are victims of the illegal wildlife trade. Due to this, some may look like they want attention, but it is important that you do not touch them. Animals appearing to give social interaction are NOT trying to be friendly and in the majority of cases, this behaviour is a sign of significant stress and submission. There is also a very real risk of disease transmission, some with obvious symptoms (if you have a cold or cough) and some without.

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What's Included

  • Accommodation
  • Three meals per day
  • Airport transfers
  • An English-speaking facilitator
  • A donation to the project

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas
Where you can go
Contact Info
UK Office
The Great Traveller Ltd,
3 Dairy Yard
Star Street
Ware, Hertfordshire
SG12 7DX
United Kingdom

Opening hours:
   Mon-Fri 8:30am–5:30pm
   Sat 10am-4pm

T: +44(0) 208 885 4987