Volunteering with Oyster Worldwide
Animal welfare and conservation volunteering can provide the opportunity for participants to learn about species and their environment, in conjunction with helping to protect them both. Raising awareness is key to encouraging both local and international action, an imperative stage to improving the quality of animal welfare and support of conservation work. Whether this is conservation work in natural ecosystems or animal care in a sanctuary, it is highly beneficial; volunteers learn about the culture and gain valuable life skills, alongside the wildlife receiving additional care and donations to ensure their wellbeing. It is also advantageous for local communities, as the socioeconomic benefits of ecotourism support businesses and livelihoods.
At Oyster Worldwide, we offer many animal welfare and conservation volunteering projects. Running consistently throughout the projects is an ethos which we follow to ensure our projects are focussed and beneficial to all those involved. They are:
- Promoting conservation (local outreach).
- Educating volunteers (enabling them to educate others going forward).
- Protecting species and the environment.
- Rescuing and rehabilitating when possible.
- Caring for animals.
- Providing medical treatment when needed.
Oyster’s Animal Welfare Standards
The animal welfare programs that we offer are varied in location and the work involved. While some are based in wildlife sanctuaries, others are on game reserves and some in the wild habitat. We have strict criteria for volunteering locations:
- We do not send volunteers to work in zoos.
- We do not send volunteers to work with lion or tiger cubs.
- Of the sanctuaries which do receive visitors, these are for educational, conservation and funding purposes, and have been assessed to ensure the animals’ welfare is the priority.
- Volunteer work does not impact or restrict natural behaviours of the animals.
- The sanctuaries aim to rehabilitate any animals which are healthy and able, following suitable preparation (such as health checks and foraging training).
- Where rehabilitation is not possible, for instance when animals have lasting injuries inflicted on them prior to their rescue, the sanctuaries provide a safe, comfortable home for the animals in conditions similar to their natural environment.
- Human interaction is limited to only what is necessary, whether the animals are permanent residents or waiting to be Sometimes there are necessary exceptions, such as hand-rearing and rehabilitation activities for young orphaned animals. If so, we would expect guidelines to prevent dependency or taming.
- In cases where volunteers will be working hands-on with the animals, full supervision, guidance and training must be given. Unauthorised or improper interaction with wildlife will not be tolerated.
- Animals that can be rehabilitated and released will go through a long rehabilitation process to ensure that, following release, the animals do not seek out human civilisation for food or assistance.
- Although food is provided within the sanctuaries, natural foraging behaviours are encouraged to allow animals to maximise their independence.
- Volunteer numbers are monitored and capped if necessary to ensure that animals are not overwhelmed or the project jeopardised.
Although our volunteers do participate in activities offsite during their free time, we do not encourage or advertise any activities which cause harm or stress to animals, such as elephant riding and photo opportunities with animals in captivity. We ensure any opportunities made available to our volunteers are ethical to the animals and communities – for example, we do not support canned hunting, as it is an unethical practice which utilises animal life solely for human gain.
The Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare
Modern day animal species have evolved over thousands of generations, both physically and behaviourally, in order to optimise their survival in the wild. In captivity, these same species face a number of potential challenges for which evolution has not prepared them – climate, limited space, vegetation and forced interaction with fellow individuals in close proximity. In order to deliver high standards of welfare, the conditions of captivity may need to be artificially altered to maximise the wellbeing of the individuals. This could include interaction as part of a social group, or the potential to hide from others, the opportunity to run, dig, climb, swim and forage. Failure to cater for these needs can result in physical and mental damage, potentially leading to abnormal behaviour, disease and premature mortality. Hence, we prioritise animal welfare at all of our programs, ensuring that the best possible care is provided consistently for all resident animals.
The programs we send volunteers to are checked annually by our staff to confirm that they continue to meet our expectations and standards, as outlined in this document. Additional standards which we expect to be met are the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare, an internationally recognised framework for animal care.
- Freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition –all animals have access to adequate and clean drinking water and appropriate food, meeting their nutritional needs and natural dietary habits where possible.
- Freedom from discomfort –animals are monitored daily, and any concerns are actioned with further observation and medical treatment, if necessary. The animals can move freely within their enclosures and have access to sufficient shelter and shade, which is clean and well-maintained.
- Freedom from pain and disease –animals are closely monitored and treated as required. Human intervention is only allowed when necessary, for medical care or health checks. Animals are kept in well-maintained enclosures and shelters, and cleanliness is a top priority to prevent spread of bacteria or illness.
- Freedom to express themselves – the enclosures encourage natural behaviours, such as foraging, climbing and playing. When possible (given the temperament of the species and individuals), the animals are able to interact with each other. Animals are not forced to make unnatural decisions or behave in a way which is not comfortable for them.
- Freedom from fear and stress – the animals are protected from harmful human interactions, and not exposed to unnecessary stresses. Care for the animals will vary depending on the individual requirements, so the staff actively work to provide a calm, safe environment for the rescued animals, minimising stressful situations.
We understand that within the realm of animal welfare and conservation volunteering there are many issues which must be considered. Oyster Worldwide is a responsible travel company, and as such we ensure that our volunteer programs are safe, beneficial and contribute to the wellbeing of the local area. In order to do this, a member of the Oyster team has personally visited every program we offer prior to opening for bookings, to check the quality of the location. We only run ethical projects as we care about the welfare of both humans and animals and we ensure that all projects are meeting our standards at all times. If a volunteer raises any concerns regarding animal welfare, their comments will be investigated fully to ensure that the programs continue to meet our standards.
- We promise to complete annual checks to ensure that each of our animal welfare programs continue to meet our expectations and standards.
- We promise to prioritise the welfare of the animals above all other factors.
- We promise to take any comments and complaints regarding animal welfare at the sanctuaries seriously and investigate until the issue is resolved.
- We promise to require that all animal welfare volunteering programs meet the Five Freedoms.
- We promise to continue our support of current projects, both financially and physically, sending volunteers to assist with the care of resident animals and donating the given allocation of program fees directly to the charity/organisation.
- We promise that no animal is artificially removed from the wild for the purpose of the project. Those residing in the sanctuaries have been rescued from various situations and are now in a safe, protected environment where they receive the proper care.
- We promise that no animal is forced to do anything against its will unless it is risking its own health and safety. At program sites, no animal will be used as a prop for photos.
- We promise that breeding is not permitted within the sanctuaries, unless strictly regulated and for the purpose of repopulation or conservation.
- We promise that we will not make decisions or take actions that are in contravention of the wishes or needs of the local community.