Ecuador is the perfect storm when it comes to biodiversity. The high Andes Mountains, it’s tropical location on the equator, and two major ocean currents along the coast create microclimates for a dazzling array of wildlife. Not only is Ecuador home to 25,000 species of plants, 1,600 species of birds (more than half of the 3,000 species found in all of South America), 369 species of mammals, 350 species of reptiles, and 800 species of fish, it is also home to the legendary Galapagos Islands, the inspiration behind Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Many of these animals are found nowhere else on Earth. They are unique and precious, both ecologically and scientifically. There is so much we can learn from these creatures and they are disappearing before our eyes.
World Endeavors, a volunteer organization focused on total cultural immersion, offers two wildlife conservation programs in Ecuador. One of their programs is based in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and the other is in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city on the coast, the country’s business center. Travelers include students, interns, and volunteers. While there are many opportunities in Ecuador through World Endeavors, it’s the wildlife work that I find the most compelling. Ecuador is such an ecological marvel! I can’t imagine going there and not working with animals.
The World Endeavors Wildlife Conservation Program pairs volunteers with local wildlife and rehabilitation centers. Volunteers work with staff to take care of the animals and the grounds, work to educate the public, and assist with community outreach. Volunteers, students, and interns with the WE Wildlife Conservation Program are given a complete pre-departure orientation. In-country staff is experienced, friendly, and always available to assist travelers and to offer local knowledge and insight.
World Endeavors has programs in many countries—working for women’s rights, children, healthy communities, and wildlife—and all of them are devoted to sustainability and education. They house volunteers in homestays and include language classes in their schedules. Volunteers are encouraged to explore the local culture, sightsee, and spend a lot of quality time with their host families. WE believes that the world is changing more rapidly than it ever has and that the only way to create a unified global economy is to inspire people to travel—to experience the world as it is today so we can understand how it will be tomorrow.