4 voluntourism opportunities for animal lovers
Here are a few ways you can experience the beauty of Hawaii, do some good for its furred and feathered residents, and meet some adorable new friends.
1. Do it for the birds.
Hawaii is brimming with superlatives. The most isolated population center in the world is the home of the most active volcano on the planet and, arguably, the wettest spot on earth. Add this to the list: No place else has more bird species under threat of extinction. All told, 95 of the state’s 142 endemic birds have already been lost.
It is in this climate that Hawaii Wildlife Center exists, treating different species of sick, starved, disoriented and injured native birds, as well as the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat, at its wildlife hospital in Kapa‘au on Hawai‘i Island. Staff members care for seabirds struggling to fledge, white tern chicks left orphaned and pueo injured by motor vehicle run-ins. The nonprofit rehabilitates birds recovered anywhere in Hawai‘i, including the uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
“Each different species has its own problems,” says Hawaii Wildlife Center administrative manager, Danette Hartrick. “For the pueo, the majority of things is being hit by a car with a head or wing injury. For nēnē, it is injury to the head by a golf ball. They really like the habitat of a golf course, so we have had several come in that have had head injuries.”
Volunteers are not able to interact with the animals in rehabilitation, but each aviary has a camera in it so visitors can see and learn about the birds, which will all ultimately be released. Activities may include cleaning and organizing the bird habitats, some of which feature shallow pools for the birds to wade in, and volunteer hours are flexible.
For more information, call (808) 884-5000 or visit hawaiiwildlifecenter.org.
2. Rent out a four-legged hiking partner.
Pick up a shelter dog at the Kaua‘i Humane Society and take it on a field trip with you to one of the island’s dog-friendly beaches, trails or parks. Upon arrival, you’ll be introduced to several ideal canine companions. Once the match is made, you can take your new furry friend out on a day trip.
Call (808 632-0610 or visit kauaihumane.org for more information.
3. Cuddle with hundreds of kitties.
Stay all day and keep more than 500 cats company while lending a hand at the now-famous Lāna‘i Cat Sanctuary, a lush, three-acre kitty oasis on one of Hawaiʻiʻs most remote islands. The nonprofit is committed to giving their cats the highest quality of life, and also engages in rescue and welfare work.
Call (808) 215-9066 or visit lanaicatsanctuary.org for more information.
4. Be a sea turtle guardian.
Get up close and personal with Hawaiian green sea turtles on the North Shore of Oʻahu by becoming a docent at Mālama Na Honu, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting and preserving this threatened species. The organization runs three-hour shifts throughout the day for volunteers, who will get the chance to educate beachgoers about the turtles, set up signs and equipment, watch for turtles emerging from the ocean, identify known turtles and protect the turtles from harassment.
Visit malamanahonu.org for more information.