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Amazon wildlife research & conservation (Con)

Location: Peru
Project type: conservation & wildlife
Price from: £1425.00 - details below

Volunteer in Amazonian Manu - a bio-hotspot in the remote rainforest. Work towards the creation of a truly sustainable Amazon by volunteering on projects designed to research the regeneration of the rainforest.

Skills required

We work closely with the foundation which developed and manages this project. No prior knowledge or particular skills are required to join this project - several days' training will be given at the start of the programme. However, an interest or ability in the following areas would be an advantage:

The project leaders have identified that they would gain from the following volunteer skills or experience:
  • biological science and / or geography
  • interest in birds, butterflies, insects, amphibians or reptiles
  • horticultural and agricultural science
  • gardening and practical skills
In addition volunteers need to:
  • be physically fit enough to walk up to 10km daily on muddy jungle paths, to climb in and out of small boats and to get low enough to collect samples on the ground or in the bush
  • enjoy being outdoors all day in all types of weather
  • carry personal daily supplies and some field equipment
  • independently follow verbal and visual instructions
  • enjoy living in a close community environment

N.B. basic Spanish is not essential, but would be a great advantage

Main project details

Volunteers take part in a well-established programme of research carried out at the Manu Learning Centre, an education and research centre located within a remote area of 643 acres of regenerating rainforest.
Research projects monitor life in the rainforest in a variety of ways.  Bird life is monitored through mist netting and early morning transects, and mammals through transects and camera traps set at different heights.  Pitfall traps set into the floor of the forest monitor amphibians and reptiles, and volunteers take part in night surveys to search for these creatures when they are most active.  Butterflies are significant indicators of climate change and are important pollinators to many plant species.  They are monitored through trapping and transects, and each insect captured is identified, measured and then carefully released again. Observation of the clay lick at dawn every day monitors the number of macaws, parrots and parakeets coming to the clay lick for the salts essential to their diet and correlates this with the number of tourists who come to observe them.  In addition researchers monitor the biodiversity of the plants and trees, looking at the number and types of species in each sector of the forest.  

The monitoring work is is part of an ongoing project in partnership with Oxford University; monitoring changes in the biomass levels within the reserve enable information to be gathered about the regeneration rate of the forest and to determine whether the levels of carbon in the forest are changing.
In addition some work is carried out with the local community in Manu, helping to create sustainable livelihoods that meet the challenges of poverty, malnutrition and loss of forest that have been caused by the destructive practices of mining, logging and slash and burn agriculture.  Biogardens have been built for local mothers, helping to combat malnutrition by providing the knowledge and resources for them to grow nutritious food for their families and to increase their income through the sale of surplus crops.  In partnership with local farmers, agroforestry plots are planted with sustainable varieties of trees interspersed with banana plants, thereby providing them with long and short term income, encouraging species diversity, increasing soil nutrition and creating carbon credits that can be sold to further finance the project.


Standing beneath the canopy of a pristine rainforest is to experience life at its most exuberant - an abundance of sounds, sights and scents attesting to the incredible diversity such environments can hold.  However, as in so many of our natural environments, human destruction of rainforest ecosystems is going on at such an alarming rate that the majority of the world's rainforests have now been heavily disturbed or destroyed.

The area covered by the Manu Learning Centre includes land that has been completely cleared in the past, land that has been partially cleared and land that was selectively logged.  The reserve has been regenerating this land for the last 40 years, and the research carried out here aims to find out the extent to which regenerating forest can contribute to sustaining and conserving rainforest life in all its diversity, and what is needed to maximise the contribution of regenerating rainforest to sustainable futures for rainforests, both in the Amazon and globally.

The Manu Biosphere Reserve encompasses almost the entire watershed of the Manu river, from tributaries that start high in the Andes down to the lowland Amazonian rainforests that stretch to the Atlantic.  Its geography, biodiversity and indigenous communities not only make it a compelling destination but also a valuable cultural, scientific and economic resource.  An area approximately the same size as Wales and although only 70km from Cusco, the Manu Biosphere Reserve has remained relatively protected because of limited accessibility.

The Manu National Park (MNP) is the largest national park in Peru and comprises more than 1.6 million hectares of intact tropical ecosystems, from lowland rainforest through cloud forest to highland elfin forest and humid Andean grasslands and swamps.

"I learned how to use a machete, how to strip bamboo, how to hold and identify butterflies! I loved living in the forest and off the grid, so to speak. I loved showering outdoors, having no cell phone reception, limited internet access, being surrounded by lightening bugs and conversation vs the distractions of technology. Living in the Amazon was AMAZING and I learned so much. Being 10 ft away from monkeys was just incredible. Seeing all the animals and wildlife . It was really an incredible experience!"
Volunteer, Megan.

This volunteer project provides opportunities for you to contribute to the important research work being done here in the conservation and regeneration of the rainforest.  Whether you are in work and looking for a career break, or already retired, you can share your skills, experience and interests in this project and play your part in creating a sustainable Amazon as a responsible volunteer abroad.

Minimum duration

4 weeks in the project requires 32 days in Peru, allowing for travel to the remote and isolated location at Manu Learning Centre.

Alternative placement duration can be arranged - from 2 weeks to 12 weeks - please ask us.

Living Conditions

You will be living and working at the Manu Learning Centre (MLC), an Amazonian research station within one of the world's most biodiverse hotspots in the world; the Manu Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in SE Peru. 

NB - the MLC is an extremely remote and isolated location

You will be provided with a bed with mosquito net, a lockable cupboard, and clean sheets.  Rooms are constructed in an open plan style and beds will use large curtains to separate off private areas, whilst allowing for a view onto the forest. 
Food and packed lunches will be provided three times a day and will be typical local fare: rice with a sauce and vegetables, soups, occasional meat / fish. Food is simple, wholesome, local and prepared under very good hygiene standards.
There is a separate bathroom block with  showers, (western-style) toilets and hand basins
The MLC provides comfortable, airy accommodation, top level research facilities and ample space for the processing of samples, laboratory work and other project needs. The centre boasts a solar powered internet connection which may be occasional and sporadic (which volunteers may use for a local fee), environmentally sound septic system and gravity fed water pumps in order to keep within the station's aims to minimise its impact on the environment and reduce its carbon footprint.

Project costs

from £1425 for 32 days full board accommodation -  all costs in Peru payable direct
read about our costs and pricing policy here 

watch an explanatory interview with programme director Sallie Grayson
Additional weeks  are costed at a sliding reducing rate
Please note these costs are correct to the best of our knowledge but can only be confirmed at time of booking due to changes in transport and taxes outside our control.
Included: all in-country transfers, accommodation and meals, full local orientation & training,  project & placement liaison
How your money is spent - based on 4 week placement duration:
£845 - direct costs in Peru (airport transfers, in country transportation during work on the project, accommodation and meals, orientation)
£350 - project management, liaison & supervision in Peru
£130 - project contribution in Peru
£100 - people and places fee
Not included: flights, insurance, visa costs, personal expenses such as phone calls, medical expenses, etc.. 

If you or your friends and family wish to make further donations to this project please contact us at

Recommended reading

It is important that you read up on Peru before you leave. These are just a selection of the books we've used and enjoyed - there are lots more!

Inca Kola Travellers Tale Peru - Mathew Parris
Exploring Cusco - Peter Frost
Lonely Planet Peru - Charlotte Beech
Neotropical Companion - John Kricher
Travel advice and safety
`Bugs, Bites and Bowels', Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth, Cadogan
`Travellers' Health, How to stay healthy abroad', Oxford University Press
`The Backpackers' Bible',
Specialist Topics
`Birds of Southern South America & Antartica', HarperCollinsPublishers
The "Origin" Then and Now: An Interpretive Guide to the "Origin of Species", David Reznick

Project gallery

Registered volunteers can learn about the local team for this project - LOG ON to learn more about this project and the local team we work with. Not registered yet? It's easy and free HERE!

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