Getting Started In Wildlife Conservation

Updated: Aug 3

The Ultimate Guide To Getting Started In Wildlife Conservation:

This will provide everything you need to know about how you can take steps into the field of wildlife conservation. It'll also teach you about the skills and responsibilities required of wildlife conservationist.

Protection | Preservation | Conservation

Although it’s estimated that about 8.7 million species populate our planet, 86 percent of all species on land and 91 percent in the oceans are yet to be discovered. Multiple scientific studies suggest that if no action is taken, as many as half of all species could go extinct by the end of the century. Protecting wildlife and preserving it for future generations also means that the animals we love don't become a distant memory. This is why it is so important that the conservationist of tomorrow learn about the industry and some initial steps they can take to prepare for a life working in the field. To get started, it is important to understand that there are four types of conservation including Human, Marine, Environmental, and Wildlife. We'll be focusing on Wildlife Conservation and the ways you can get started making an impact. There are so many ways you can help be a part of the change, both locally and globally. There are 5 essential steps you can take to dip your toes in the water of wildlife conservation:

#1: Learn About The Risk

#2: Support A Trustworthy Organization

#3: Tell A Friend

#4 Get Educated

#5 Volunteer


#1: Learn about recent trends and wildlife most at risk

There are over 41,400 endangered species of plants and animals that are endangered or critically at risk. A species is classified as endangered when its population has declined between 50 and 70 percent and as when its population is restricted to less than 250 mature individuals. When a species’ population is this low, its area of occupancy is not considered.

You can reference the IUCN List of Endangered Species to see who else is at risk and to stay up to date with wildlife population levels. Established in 1964, The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species has evolved to become the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species.

The IUCN Red List is a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity. Far more than a list of species and their status, it is a powerful tool to inform and catalyze action for biodiversity conservation and policy change, critical to protecting the natural resources we need to survive. It provides information about range, population size, habitat and ecology, use and/or trade, threats, and conservation actions that will help inform necessary conservation decisions.

  • Some of the species most at risk include:

  • Javan Rhinoceros

  • Mountain Gorillas

  • Asian Elephants

  • Orangutans

  • Leatherback turtles

  • New To The Endangered and Threatened List This year:

  • Hermes copper butterfly

  • Gray Wolf

  • Morro shoulderband

  • and unfortunately many more...

#2: Support an trustworthy organization

There are groups all across the globe who symbolically adopt a wild animal and you should lend them a hand! Charities like Soldiers For Wildlife, the World Wildlife Fund and International Animal Rescue do amazing work rescuing and protecting the ecosystems in which they live. There are amazing NGOs around the globe tracking wildlife populations and ecological preservation... and they can really use your help! Check out of one of our favorites at Wild Response, and Transfrontier Africa. That being said, don't forget to look for what organizations are making local conservation efforts.

#3: Tell A Friend!

Awareness is half the battle. Much of the world isn't aware of just how essential taking action is. Many of the animals we have grown up loving we will never be able to show our children and their children. Such as the Eastern Puma, the Vietnamese Rhino, and the Western Black rhino.

Talk about conservation with your friends and neighbors. If you have kids (or relatives/friends' kids), take them outside as much as possible, and teach them about conservation! You'd be shocked at how little is known by the global community on the real risk many endangered species face.

#4: Get Educated | Biology | Ecology | Zoology

While it isn't always necessary, most entry-level positions in wildlife conservation typically requires at least a bachelor's degree in the broader category of zoology or wildlife biology. Many famous wildlife conservationists have dedicated their lives to protecting and managing biodiversity in forests, grasslands, and even marine environments. In this line of work there are many skills you'll need and responsibilities you'll need to meet. Here are a few that we would suggest:

Research Skills | Research is one of the number one skills you'll need when working to improve wildlife conservation efforts. You will need to coordinate appropriate survey methods, and be meticulous with data collection. The best researchers are extremely attentive with their analysis, great communicators, and are able to maintain quality and safety standards. The most important thing that employers consider is that the person they hire is someone that is passionate about wildlife, and who cares greatly about making a difference. If you’re a hard worker with enough vision and drive, working in conservation could be your calling. To learn about our planets iconic species you can check out Endangered Wonders :

  • Endangered Wonders aims to educate visitor on endangered species and habitats connect them with resources and prominent conservation organizations working to solve these issues

Identification skills | One of the main skills needed for conservation efforts is being able to identify different species of plant and animal. This skillset can be helpful in biological surveys or different types of community conservation work. Employers are always on the lookout for people with extensive knowledge, as being able to identify subjects quickly and accurately will prevent unnecessary project delays. Today, there are many apps that can be used on on the fly to help you with complex identification. There are amazing steps being taken to modernize animal identification processes like Wild Me:

  • Wild Me is an amazing organization building open software and artificial intelligence for the conservation research community. They are machine learning experts and software professionals supporting you in the fight against extinction.

Communication Skills | Conservationists also spend a good portion of their time dealing with the community, so being able to interact well with others is important.

  • The responsibility of educating the local community, raising awareness, and liaising with schools comes with many roles in this industry. This means you need to have the ability to listen and collaborate with other people.

Mapping skills | Most fieldwork requires finding and recording lots of different regions and areas.

  • Knowing how to get around with a compass and map is an essential prerequisite – this will be critical in the accurate logging of important data and the key observations. A natural sense of direction helps, but unlike some of the soft skills that are in demand, map-reading is a learned behaviour. So with practice, you can make huge improvements to your mapping abilities.

  • There are many amazing tools and technologies out there that are vital our work in the field. Here are a few applications that will help make you more familiar:

  • Arc GIS

  • Gaia Mobile

#5 Volunteer!

You don't need to get on a plane to travel half way across the globe to make an impact. Educating others and volunteering can make all the difference! You can find ways to volunteer locally, on things like trash cleanups, citizen science projects, or conservation education projects. Many people volunteer to get hands-on experience in the field. These are self-funded efforts, to help a local organization in the great work they do. You should offer your time for free to get your foot in the door with a local organization. Some field research roles aren’t paid, but employers will cover your costs. Accommodation and travel are normally provided, and sometimes food.

There are so many different conservation volunteering experiences to choose from too, so you can explore and find a specialization that you’re interested in. Volunteering locally or abroad not only helps you gain more skills to enhance your CV, but you’ll get to meet like minded people along the way!

A resource we recommend you explore is Conservation Careers. They can help you identify both paid and free opportunities that we encourage you to explore!


Soldiers For Wildlife offers wildlife conservation and ecology training for those in the South African Region! We've partnered with an amazing school called the Dung Beetle Bush School to offer a one of a kind experiential training experience. Lead by Les Brett, the program will leave you with a lasting understanding for wildlife conservation. Aside from being a specialist field operations, Les is also a licensed Ecological Ranger and Field Outfitter. The specialist training involved is conducted with over 40 years of knowledge and experience in African countries; such as Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. A corporate member of the field Guides Association of Southern Africa And Professional Hunters Association, Les has achieve the coveted Level 3 Field Guide qualification.

Don't hesitate to reach out below if you're interested in taking a hands on approach to your career in wildlife conservation!


In Summary

We hope this guide has given you some easy steps you can take to getting started in the wild world of wildlife conservation. As lovers of wildlife, it's important that you are driven by passion and purpose as this industry that takes grit but is infinitely rewarding! Remember, take some time to learn about the risk to endangered wildlife everywhere, then go tell a friend about it! Research and pick one of the amazing organizations out there fighting the good fight, and make a point to continue your education on ecological preservation and its impact on wildlife populations across the globe.


Michael Terrell
Digital Director
Soldiers For Wildlife

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