Going abroad and want to volunteer at a sanctuary but don’t know which one is an ethical sanctuary?  Check out some of below vetted organizations that meet the SAFE Worldwide mission purpose.

Help Asian bears

Animals Asia operate bear sanctuaries in Chengdu, China and Tam Dao, Vietnam. These bears are saved from the horrendous bile farm industry in Asia. You can visit the Bear Rescue center in both facilities. .

Help Chimpanzees

This sanctuary in Niger helps orphaned chimpanzees whose mother and other members of the group were killed for the bush meat trade. The orphans are often sold for the pet trade. Over sixty chimpanzees are present at the sanctuary.

Help Gorillas

This small sanctuary in the wilds of Gabon helps rehabilitate gorillas rescued from the bush meat trade. They have opportunities to visit the sanctuary located in Gabon and opportunties for volunteering.

Wildlife Rescue on Java

This organization has been around for a long time. Its primary focus is animals in Indonesia, such as orangutan, slow loris and sun bears. Currently, there are volunteer opportunities in Costa Rica.

Help desert elephants

EHRA (Elephant Human Relations Aid) runs an award winning and well established volunteer project in Namibia, Africa, which has been running for the last 10 years. They have won awards for their volunteer programs.

Help Asia Elephants

This organization's rescue centers are in Agra and Mathura, India and comes highly recommended by all who visit and who volunteer for them. They help Asia elephants along with other wildlife in India.

Free the Bears Cambodia

The sanctuary is located within the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre, home to over 1,200 animals of many different species, rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. They offer 3 days to 8+ weeks volunteer options..

Free the Bears Vietnam

Their experienced team look after sun & moon bears rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. The sanctuary is in Cat Tien Natl Park, a nature lover's paradise and many species of mammals and birds.

Free the Bears Laos

The Laos Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre has over 30 rescued moon bears in a rainforest setting. On Fridays, you would move to the multi-species Luang Prabang Wildlife Sanctuary for the day to meet the animals & help out.

Never Forget Elephant Foundation

A true sanctuary where volunteering does NOT include any tourist behavior with the elephants. But it will change your life in wonderful ways.

Help Us Identify Ethical Sanctuaries

Click here to send us information about a sanctuary you visited and can vouch for its ethicality.

How to Tell if it's a REAL Sanctuary

If you care to support a true sanctuary, there are a few questions you need to ask to figure out if it meets the standards of a true, ethical sanctuary, or rescue center. Here are some questions to ask or seek answers BEFORE you go visit or support.  Most of the answers are on their websites.


  • Does the sanctuary have the proper facilities to house all the animals in their care?  Animals must have space to roam and be given ample space to mimic their behaviors in the wild.  These animals should never be taken out of their environment for the sake of public display.
  • Do they offer the proper dietary foods and enrichment stimulation for the animals in their care?  This can mean clean water pools for elephants and bears to play in. It may mean large enclosures where grazers can roam. It means researching the needs of the wildlife in their facilities and ensuring proper mental, emotional  and physical stimulation.
  • How are the animals acquired? Sanctuaries provide animals with a permanent home until the day they die. They don’t trade, borrow, or loan animals. Most rescue centers try never to buy an animal from an abuser, instead, local authorities usually send animals to them for rehabilitation and proper care.
  • Most reputable sanctuaries have limited public visitation times in order to minimize the impact on the animal residents. Typically, this means that if the sanctuary or rescue center is open to the public, visits are allowed on specific days and times only, and you may need even need to book in advance.
  • A reputable sanctuary will not allow breeding of any kind.  The ONLY exception is when a facility is working with governments and accredited organizations to re-establish a species that is threatened with extinction. Otherwise, if you hear that they are breeding animals, this is not a facility you want to support
  •  If the facility is encouraging tourists to  pose for photos with wild animals, this is not a place you want to visit.  Unless you are volunteering at a facility where you must have contact with the wildlife or the animals need the handling of humans to thrive (orphaned primates sometimes), be wary of sanctuaries that include paying to pose for photos with the rescued wildlife. 
  • You should be able to contact any facility and ask questions. If they refuse to answer or they are avoiding directly answering your questions, you want to be cautious of volunteering or visiting that center, unless you have done further research. 

Do your research and don't be afraid to ask lots of questions!