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Conservation holidays are vacations that involve volunteer work designed to aid animals, the environment or local communities. These holidays can be either wholly or partially dedicated to conservation work. They can take place both within the nation of the traveler and in countries across the world in places as diverse as Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia. As the conservation holidays are voluntary, workers are not paid for their efforts. In fact, they pay for the privilege.
Across the world, there are a number of ongoing and temporary conservation projects. They are designed to protect specific places, environments or species from destruction. These projects tend to be funded by either government grants or charitable donations, or a combination of both. The idea of conservation holidays grew out of volunteerism and as a solution to the funding/workforce problem. Instead of paying employees to do the work, organizations could tap into a well of interest in volunteerism and get the volunteers to pay for working.
This leap from pure volunteerism to commercialism has made conversation holidays part of the travel and tourism industry. It is a diverse industry with a wide variety of companies and standards. In 2006, the conservation vacation industry was worth $5 billion US Dollars (USD) in the United Kingdom alone. A lot of the additional value came from mixing luxury holidays with a few days of volunteer work at the end.
Due to its diversity, there are few overarching regulations surrounding the industry. This means there have been cases of volunteers not receiving the training or support they expected. There have also been cases of volunteers not being welcomed at their final destination. The Irish conservation group Comhlámh, however, has drawn up a code of good practice for volunteer-sending organizations. The 11-point code asks companies to make sure the projects are worthwhile, meet expectations and protect volunteers.
Animal protection vacations form an important part of conservation holidays. There are numerous companies offering trips to areas with endangered species. These, however, are different from safaris. As well as offering sightseeing trips, the holidays give volunteers the chance to take part in animal conservation. Activities include feeding animals, helping the animal’s environments and tracking animals in the wild.
Environmental conservation holidays are also popular. Destinations range from the Galapagos Islands to Sub-Saharan Africa via muddy fields in Europe. Activities range from replacing invasive plants with native species in the Galapagos to planting trees in an English woodland. Other activities include well digging in Africa, laying down footpaths and managing wetlands.