Working with endangered animals requires a team consisting of captive breeding and geographical information specialists, reserve managers, geneticists, veterinarians, ecologists and wildlife, behavioral and reproductive biologists. These professionals aren't just working for the money -- they're dedicated to saving endangered species and passionate about making a difference. According to the World Wildlife Fund, several animals were critically endangered as of August 2014, including black rhinos, mountain gorillas and Sumatran tigers, elephants and orangutans.
According to the magazine The Scientist, employers typically look at where applicants were educated, what their thesis topics were and whether they’re published. Zoologists and wildlife biologists may obtain entry-level positions with a bachelor’s degree in biology, ecology or zoology, but most jobs working with endangered animals require a minimum of a master’s degree in zoology, anthropology, wildlife management or a related field. Veterinarian vacancies require a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, and candidates with a Ph.D. are eligible for university and independent research positions, where they can determine the content and focus of projects.
Most people don’t start working with endangered animals right away -- many gain valuable experience by volunteering at zoos, national parks or aquariums, or interning at wildlife refuges, animal shelters, management facilities and associated companies. For example, the Center for Biological Diversity allows interns to help with legal topics, scientific research, fundraising, outreach and publications. Other organizations, like the WWF, offer internships with a specific focus, such as campaigns and advocacy or climate change adaption.
An advanced degree and experience in the field isn’t all that employers look for. According to The Scientist, employers often seek candidates who are involved in the community and active at meetings and conferences. Working with endangered animals requires frequent collaboration and communication with the public, as well as partner organizations, to reach specific audiences and push advocacy efforts. Candidates should constantly network to expand their ties to the field, such as by joining related professional societies or organizations.
Prepare for Anything
Some positions may have additional requirements, such as a minimum age limit of 18 years old and a valid driver’s license, as well as abilities specific to the assignment. For example, working with endangered animals often means spending time in their natural habitats around the world, where expertise in first aid, snake handling and weapons is critical. Candidates should know how to operate generators, start fires, build shelter and filter water with limited supplies. Their well-rounded skill set should include the ability to drive tractors and all-terrain vehicles or ATVs, and to remain self-sufficient in remote areas.
- Endangered Species International: Employment
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Zoologist or Wildlife Biologist
- World Wildlife Fund: Species Directory
- The Scientist: Going Governmental
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become an Animal Care and Service Worker
- Center for Biological Diversity: Gain Experience Making a Difference
- World Wildlife Fund: Internships
- Worldwide Experience: Shamwari Field Guide Experience
- O*Net OnLine: Summary Report for Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists
- Smithsonian National Zoological Park: Preparing for a Wildlife Career
- Photo Credit Johan Swanepoel/iStock/Getty Images
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