Animal Shelter & Care in Azuay, Ecuador

WHY we need you in Ecuador


HOW can you help?

WHAT can you do?

Why Involvement Volunteers International?




  START DATES: WEEKLY (2nd Jan to 22nd Dec)



  MIN AGE: 18+

  SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS: Spanish is necessary



The animal shelter is dedicated to ensuring animal welfare through proper nutrition and care. Established in 2000, it holds an operational license issued by the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Ecological Transition. The shelter is situated in the Azuay Province, located in the southern highlands of Ecuador.

The shelter provides refuge for a diverse range of wildlife, including margays, penguins, blue-footed boobies, tapirs, buffalo, deer, ostriches, yamalas (dwarf deer), cuchuchos, a wide variety of bird species, alligators, peacocks, turtles, and more. Initially, the shelter began with five deer and a capuchin monkey, but over time, the number of animals has grown due to donations from individuals who previously kept these animals as pets.

The shelter receives animals from various sources, including the National Police, the Ministry of the Environment, environmental organizations, NGOs, and other entities involved in the conservation of wildlife. Many of these animals were once “pets” in private homes or were part of circus acts. Some were found orphaned in the wild by Ecuadorian authorities, such as the Ministry of the Environment or the Environmental Police, who rescue animals from hunters or wildlife traffickers. Injured animals are treated and released, but it’s more challenging to reintroduce baby animals, so they find a permanent home in the shelter.

The shelter welcomes visitors, students, and the general public, providing educational information about each animal residing in the centre. This helps raise awareness about the importance of respecting animals and promotes conservation among the visiting public. In addition to these activities, the centre’s experts visit local schools and high schools to conduct workshops, instilling environmental consciousness in children. They also offer classes on animal care and welfare for university students and refuge interns.

Currently, the shelter is actively involved in establishing a germplasm bank for terrestrial tapirs from the refuge and aims to extend this effort to endangered animals within the centre. Collaboration with deer genetics research is also on the horizon.

The shelter relies on funding sources, and not from government support. The animals are cared for through the entrance fees paid by visitors, weekly sporting events, and fundraisers organised by the shelter’s management, along with contributions from partnering NGOs that provide volunteers. 


Azuay is a province located in the southern highlands of Ecuador. It is known for its stunning natural beauty, diverse landscapes, and rich cultural heritage. The province has picturesque valleys, majestic mountains, and fertile agricultural lands, making it an important agricultural region in Ecuador. The provincial capital of Azuay is Cuenca, which is not only the largest city in the province but also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Cuenca is renowned for its well-preserved colonial architecture, charming cobblestone streets, and vibrant arts scene. The program is located in the mountains 30 minutes from Cuenca.

Project Tasks

  • Preparation of food for animals.
  • Put food in the containers.
  • Cleaning of cages
  • Weeding and acclimatization of the cages.
  • Preparation of organic waste compost
  • Care of gardens in the recreational area.
  • Signalling and maintenance of the ecological path.
  • Guide for visitors and tourists.

Food & Accommodation

Upon arrival in Quito, volunteers are required to visit the main house to receive essential safety guidelines and receive information about the country. Accommodation is provided in the main house, where you will stay in dormitories with 1-4 people per room. Typically, you will spend 1-2 days in Quito, dependent on your arrival schedule.

When on project, you will stay at a volunteer house in a room with 1-4 people. The accommodation is comfortable, with a hot shower and a western toilet.

You will receive 3 meals a day. The food will be local Ecuadorian cuisine, vegetarians are welcome but we are not able to cover vegans needs, because they are very strict. Vegetarianism and veganism are not part of the Ecuadorian culture.  



All prices in USD
  • 4 Weeks - $600
  • 6 Weeks - $850
  • 8 Weeks - $1100
  • 12 Weeks - $1600
  • 4 Months - $2100
  • 5 Months - $2600
  • 6 Months - $3100
Vol House
What's Included
  • Accommodation
  • Meals
  • 1 Day Orientation
  • 24/7 In-Country Support
  • Project Materials & Equipment
  • Pre-departure Expert Advice
  • Preperation Tools & Checklists
  • Certificate of Completion


If you have a passion for wildlife, are comfortable with all sorts of animals and have a desire to learn, then yes! The accommodation may be basic but comfortable so a willingness to live without luxuries is needed.

  • Accommodation
  • 3 meals p/day & 2 p/day at weekends
  • 1 day orientation
  • In country 24/7 support & emergency assistance
  • Fundraising support
  • University course credits (where applicable)
  • Certificate of Completion 
  • Airfares
  • Travel Insurance
  • Transportation
  • Tours, Souvenirs & spending money

Individual volunteers are provided with essential information encompassing safety guidelines, the political landscape in Ecuador, strategies for addressing challenges, and pertinent tourist details. The orientation takes around 2-3 hours to ensure individual volunteers are well-prepared. For groups or long-term volunteers, we extend this orientation to a more extensive 2-3-day program, as they also need time to facilitate the visa legalisation process. 

*No transportation is included

Volunteers normally arrive to Quito (this cost is not included but a taxi can be booked for you). The official cost is 30 dollars, and it takes around 1 hour.

Once arrived, you will get instructions about safety rules, political situation of the country, how to get to the project, etc. You will likely spend one night in the foundation house in Quito, and the next day after breakfast, be accompanied by someone of the organisation to the bus terminal to take the correct bus. The taxi ride to go to the bus terminal, costs around 5 dollars, and it takes 20 minutes.

The bus Quito- Cuenca tales 9 hours by bus, then the volunteer has to change the bus in the terminal to go to the Parrish of Tarqui. The local team will provide written instructions, and explain in person on how to get there. 

Normally the activities start at 07:00

– Preparation of animal´s food.

– Placing food containers.

– Delivering food to the animals

– Breakfast for the volunteers

– Cleaning of dens

– Weeding and atmosphere of dens

– Preparation of compost from organic wastes

– Caring of plants in the recreational area.

– Signs and maintaining the ecological trail

  • Guidance for visitors and tourists
  • To help in the daily task of the centre
  • To help in the maintenance of the court used for recreation activities to get funds for the animals on weekends

Lunch is normally at 1pm

– Preparation of animal´s food.

– Placing food containers.

– Delivering food to the animals

Work finishes around 4pm

  • Here are some must-visit places and things to do in this beautiful country:

    Explore the Galápagos Islands: Discover the unique wildlife, pristine beaches, and extraordinary marine life of this UNESCO World Heritage site through snorkelling, diving, or guided tours.

    Visit Quito’s Historic Centre: Wander through Quito’s well-preserved colonial old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and explore its churches, plazas, and museums.

    Hike in the Andes: Embark on a trek through the Andean highlands, visiting iconic spots like Cotopaxi National Park, Quilotoa Crater Lake, and the scenic town of Banos.

    Amazon Rainforest Adventures: Explore the Amazon Basin, go wildlife spotting, visit indigenous communities, and take a canoe ride along the Amazon River.

    Climb Cotopaxi Volcano: For the adventurous, attempt to summit Cotopaxi, one of the world’s highest active volcanoes.

    Relax in the Thermal Baths of Banos: Soak in the natural hot springs in the town of Banos, surrounded by lush rainforest.

    Discover Cuenca: Explore the charming city of Cuenca, known for its well-preserved colonial architecture, art galleries, and rich cultural heritage.

    Experience the Otavalo Market: Visit the famous Otavalo market, one of South America’s largest indigenous markets, to shop for textiles, handicrafts, and local produce.

    Whale Watching: Head to the coastal town of Puerto Lopez for a chance to witness humpback whales during their migratory season.

    Visit the Ingapirca Ruins: Explore the ancient Inca ruins at Ingapirca, Ecuador’s largest archaeological site.

    Chocolate Tour: Take a tour of a cacao plantation and learn about the chocolate-making process, from bean to bar.

    Attend a Festival: Experience Ecuador’s vibrant culture by participating in local festivals and celebrations, such as Inti Raymi or the Diablada.

    Bird Watching: Ecuador is a paradise for bird enthusiasts. Consider birdwatching in the cloud forests of Mindo or in the Yasuni National Park.

    Ride the Devil’s Nose Train: Take a thrilling ride on the Devil’s Nose Train, an engineering marvel that traverses steep slopes and offers breathtaking views.

    Relax on the Pacific Coast: Enjoy the sun, surf, and seafood on the beautiful beaches of Ecuador’s Pacific Coast.  

You must be over 18 years old and a min of 4 weeks is required for this program. 

Ecuador, situated in the northwestern part of South America, is a country of remarkable geographical and cultural diversity. It is bordered by Colombia to the north, Peru to the south and east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Ecuador’s landscape is exceptionally varied, encompassing the towering Andes Mountains, dense Amazon rainforests, and the world-famous Galápagos Islands.

Its capital, Quito, is one of the highest capital cities in the world and is renowned for its well-preserved colonial old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The country is celebrated for its indigenous heritage, with numerous indigenous communities inhabiting different regions.

Ecuador’s economy relies on sectors like oil production, agriculture, and tourism, which thrives thanks to its unique natural wonders and vibrant cultural traditions. This nation, despite its relatively small size, offers an incredible diversity of experiences, making it a compelling destination for travellers and a place of significant cultural and ecological importance.

The country’s climate can generally be categorized into four main zones:

  1. Coastal Zone (Costa): The coastal region of Ecuador has a tropical and humid climate with two distinct seasons. The wet season, from December to May, brings warm temperatures and heavy rainfall, while the dry season, from June to November, is characterized by cooler temperatures and lower precipitation.
  2. Andean Highlands (Sierra): The Andean highlands, where many major cities like Quito and Cuenca are located, have a more temperate climate. The weather varies with altitude, but in general, it can be cool to mild during the day and colder at night. Rainfall is distributed throughout the year, with slightly wetter months from October to May.
  3. Amazon Rainforest (Oriente): The Amazon basin in eastern Ecuador experiences a tropical rainforest climate, characterized by high temperatures and significant rainfall throughout the year. This region has high humidity and lush vegetation.
  4. Galápagos Islands: The Galápagos Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean, have a unique climate. The islands experience a warm and dry season from June to December and a hot and wet season from January to June. The water temperatures are influenced by ocean currents and vary, making it suitable for diverse marine life.

Ecuador’s cultural landscape is a tapestry woven from the threads of indigenous heritage, mestizo influences, and Afro-Ecuadorian traditions. Indigenous communities, such as the Quechua and Shuar, maintain their distinct customs, clothing, and rituals, enriching the nation’s cultural fabric.

The mestizo majority reflects a fusion of indigenous traditions and Spanish elements, evident in art, cuisine, and everyday life. Afro-Ecuadorian culture, notably prevalent along the coast, contributes its unique music, dance, and culinary delights to the mosaic. Religion, primarily Roman Catholicism, deeply influences Ecuadorian culture, blending indigenous practices with Catholic celebrations.

The country’s vibrant festivals, such as Inti Raymi and regional fiestas like Carnaval, showcase lively parades, music, and dance. Ecuador’s cuisine is a reflection of its diverse regions, offering seafood delicacies on the coast, hearty Andean dishes, and Amazonian flavours like maito.

With a rich artisanal tradition, Ecuador is renowned for its textiles, ceramics, and woodwork. Language-wise, Spanish is the official tongue, but indigenous languages like Quechua persist. Beyond its cultural heritage, Ecuador’s commitment to conservation is evident in its natural wonders, particularly the Galápagos Islands, which symbolize both ecological and cultural preservation.

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