Frequently Asked Questions about volunteering
How does the permit process work?
Anyone who wishes to conduct research in Peru in a protected area needs a research permit from the office of SERNANP (Servicion Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas), in Puerto Maldonado. Once a year the principal investigators of the macaw project have to submit a proposal to SERNANP outlining the activities that will be taking place. Together with the proposal we need to submit a list of all the people who will be working on the project, together with each person’s (i.e. volunteer’s) curriculum vitae, a presentation letter from an employer or school, and a letter of intent. Templates for the latter two letters are provided with the accepted volunteer information. We usually do this in December. Volunteers who apply to be on the project before these periods are included on the original permits. Anyone who does not send in their documents will be added onto the permit through an appendix. We can only take out 3 appendices per year, so we try and do one every 4 months or so. You should send PDF copies (or scans) of the papers to the project coordinator and mail (via traditional post) the original documents (letters and CV) to the coordinator in Peru.
Once the permit or addendum with your name on it has been issued, you can print out 3 copies if it has been e-mail to you or you will have 3 copies given to you by the project assistant in Puerto Maldonado. For getting to Tambopata Research Center you need all 3 copies – as you need to leave one copy at each of the two control posts that are stationed on the river on the way up and keep one copy with you. One control post is before Refugio Amazonas, and the other is before Tambopata Research Center.
The permit process is normally always subject to delays that you may want to bear in mind. These are: letters getting lost on their way to Lima; waiting for sufficient participants to make it worth the costs of taking out an adenda; and waiting for SERNANP to sign an adenda (this can take weeks or more if the paperwork is not in order).
Why do I have to pay to volunteer?
Essentially, volunteering as part of the project is free. The project take care of permit costs, cover the costs of all staff, website hosting, and we do a lot of work to maintain training material, and also deal with all correspondence and various aspects of project management. However, our budget does not extend to being able to pay for all aspects of participation. As such you only need to pay for food and accommodation and other services provided by Rainforest Expeditions and costs for such are very reasonable. In fact, there is probably no cheaper long term monitoring project in the region.
What is the average team size?
Although the number of assistants and volunteers average about 6 throughout the year, and up to 12 towards the end of the year, the normal team size is 4 people from Apr – Oct and 6+ from Nov – March.
Will I have to work alone?
There are tasks where monitoring is usually done alone: Monitoring of the clay lick, parrot point counts, and looking for foraging parrots. These are conducted in relatively safe environments, and we do not leave people to work by themselves until they are confident of their surroundings and the tasks they are required to perform. Walking tasks are conducted alone if participants are confident enough to do this, but this is not obligatory. There should always be clear communication and division of tasks so that the field leader knows where team members are. Safety should always be a top priority in all tasks.