Volunteering FAQ

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 (Servicio 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. Volunteers who apply to be on the project before these periods are included in the original permits. Anyone who does not send in their documents will be added to 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 your documents to the project coordinator.

Once the permit or addendum with your name on it has been issued, you can print out 2 copies if it has been e-mail to you or you will have 2 copies given to you by the project assistant in Puerto Maldonado. For getting to our field site, you will need 2 copies – as you need to leave one copy at the control posts that are stationed on the river on the way up and keep one copy with you.

The permit process is normally always subject to delays that you may want to bear in mind. These are: waiting for sufficient participants to make it worth the costs of taking out an addendum, and waiting for SERNANP to sign an addendum (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. We 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, accommodation, and other services provided by the field station. The 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.