Animal Experience International is a sustainable, ethical tour company that makes wildlife tourism beneficial for the animals and life-changing for the explorer.
Many travelers experience the call of the wild, that intoxicating thrill of seeing wild animals in their natural environment. Shots of a crocodile leaping in the air for food held out on the end of a stick, that selfie with a lion, or that ride on the back of elephants, fill Instagram feeds by the millions. Each of these photos represents animals that have been used as entertainment. They are often abused, caged, chained, or irresponsibly fed to lure them in. This is a cruel side of the travel industry. Animal Experience International fights that kind of wildlife tourism with everything it has!
AEI is an award winning B Corp that helps people travel and volunteer with animals. AEI partners with conservation groups, scientists, and rehabilitation sanctuaries all over the world, in some of the most beautiful and remote wilderness areas. AEI staff travel to every program in its roster before that tour ever becomes one of their expeditions for travelers. They ensure that the location and the organization is safe, ethical, and authentically helping animals.
Then - they set up once in a lifetime adventures for you!
Consent-Based Animal Interaction
As a traveler with Animal Experience International you become an animal volunteer on tour. All AEI tours are based on a new type of wildlife tourism called: Consent Based Volunteering. This means that every single interaction that volunteers have with wildlife is completely consensual, and not coerced.
Animals are not forced to be entertainers or stolen from the jungle. They are being authentically helped to recover, or be rescued. Each local community wants, and consents, to have AEI working in their environment, and rehabilitation methods are based in science and in-line with local customs and culture. Just as importantly, travelers genuinely want to be experiencing the type of adventure that AEI curates for them. If you love wildlife you don’t want to do it harm. You want the incredible experience and privilege of interacting with wild animals, while knowing that you are making that animal’s life, health and well-being better.
Roots in Science. Adventure in Travel
AEI is made for animal lovers and explorers! Each country’s programs are all led by local professionals so the experience is truly an authentic one. Volunteers help by using skills they already have - can you use a broom? Then you can clean out an elephant paddock in Thailand. Can you scoop kibble? Then you can help dogs in Mexico. Can you count leaves? Then you can help make enrichment for scarlet macaws in Guatemala. Can you use a tape measure? Then you can help sharks in South Africa. These incredible first-hand experiences with wildlife happen as you explore a new country, a new culture, new food, new language and a new way of thinking.
Animal Experience International was founded by Veterinarian Dr. Heather Reid, head wildlife veterinarian at the Toronto Wildlife Centre, and Anthropologist Nora Livingstone who volunteered with Dr. Reid early in her career. Livingstone’s travels around the world led her to witness some of the cruelties animals were being subjected to in the name of tourism, and she and Reid combined their expertise to develop AEI. The goal was to support local communities, to help them care for their wildlife. At the same time AEI wanted to offer travelers interested in wildlife tourism, opportunities to contribute to being part of a movement that makes life better for animals, not worse. The pair ensure that every step of their organization incorporates the highest standards of animal welfare and thoughtfulness.
Five Things We Love About Animal Experience International
With 26 different placement options, you can choose from exciting travel opportunities all over the world: to places like Mongolia to help scientists conserve wild horses, or to Malawi to take part in rescuing wildlife from trafficking, or to Costa Rica to tag sea turtles with local conservation groups. Some of the other countries AEI offers animal experiences in are Sierra Leone, Guatemala, and Nepal, to name just a few.
The cool part about participating in wildlife tourism with AEI is you don't have to personally know all the international standards or all the answers to sometimes difficult questions about wildlife tourism and ethics. AEI makes this learning their business - they do it for you. So you can cut up some mango and banana for an orphaned howler monkey and know you are doing the best for this individual animal without harming the local community or taking away autonomy or agency from local professionals.
Animal Consent. Human Consent
AEI wants consent-based tourism to become the norm. AEI founders are often invited to be guest speakers or give presentations to promote the fact that ethical travel opportunities exist, and that these models can be easily replicated. It's simple they say: ask yourself, is this interaction a full body yes from me the traveler, from the person whose home I’m in, and from the animal I am with? If animals are chained up when you are interacting with them - if they can't get away, can it truly be consent? If you were not invited into a community then are you actually welcomed?
In AEI’s first ten years in operation, its 1,000 volunteers around the world have meant it could donate more than 1 million dollars to conservation and animal welfare programs. In the face of the widespread “animals as entertainment” style of tourism, AEI’s goals often feel unattainable. So they keep their goals simple, to continue to change lives for the better: one animal at a time, one traveler at a time.
All you need is a love of animals!
AEI will do the rest. If you feel compelled to help animals right now there is no reason you can't start today. AEI has gone to extensive lengths to create and curate safe travel experiences that will change your life forever!
Search for your next wildlife tourism experience from locations around the world, on every continent. Safe, ethical and authentic volunteering, curated by travel and animal experts is your choice, and just a click away!