Where to volunteer with animals in Malaysia

There’s hardly a Malaysian who doesn’t love animals, and it shows in how we’re always clicking ‘share’ on cute cat videos that we come across on social media. But besides sparing a few minutes to feed and play with them, we can do more for these animals by volunteering our time at shelters or rescue centres. 

Whether you’d just like to spend an evening at your nearby animal shelter or enlist in a 2 week-long program in Terengganu to conserve the turtles, this list has it all:

For more ideas on how you can kill time, check out these articles:

1. PAWS, Subang

Help to clean cages and accompany rescues

PAWS is one of the first places that’s mentioned when the topic of volunteering at animal shelters comes up, as they’re widely known within the community. The non-profit organisation in Petaling Jaya has been taking abandoned dogs and cats into their care since 1987. 

Volunteer with animals at PAWS
The cages in PAWS need to be cleaned and tidied up so that the animals can comfortably spend their days here
Image credit: @pawspj

With their small team of just 12 staff, they’ve accomplished quite a feat by taking care of over 500 animals – both cats and dogs. But of course, they’ve only made it this far with the help of volunteers who come in regularly to help out with important tasks like cleaning cages and spending time with the furry friends there.

Volunteer with animals at PAWS (2)
Tripod is a 3-legged dog under the care of PAWS
Image credit: @pawspj

Volunteers who come in groups of 3 and above are required to call the office to make an appointment prior to the visit as they can only accommodate 5 volunteers in each timeslot. 

There are two timeslots per day – a session in the morning from 10AM-12PM, and another in the afternoon from 1PM-3PM.

PAWS cages
Image credit: @pawspj

Address:Lot 93316-93317, Jalan PJU 1A/20, Ara Damansara, Petaling Jaya 47301
Opening hours: Mon 9AM-9PM | Tue, Thu – Sun 9AM-4PM (Closed Wednesdays)
Telephone: 03-7846 1087
PAWS website
Fees: None

2. Zoo Negara, Ampang

Help out with wild animals at the national zoo

When visiting zoos as a kid, most of us have wished that we could live out a day in the life of a zookeeper so that we could get closer to the animals. 

For those who don’t already know, Zoo Negara has a volunteer programme that you can join so you can finally fulfil your childhood dreams of getting up close and personal with your fave animals.

Zoo Negara giraffe enclosure
The giraffe enclosure in Zoo Negara
Image credit: @mohammadfarisazmi

Volunteers will be assigned tasks in any one of the zoo’s 8 departments that range from Photography to Research. If you’re lucky, you might even get to assist zookeepers at exhibits, giving you a chance to interact with sun bears and even orangutans. 

Orangutan & sun bear
Sumatran orangutans and sun bears are some of the protected species that you can work with at the zoo
Image credit: @zoonegara_malaysia

However, working adults will have to sit this one out as only school and university students above 16 can participate in this program. If you’re eligible and interested, you’ll need to call the zoo’s education department to sign up.

Volunteer with animals at Zoo Negara
A volunteer helping out with the flamingos
Image credit: @naziah.yacob

Address: Jalan Taman Zooview, Taman Zooview, 68000 Ampang, Selangor
Opening hours: 9AM-5PM, Daily
Zoo Negara website
Fees: RM30/pax

3. Lang Tengah Turtle Watch, Kuala Terengganu

Prevent illegal poaching of sea turtle eggs

While all the attention is on plastic straws, we often forget that there’s another huge problem to factor in when it comes to turtle conservation: poaching. Even though Malaysians are already aware that consuming turtle eggs is illegal, there are still restaurants out there that serve turtle eggs. 

Turtle eggs for sale
Image credit: @mavalia

To help curb this problem, Lang Tengah Turtle Watch has a volunteer program where the main duty of a volunteer is to patrol the beaches at night to keep a watch out for poachers. Volunteers will also have the chance to participate in survey work. 

Baby turtle
Image credit: Lang Tengah Turtle Watch

One of the best perks of participating in this program is that you’ll get the chance to watch turtles laying eggs or baby turtles scuttling down the beach. These are sights that are hard to come by and are a real privilege to witness. 

Leisure time during turtle watch
In between your schedule, you’ll be given leisure time for you to scuba dive or take a stroll around the beach.
Image credit: Lang Tengah Turtle Watch

In order for you to be sufficiently trained for the projects, the minimum duration for volunteers who join this program is 2 weeks. 

Address: Pulau Lang Tengah, 21020 Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu
Telephone: 012-325 9554
Lang Tengah Turtle Watch website
Fees: from RM1,000/pax for lodging and meals (2 weeks)

4. S.I Home Shelter, Subang Jaya

Assist with cleaning, feeding and medicating cats

Volunteer with animals at S.I Shelter (1)
Image credit: S.I Home Shelter

S.I Home Shelter houses over 500 cats and a handful of dogs rescued from devastating situations and are often in need of serious medical attention. 

The shelter actively posts updates of these strays from when they were first rescued and after they’ve been treated. While not many will be able to bear the sight of the photos they post on their social media, it’s a harrowing reminder that shows the extent of animal cruelty that is still happening today. 

Volunteer with animals at S.I Shelter (2)
This stray was rescued before it was immediately sent for urgent treatment due to its legs
Image credit: S.I Home Shelter

Volunteers will spend their time by playing with the cats, cleaning the compound, assisting with feeding and medicine administration. And if you’re the artsy kind, just bring your supplies over and you’ll be able to help beautify the shelter’s walls with murals.

Volunteer with animals at S.I Shelter (3)
They also have rescued doggos under their care
Image credit: S.I Home Shelter

If you’re planning on making a visit, remember to schedule ample time in your day as volunteers are required to spend 3-6 hours at the shelter.

Address: No 1, Jalan SS14/8, Taman Indah Subang Uep, 47500 Subang Jaya, Selangor
Opening hours: Tue – Sat 8AM-4AM (Closed on Mondays and Sundays)
Telephone: 013-513 1833
S.I Home Shelter Facebook
Fees: None

5. Matang Wildlife Rescue Centre, Kuching

Look after rescued Orangutans

Borneon orangutan
Image credit: Suzanne Miedema

Matang Wildlife Rescue Centre in Sarawak is within Kubah National Park, one of the most popular parks in the state. Sadly, the illegal wildlife trade here is thriving. This places many species in danger of extinction, including the protected Borneon orangutan. 

Volunteers here will assist the staff in looking after rescued orangutans which have been injured, orphaned, or rescued from harmful threats. The program involves active labour as you’ll be very hands-on while juggling through the tasks – construction projects, enrichment activities, and animal husbandry, which is essentially the tending of animals.

But those seeking a photo op with these orangutans will have to look for opportunities elsewhere as this rescue centre practices a strict no contact policy. Instead, you can look forward to helping the staff build cages and assist them in creating stimulating environments to encourage the animals’ natural behaviours.

Address:  Kampung Rayu, 93050 Kuching, Sarawak
Opening hours: 8AM-5PM, Daily
Telephone: 082-374 869
Malaysia Wildlife website
Fees: from RM6,700 for lodging and meals (2 weeks) 

6. The Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre, Sandakan

Rehabilitate sun bears 

Sun bear
Image credit: @laheringer

The Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre is home to 36 bears who were rescued from appalling conditions in captivity and are rehabilitated so that they can one day be introduced back into their natural habitat. 

Volunteers carrying out tasks
Volunteers carrying out their duties under the guidance of a staff
Image credit: Malaysian Wildlife

As a volunteer, you can expect to teach the sun bears the necessary skills to survive in the wild, but be prepared as it can be an extremely long and taxing process. This is why volunteers are carefully coached before they’re able to take on an active role in the sanctuary. 

Perhaps one of the most exciting things you get to do during your time here is assisting the staff in creating opportunities that mimic these bears’ natural habitat. You can do this by hiding their food in their enclosure to encourage foraging behaviour as well as designing rope gyms for them to play with.

Address: PPM 219, Elopura, 90000 Sandakan, Sabah
Opening hours: 9AM-3.30PM, Daily
Telephone: 089-534 491
Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre website
Fees: from RM4,971/pax for lodging and meals (2 weeks)

7. SPCA, Ampang

Learn how to be a caretaker through their volunteer programme

SPCA has built a reputable name for themselves over the past 60 years that they’ve been running their organisation in Ampang. Not only do they protect defenceless animals, but they also provide an adoption program and run a low-cost clinic for spaying and neutering. 

Volunteer with animals at SPCA (2)
Image credit: @spca_selangor

As they want to ensure the animals in their care are placed into safe hands, volunteers are required to go through a Pet Care Programme (PCP). This hands-on session will teach volunteers how to be a responsible caretaker so that you can expertly manage between tasks and duties.

SPCA cleaning cages
Volunteers cleaning the cages
Image credit: @prokasihupm

Some of your duties will include: cleaning, preparing and serving meals to the animals, guiding visitors around the kennel and assisting them when adopting an animal, and of course, keeping the animals company.

Volunteer with animals at SPCA
Image credit: @spca_selangor

Volunteers need to make an appointment with SPCA with your desired time slot as walk-ins are not accepted. 

Address: Jalan Kerja Ayer Lama, Ukay Heights, 68000 Ampang, Selangor
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 10AM-4PM (Closed on Mondays)
Telephone: 03-4256 5312
SPCA website
Fees: None 

8. Gibbon Protection Society Malaysia, Raub

Care for and study gibbons from the wildlife trade

Gibbon protection society
Image credit: Gibbon Protection Society Malaysia

Gibbon Protection Society cares for gibbons that were victims of the illegal wildlife trade, rehabilitating them for up to 10 years as they require an extended amount of time to relearn natural behaviours. Once successful, the gibbons then have a chance to be released back into the wild. 

Gibbon protection society (2)
Image credit: Gibbon Protection Society Malaysia

If you’re interested in their cause, you can join their volunteer programme where you’ll assist primate keepers with food preparation, feeding, cleaning of enclosures, and animal observation studies.

However, you won’t be able to get too intimate with these gibbons as you’re required to keep physical contact to a minimum. This is because these animals need to learn their natural behaviour and exposure to human contact hinders their progress.

Address: Batu Talam, Raub, Pahang
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 8AM-5PM
Malaysia Wildlife website
Fees: from RM200/pax (2 weeks)

9. Second Chance Animal Society, Hulu Langat

Volunteer in large groups

Second Chance Animal Society practices a no-kill policy, which means that they won’t ever resort to putting down any animal under their care no matter the circumstances. They actively rescue strays from the streets and rehabilitate them until they are ready to be adopted into a new family.

Volunteer with dog
Image credit: Second Chance Animal Society

A huge issue that no-kill shelters have is that there is never enough manpower as the number of animals under their care constantly increases. That said, volunteers play a crucial role in the operation of the shelter. 

Second Chance compound
Volunteer with the friendly animals here
Image credit: Second Chance Animal Society

Volunteers will be able to choose from 3 tasks: painting kennels, cleaning the shelter’s compound, and bathing the dogs. When booking your appointment, you’ll be asked to bring the tools needed for your chosen task and this could range from buckets of paint to brooms. 

They are also one of the few places that accept a large number of volunteers. As long as numbers remain below 40, you can invite your friends to tag along in helping make these furry friends’ days a whole lot better. 

Address: Pekan Batu 14, Hulu Langat, Selangor
Opening hours: Mon – Fri 1PM-3PM, Sat – Sun 12PM-3PM
Telephone: 012-919 2263
Second Chance website
Fees: None, but you’re required to bring your own tools.

10. WWF, Petaling Jaya

Take part in fundraising events for conservation

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) needs no introduction as they’re the biggest NGO worldwide that works to preserve what’s left of our wilderness. Whenever any party – big or small – poses a threat to wildlife and nature, WWF is the one that calls them out and demands for action. 

Along with Borneon Elephants, WWF fights for the conservation of many other endangered animals like Malayan Tigers and Orangutans.
Image credit: @wwfmy

Volunteering for WWF largely entails fundraising, which will be done through awareness-raising campaigns. You will be asked to engage with the public at events and roadshows in order to raise much-needed funds and expand WWF’s donor base.

WWF volunteers
Volunteers in their signature blue WWF t-shirts while fulfilling their volunteering hours
Image adapted from: WWF

While you won’t be able to play with pandas or elephants, you will get the chance to develop your sales and marketing skills. Take it as an internship experience where you can acquire practical skills that will not only look good on your CV, but may also play a determining factor in landing you that first job. 

Address: 1 Jalan PJS 5/28A, Petaling Jaya Commercial Centre (PJCC), 46150 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Telephone: 03-7450 3773
World Wide Fund For Nature website
Fees: None

11. Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers, Kuala Lumpur

Spot wild animals while trekking 

Malaysian tiger
Image credit: @mohammadfarisazmi

As an attempt to save the number of tigers from further dwindling as there are only about 200 wild tigers remaining, MYCAT is bringing people together with their Cat Walk program, also known as Citizen Action for Tigers (CAT)

Volunteers being led into the forest to look out for signs that animals may have left behind
Image credit: @rewildingyu

Volunteers will go for a guided hike through Sungai Yu in Pahang while assisting MYCAT and the authorities to look for signs of illegal activity. You’re also required to deactivate snares and traps upon finding them, so that poachers will be unsuccessful in their attempt to catch and poach these animals. 

While trekking, you might just encounter some animals on your way. Besides tigers, previous volunteers have spotted leopards, sun bears, tapirs, and even elephants.

Address: 3 Towers, T3-16-15, Jalan Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 9AM-6PM
Telephone: 03-2715 6701
Citizen Actions For Tigers website
Fees: RM250/pax

Places for animal-lovers to volunteer

Most of these places for animal welfare are run with limited funding and heavily rely on the goodwill of the public to donate or volunteer their time. Instead of spending our weekends feeling restless, animal lovers can spend some helping out animals in need and contributing to wildlife conservation to gain some karma points in the long run.

After a day of hard work, you’re bound to feel the hunger kick once you’re done:

This article was updated on 26th November 2021. 

Cover image adapted from: Lang Tengah Turtle Watch, @naziah.yacob, Second Chance Animal Society & Gibbon Protection Society Malaysia

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