Otter Conservation

Instituto Ekko Brasil
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Coordinator | Oldemar
Coordinator | Oldemar
Book with Flex Option! Choose new departure dates or change to a different volunteer program at no extra costs.


Volunteer and help the staff in the fields by cleaning, feeding and playing with the otter orphans
Discover the Atlantic Forest and dunes during treks or by the use of canoes and kayaks around the lake
Make short visits to the other study areas around the Piri Lake where you will always be accompanied by experienced staff
Schedule your free time the way you would like to spend it
Discover the beautiful nature of the Brazilian island and explore wonderful beaches
You will be helping the staff in cleaning, feeding and playing with the otters. The activities also include expeditions to amazing places, as forests, lakes, and beaches. This volunteer program is especially suitable for:
Age 18+

Environmental government agencies are being questioned regarding the costs and benefits of their annual monetary budgets to maintain conservation areas as the Peri Lake Municipal Park, Santa Catarina Island, Santa Catarina State, Brazil. While goods and services that support visitation are relatively easy to account, other less tangible environmental services, such as medicinal products, climate control, and biodiversity, can be quite difficult to be valued. 

Social benefits from these environmental services and the natural capital from which they flow are often not evaluated. In this program, we apply methods of systems ecology to evaluate the natural capital, the role of the Neotropical otter, and the Neotropical Otter Project in the Peri Lake Municipal Park. All sub-projects aims to evaluate natural capital and environmental services, including economic costs and benefits, and societal and environmental non-market assets and values. We believe that, in order to protect the Neotropical otter, we need to show the importance the species has to the environment and to society. The work requires many activities to collect data in the field and to help with the social mobilization and environmental education activities. 

Activities include treks through the Atlantic Forest and dunes, use of canoes and kayaks around the lake. Depending on the weather fieldwork may be done by kayaking or trekking and it will include analysis of the otter’s frequency at the shelters, monitoring of nests, ethological studies and food habits. It is very difficult to spot otters and most of the work is made through registering signs.

The project is also an Otter Conservation Breeding Sanctuary. You will be helping the staff in cleaning, feeding and playing with the orphans the project keeps in captivity. Some lab work might be involved. Although based at Piri Lake, you will be able to make short visits to the other study areas where you will always be accompanied by experienced staff.

Ecovolunteers take part in all activities they like. Work start 8:00 in the morning feeding the animal and cleaning their places. The same work is done at the end of the afternoon.  Some research is performed with the animals in captivity, such as behavior studies. Our staff will assist the ecovolunteer all the time. Fieldwork follows a special schedule that keeps the different research projects and monitoring updated. During the weekends the activities are only feeding the otters and ecovolunteers are free to know the island.

The ecovolunteer can participate in all activities but the time is flexible. If the ecovolunteers wants to go out for a trip to the island, or come back late at night it’s not a problem, but the staff needs to know in advance.  

Typical day

The first day at the Project we present the project video and explain how we work to the ecovolunteers. Every week in advance we display the week schedule, so the ecovolunteers will now what they have ahead of the week and can be prepared. 

First time every morning of the week is the Nutritional and Sanitary management in the enclosures. The otter places must be cleaned and the animals fed. We need to prepare the food and then feed the animals in captivity. This takes about 3 hours and it is a real teamwork.  The trail and the garden that are part of the Animal Refugee and Visitor Center need attention too. 

In the afternoon the little lake that is part of Life Support System has to be cleaned from the excess of floating plants that are part of the water treatment system for the otter's pools. Of paramount importance is the otter environmental enrichment. This is a good time to put your imagination to work. You will spend your time organizing and be creating toys and activities to play with the otters and Tayras in captivity. They are very clever animals and need to be challenged constantly. 

During the week we might get visits from schools, therefore you will be helping with the kids and the environmental education activities we have prepared for them. They show great interest when there are overseas around and do lots of questions. Age of the kids can vary from 3 to 12 years old.

Once a week we take all the organic litter from the Animal Refugee to the Recycling area, an organic composting system. Once a week, at least, we also have a talk from someone from the staff, explaining and discussing with the ecovolunteers the research, the project, and the environmental education actions. It's a good time for the staff to have feedback from the ecovolunteers about possible improvements the can be done. 

When we have internships they are also invited to present their work and to discuss with the staff any details or ideas. These are day-by-day work, but then we have expeditions, at least one every week, to collect data and material for the research projects we have running. Expeditions can be related to otter activities based on the frequency of feces in active areas, analysis of diet of otters at Lagoa do Piri, lab analysis, ecological corridors monitoring, installing trap-cameras inside otter shelters, the intensity of presence of otter, monitoring otters at Lagoinha do Leste Beach, Saquinho beach and Naufragados Beach.

Expeditions might take from 1 to 8 hours, depending on the study area. You might be walking through the Atlantic Forest or kayaking in rivers or lakes. Of course, if you have no experience kayaking we provide a short course for you before your first trip. First thing is safety, so we follow strict rules when at the field.

Free-time activities

The project is located on an attractive island in the south of Brazil, well known for its natural beauty, wonderful beaches, surfing, sailing, and scuba diving. The waters of the Peri Lake, where ecovolunteers are based, are rich in crustaceans and fishes and surrounded by mountains covered by Atlantic forest. There are lots of trails you can do by your own. Close to our base, there are 2 fishermen villages with nice seafood restaurants, and also an island, Campeche Island, where you can visit taking a boat at the Armação Beach, one of those two villages. If you like surfing you are at the perfect spot. You can try it choosing one of the several surging spots around, from beginners to professionals.

The main base site for the project is 30 km far from the centre of the town. You can easily take a bus to town for shopping or just to see the historic town. Best day to do that is Saturday morning, when you can watch a capoeira performance in front of the cathedral or under the big Figueira tree in the main plaza. Take your time to go to the fish market too. There you might watch samba groups playing and have a nice beer with great fresh local snacks.

Another great option is to go to Lagoa da Conceição, about 25 km far from the base. There is the place to go at night, visiting the local pubs, with live music. You can share a taxi or take a bus. During the day there are alternative fairs with really cheap and great handwork products. At Lagoa daConceição you find people from everywhere, Latins, Europeans, and Americans. Coffees, food trucks, restaurants, pubs, and more.

Water Sports


In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if your are accompanied by your parents.
Language Skills
You need to speak English (basic level)
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
You don’t need any special skills. You should be prepared to share the work and collaborate with the researchers. You will have plenty of time to explore the environment on your own. Safety rules, however, must be followed.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 08:00 - 18:00

What's Included

Services by Instituto Ekko Brasil

The fees include accommodation, transfers from airport and bus station at Santa Catarina Island to the project, and the short trips to the different study areas. It does not include food. With the money, we pay the otters food, project bills, and equipment maintenance.

Airport Pickup at Hercilio Luz International Airport

Transfers from bus station/airport to and from the project base. It takes from 20 minutes to 1 hours to get to the project base, depending on the traffic. At the airport or bus station, there will be someone from the project waiting for you.


You will be lodged at the project base accommodation, attached to the Otter Mill – Visitation and Education Center, a renovated mill. The accommodation includes comfortable rooms, shower facilities, and a shared kitchen fully equipped. All rooms have fans and mosquito nets. Showers are great, heated by gas.We have male and female bathrooms.

The environment of the project is planned for the ecovolunteer. Since 2002 the project is receiving ecovolunteers and space has been adapted for them. Comfortable rooms, a community spacious room with TV, bookshelves, and kitchen, together with the company of the staff give the right atmosphere. Our ecovolunteers feel like they are at home. 

You'll be at the main base of the project, the Scientific Breeding Animal Refuge of the Otter Project. The accommodations are very comfortable, specially designed for researchers, trainees, and ecovolunteers. We provide WiFi  Internet, accessible to all and free, and private parking.

Internet Access
Good access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees. Food, snacks or beverages are at extra costs.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is Hercilio Luz International Airport (FLN) in Florianopolis. We assist you to find cheap flights to Brazil.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Brazil provides security and is a plus to have.
If you are intending to volunteer in Brazil you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Brazil.

Dates & Fees


Details on arrival

We work the whole year around.

Arriving at the airport: someone from the staff will be there waiting.

Going to the Base: After arriving the ecovolunteer goes to the otter base at Lagoa do Peri, south of the Santa Catarina Island. At the same day there will be a meeting to introduce the ecovolunteer to the staff and to the otters in captivity.

Leaving the project: someone from the staff will take the ecovolunteer to the airport.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1 - 24 weeks

Program fees

Costs: Prices in USD
1 week (min. stay)
2 weeks
3 weeks
4 weeks
8 weeks
16 weeks
24 weeks (max. stay)
Average fees
$317 /week

The organization charges its fees in EUR. The price table in USD is subject to currency fluctuation. Instituto Ekko Brasil will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with Instituto Ekko Brasil during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

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Otter Conservation

You will be helping the staff in cleaning, feeding and playing with the otters. The activities also include expeditions to amazing places, as forests, lakes, and beaches.


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