Have you ever thought of volunteering? 

In this episode of Paws Claws & Wet Noses Julie South catches up with Dr Yvonne Clark. 

Dr Yvonne’s a companion animal veterinarian who’s recently returned from doing volunteer work as a veterinarian in the Cook Islands.    Yvonne also shares her experiences of working in overseas clinics and New Zealand clinics – what’s different and what’s similar.

Cook Islands

For international listeners, the Cook Islands is a nation of 15 islands in the South Pacific with political links to New Zealand. 

The Cooks have a resident population of around 15,500 people. 

Prior to Covid, Rarotonga was a popular wedding destination for many kiwi couples. 

The NZ dollar and Cook Islands dollar are the currencies used on the islands. 

Air New Zealand and Virgin used to run daily flights to/from Rarotonga.  Like other countries that relied on tourism, the Cooks have been hard hit by closed borders.


Yvonne’s also volunteered in Sardinia – a large Italian island in the Mediterranean with a population of about 1.64 million people.

Vets Beyond Borders

Vets Beyond Borders is an animal welfare charity which deploys experienced volunteer vets and vet nurses to animal welfare projects in desperate need of help to perform their wonderful, but also often challenging, work.

Vets Beyond Borders is one of the charities Yvonne talks about today.

Vets Beyond Borders website


Te Are Manu is a subset of Vets Beyond Borders and is a charity vet clinic located on the tropical island of Rarotonga, Cook Islands.  According to its website, the

  • work is primarily dogs and cats however they do occasionally see pet goats or birds, and may be required to assist the Ministry of Agriculture with livestock cases
  • The clinic is very well-equipped with gas anaesthesia (isoflurane and oxygen generators), dedicated surgery room (with air-conditioning!), digital X-ray machine, dental equipment, on-site kennels for hospital in-patients, IV fluid pumps, and a well-stocked pharmacy
  • On your first visit you’ll work closely with the Clinic Managers.  
  • There may also be opportunities for you to visit outer islands to perform desexing programs and provide basic health care to the wider community of Cook Islands animals

Worldwide Veterinary Service


Veterinary Volunteering – Facebook Group


World Vets

World Vets – which is a non-government organisation (NGO) providing veterinary aid around the world in collaboration with animal advocacy groups, foreign governments, US and foreign military groups and veterinary professionals abroad.

World Vets work spans 34 countries and 6 continents and addresses not only veterinary issues, but also human health issues impacted by zoonotic diseases in developing countries. World Vets is a 501c3 non-profit organization – www.worldvets.org

South Pacific Animal Welfare

If you want to stay close to home and work in the South Pacific then there’s South Pacific Animal Welfare – its mission is to provide sustainable community based animal management programmes that benefit island communities animal welfare efforts long term.

Its goal to see on-island expertise in the various areas of animal welfare develop – you can find out more at http://www.spaw.org.nz

Rescue Charities

And then of course, are the many SPCA and other rescue charities in all of NZs main centres.  There are dedicated cat and dog rescue organisations. If you want to go wildlife.

Vetpodcast – Dr Bryan’ Gregor’s latest episode

here’s the Vetpodcast link Dr Bryan coincidentally chats about Vets Without Borders as well this week.


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