The Zoological Society of London has been criticised for advertising for a graduate to work on an international project for six months as an unpaid intern.
The successful candidate for the role, advertised on the charity’s website, would assist in organising events, updating a website and social media and identifying funding opportunities for a species survival panel to protect the pangolin, an endangered anteater-like creature.
According to the advert, candidates for the six-month role, which will be based at the charity’s conservation programmes department at London Zoo, would ideally have a first or post-graduate degree in biology, conservation or a related subject.
They would ideally work four to five days a week and would receive a travelcard and £5 towards lunch, the advertisement said.
But Ben Lyons, the co-director of the campaign group Intern Aware, said this was not acceptable.
He said: "It’s really wrong for any organisation to be asking young people to work for months and months on end without any pay. London Zoo is a multimillion-pound tourist attraction.
"All organisations need to think about putting their values into their product. Just because it’s a charity doesn’t mean it shouldn’t treat people working for them decently, and if you are doing real work you deserve to get paid."
Fiona Evans, human resources director for ZSL, said the charity was always reviewing its policies and would take the concerns of others into consideration.
"As an international conservation charity, we are grateful for the donation of time from our dedicated volunteers and are appreciative of whatever availability they have," she said.
"This role is flexible. It does not have fixed hours or working days. We cover travel expenses within the Greater London area and provide a daily lunch allowance."
She said the role would "provide fantastic experience in a global conservation organisation and unparalleled networking opportunities for those interested in pursuing a career in this field".
But Lyons said many young people would be unable to take up the opportunity to gain experience in the unpaid role because they lacked funds.
"Only a very small minority of people are going to be able to work there," he said. "It’s a self-selecting group of people who can get support from their families."
The application process for the role closed yesterday and the advert has been taken down.