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Vancouver, BC | Posted: May 2nd, 2019
Volunteering with elephants in Thailand is a great way of giving back. If you, like us, love wildlife and are looking for ways to make a difference, an elephant volunteer program is a great experience.
Elephants in Thailand have had difficult lives, largely relied on within the tourism industry to provide elephant rides, but also have been used in the logging industry and more. We now know that these industries are harmful to the health, physical and mental, of elephants and that they are in need of the protection of volunteers.
There are many centers in Thailand that call themselves conservation centers or sanctuaries. These centers rely on tourist dollars and sometimes bend the rules to allow riding. It is important to research the options out there and find the places that put the health and wellbeing of elephants first and foremost.
While you are researching, you may be wondering what you can expect from an elephant volunteer program in Thailand. A good thing to know is that even though the experience and tasks may be different, the one thing that remains the same is your positive impact on the animals and the country. By investing in a reputable wildlife conservation and volunteer program, you are investing in the future of the elephants and their continued care.
Joining an elephant volunteer program definitely makes a difference to the animals and the organizations you visit, but it also helps you grow personally. While you give time, money, and energy to the program, you are gaining wonderful memories, connections to nature and the animals, and a greater understanding of yourself. Many people find that after volunteering abroad they return home a different, better version of themselves, and that is an incredible reward!
Meeting lifelong friends & making meaningful connections
When you volunteer, you are often placed in programs with other like-minded people of all ages. You are all working towards a common goal, which makes for a wonderful opportunity to bond and form lifelong friendships. These connections may be with people from countries you have never visited, but are absolutely some of the most meaningful connections you can create. You never know, you could find yourself planning a reunion in an exciting destination with your new-found friends.
There is no doubt about it, volunteering with elephants in Thailand can be one of the most challenging programs physically. Some programs will have you trekking through the forest to cut and collect nourishment for the elephants, so it is required that you be prepared to get your hands dirty! You might also find yourself cleaning enclosures that the elephants spend their nights in, as well as participating in bathing and providing enrichment to encourage the elephant’s mental stimulation. Working with elephants can be demanding, but the rewards far outweigh the sore muscles at the end of the day!
A great addition to your college application, resume, or CV
We’ve talked before about how volunteering can be a welcome addition to your college application, resume, or CV. Colleges and businesses absolutely look at your experience in volunteer roles as a huge asset, and this can be the determining factor when deciding between you or another candidate. Giving your time in efforts to make a difference around the world helps you stand out in a stack of applications or resumes, so make sure to include it once you’ve completed your program!
Read an in-depth piece regarding the question Does volunteering abroad look good on your resumé? from our founder and CEO, Aaron Smith.
Developing new skills
In addition to personal growth and experience building, volunteering with elephants can also help you develop new skills. You may decide you are interested in pursuing a career in conservation, and a program like this will definitely help! You’ll learn about the environmental threats elephants face, as well as the threats of human impact, and how to work towards a better understanding of how to combat these threats. Often you’ll work with experts in their fields, and this can offer you a wealth of knowledge that you could apply to your future career with animals or conservation.
Gaining cultural understanding
Spending time in Thailand is a fantastic way to learn about a culture with a vast history sprawling centuries. The traditions and customs in Thailand are extremely rich, and when you choose to volunteer here, you will have plenty of opportunities to dive right in. You’ll gain a better understanding of the people, the things they value, and why certain things are the way they are. These lessons can only come when you spend time in a destination, taking time to immerse yourself in the culture, food, language, music, and arts. So what are you waiting for?! Join an elephant volunteer program now!
There are several organizations that we work with that offer the life-changing experience of volunteering with elephants. A few experiences you could have are:
Spend 6 months in Chiang Mai working with GVI to re-introduce elephants to their natural habitats. These elephants had previously worked in the tourism industry, often carrying tourists on their backs for many hours in the grueling heat. Based out of an elephant sanctuary, this program helps in several ways, through education of the local community and mahouts, as well as activities directly with the elephants.
This is also available as a weekly volunteer program if you cannot commit to a 6-month internship.
This program is located closer to Bangkok and is available for a duration of 2 weeks or longer if you wish to volunteer with the elephants at the refuge. You’ll gain an understanding of the wildlife rescue center which takes in injured, orphaned and abandoned animals. This is a two-part program but gives an overall idea of the threats against wildlife of all species in Thailand. At the elephant refuge, you’ll take part in hands-on physical work that keeps the center running.
Learn more about the programs our partners offer in Thailand by visiting our destination page. It’s important to note that the organizations we work with all believe in keeping wildlife wild and follow strict policies when it comes to wildlife interactions. Join us, our partners, and hundreds of other concerned citizens by taking the KEEPitWILD Pledge, today!