Elephant Protection Volunteer, Thailand
An extraordinary opportunity to conserve and protect elephants from exploitation and enforce positive change in rural Thailand. Spend part of your Gap Year or career break in this fascinating country.
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Elephants are under threat in Thailand - a country that sadly has been abusing and mistreating elephants for many years.
Forced into street begging, entertaining crowds at circuses, and giving rides to tourists - the life expectancy of elephants has tragically reduced by at least 50%. As well as being misused commercially, elephants have been subject to torture training methods that have been designed to "domesticate" them. Such methods include being chained in cages where they are starved, beaten and deprived of sleep.
The project’s aim is to promote sustainable elephant-based tourism, which benefits the local community as well as the elephants. Working in conjunction with the local government, an elephant sanctuary has been set up to protect these wonderful animals and support elephant trainers (the mahouts).
By promoting the sanctuary as an ethical tourist attraction, and fostering a sense of community - the project allows elephants to have a full, free life in their natural habitat, and gives mahouts a secure job in a stable environment. The project’s educational purpose is to demonstrate the benefits of low-impact elephant tourism versus conventional ride-and-show elephant tourism.
- Comprehensive pre-departure information and advice
- Sightseeing activities
- In-country assistance and support
- 24-hour emergency contacts
- In-country induction and training
- Donation to the project
- Volunteers can be met at Bangkok bus station at 7am on the Monday. If you choose to use Bangkok airport, you can arrive on Sunday evening and stay in a hostel, then make your way to the bus station (a very easy taxi ride) on the Monday morning for your collection.
- Accommodation: volunteer house or on-project residence
- Food: all meals included during work days and provided by staff
What's NOT included?
- Monthly or weekly stipend
The sanctuary is located on the Moon River, in Baan Tha Klang Village, approximately an hour’s drive north-west of Surin City. It is part of the Isaan region of north-eastern Thailand, known for its spicy and delicious food, farming traditions, and rural culture. Most people of Isaan speak one of several dialects of the Laos language, as well as standard Thai, and often a local tribal language.
Surin province was once covered with forests teeming with wild elephants, but deforestation throughout the 20th century has left most of the countryside dry and barren or converted to rice paddies.
Project life and photos
Volunteers will be working closely with locals and the project aims to be culturally enriching for volunteers as well as beneficial to the local community, economy and environment.
- In order to best meet the needs of the elephants, the project managers consult with the mahouts to find out what the elephants need most at that particular time. For instance, in the rainy season we would typically be planting large amounts of grass and bamboo to guarantee that the elephants will have enough food on a daily basis (this is not a given throughout the year).
- Although there are 160 elephants at the centre, we only work with females that are known to be docile and relatively easy to manage.
Volunteers' duties will include activities of the following nature:
- Planting large amounts of grass and bamboo to guarantee that the elephants will have enough food on a daily basis
- Working with the mahouts, planting and weeding the fields as well as cutting the grass and preparing the new crop
- Building shelters to give the elephants some respite from the sun and the 40C+ temperatures
- Cleaning out the shelters and helping the mahouts
- Bathing the elephants and feeding them
At the centre, the project prides itself on having a close and genuine relationship with the mahouts, with staff and the Thai Guide acting as interpreters, thus giving volunteers a real cultural experience as well as in-depth elephant experience.
You will be working an average of 4 hours a day. The weather is extremely hot and it is important to take frequent breaks from the sun and rehydrate. There is a "Work at your own pace" ethic and volunteers are encouraged not to exceed themselves. For those volunteers who want to be more proactive, there is always a lot of maintenance work to be done around the area, cleaning shelters and fixing things in the village.
Below is how a typical day may be structured:
- Breakfast is at 6.30am.
- Project work starts at 7.30am and runs until approximately 10.30am or 11am at which stage the elephants are taken to the lake to bathe and graze.
- Lunch is at 12 noon and project work does not start again until 1.30pm and runs until 4pm. Between the activities and project work, volunteers have free time to relax.
- Dinner is at 18h30 after which is free time.
Flights, transportation and visas
- Flights are not included
- Bangkok is the easiest airport to fly to and volunteers can be met at Bangkok bus station at 7am on the Monday. If you choose to use Bangkok airport, you can arrive on Sunday evening and stay in a hostel, then make your way to the bus station (a very easy taxi ride) on the Monday morning. Pick-ups and drop-offs at Bangkok Airport are NOT included.
- At the airport, tourists get a 30-day visa on arrival unless they already have another visa. This is free.
CIBT Visa advice...
For expert visa advice we advise our volunteer, work placement, and internship participants to get in touch with CIBT - a company that we work in partnership with. Our UK, Canadian, and US travellers can use CIBT for visa advice and to get their visa applications processed - with visas returned within a week.
Dates and duration
- Currently this is a low-volunteer volume programme. In order to make it cost-effective and maximise value for the project, volunteers are able to attend for short durations (1, 2 or 3 weeks up to 8 weeks).
- The placement is ideal for supplementing other volunteering projects or complementing your travel experience in Asia. The short durations for this project are perfect for volunteers who only have minimal time to spare in Thailand, and/or have limited funds.
The start date for this project is every Monday with a collection of particpants in Bangkok.
The project cannot receive any volunteers for the week commencing July 09 to July 15th 2013
Safety and insurance
- All of Twin Work & Volunteer's placements are in partnership with recognised and established local organisations, run by or employing local people. These organisations, depending on the nature of what they do, might be small-scale NGOs, family projects, schools or orphanages, or local initiatives with environmental or social goals.
- We often use local businesses to provide logistical and support services to volunteers such as transfers, pick-ups, accommodation and so on. In this way, we support the local economy through helping independent local businesses to thrive. We take our partnerships very seriously and work extremely closely with all our partners.
- We provide 24-hour emergency support from the UK and our partners provides support locally.
- We have an agreement with the crisis management service Tranquillico, should the very worst situations arise.
- If any wider safety concerns arise in the destination, such as civil disturbances or natural disasters, we seek advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and implement their recommendations where appropriate.
Comprehensive insurance is available for all programmes. You have no obligation to take up insurance with any of these companies, but insurance of a suitable sort is mandatory on all our programmes.
- Minimum age is 18 yrs
- No specific qualifications are necessary for this programme
- Any experience with animals is beneficial
- A genuine interest in animal welfare, nature and wildlife
Accommodation and Food
Accommodation is newly built wooden houses, generously made possible by an American sponsor. Each room has a mosquito net and a fan. We can also accommodate for volunteers to stay alone if they wish. All the bedding is provided, a large mattress on the floor with a pillow, clean sheets and a cover.
- The bathrooms are small detached concrete buildings below the house with western-style toilets and bucket showers.
- The accommodation is at most 200 metres from the general volunteer area.
- The volunteers get three meals a day cooked by our Thai guide. This is usually a buffet style arrangement with 4-5 dishes and rice. Our guide can accommodate for both vegetarian and vegan diets as well as any special requirements.
- The food is usually a fusion of western and Thai styles, with an option for spiciness. There is always plenty of it and it never goes to waste. Drinking water is provided, and soft drinks and snacks are available for purchase at shops in the village.
- Any special dietary needs should be made clear to WAVA as early as possible.
- There is occasional access to internet on the computer in the office of the centre. There is phone coverage for Thai sim cards and refills are available in the village.
- There are laundry facilities available; volunteers can choose to do it themselves of give it to one of the women in the village in which case a tip is usually recommended.
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