Situated in the northern part of Thailand, approximately 4 hours from Chiang Mai is where our volunteers spend their time working with elephants who once worked in tourist camps.
In Thailand it is almost impossible for elephants to get away from elephant keeping communities. These elephants now live in a more natural environment and being on this program, volunteers learn about the history, behavior, social interactions and also observe elephants alongside mahouts and in their natural habitat.
This program is a hands-off, ethical elephant project aimed at reintroducing Asian elephants to a natural living environment. The project was started by the village to find sustainable ways to keep their elephants in the forest.
There is also a large focus on community engagement & development.
You will partake in hikes each day with the elephants – they can be anything from 2-7 hours over rough terrain and can be quite physically demanding!
During hikes we collect data on elephant behaviors – specifically their interactions with each other and their mahouts and how they spend their time etc.
- Twice per week you will do health checks on the elephants during hikes to look for physical signs of ill-health
- You also have the option to participate in biodiversity hikes instead of the elephant hike, where you will be gathering data on plant, bird, reptile and insects.
- There is large focus on community work where volunteers have the option to get involved with – teaching English 3 days a week at the local primary school, twice a week to homestays, mahouts and women’s English groups. We also teach at the local kindergarten and nursery once a week and have after school clubs at the local nursery throughout the week
- Presentations about work and elephant tourism will be conducted throughout orientation week.
- Other village/cultural activities may include basket weaving, rice picking, tree planting, bamboo cup making, language lessons, etc.
- Social activities may include quiz nights, movies and games at communal base hut.
- There may also be optional night hikes.
Elephants can be very expensive to care for, and are viewed as private property and a means of generating income for the local communities. The elephants are therefore often forced into camps or street begging to make money through tourism in Thailand. The lack of viable alternatives for income from elephants is detrimental to their health and well-being.
As an unregulated industry, elephant tourism can be an ugly business. Elephants require a specific environment that provides them with social, mental, and physical stimulation to thrive. With a huge increase in the demand for tourist camps, elephants are deprived of their imperative self-medicating diet, migratory urges to move, complex social interactions and cognitive stimulation, leading to shocking repercussions in the health and well-being of the elephant.
Our volunteer project aims to provide an alternative way for the elephants to bring in money for the local village while continuing to lead healthy lives that will ensure their long-term conservation and survival.