Do you love animals? Are you looking to see new wildlife? Are you a sucker for cuteness?
Well, Thailand is just the place for you! While volunteering abroad is all about giving back to disadvantaged communities, we think that it is so important that you explore the culture of the country as much as possible. Part of that culture in Thailand is their wildlife.
On our Elephants and Hill Tribe Challenge, you get to experience this wildlife first hand. You will get to spend the first week volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park, helping elephants who have been orphaned or rescued. As a volunteer, you will help feed and care for these elephants to assist the sanctuary in providing them with a safe environment free from maltreatment.
Across Asia, World Animal Protection researchers assessed almost 3,000 elephants and found that more than three quarters were living in "severely cruel" conditions. According to this research, Thailand uses almost twice the number of elephants in tourism as all of the other assessed countries combined.
In Thailand, the number of elephants captured from the wild for tourist attractions has increased nearly threefold in the last five years. Most importantly, Asian elephants are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
By participating in this challenge, you are engaging in such important work to help change the way that elephants exist within Thailand. After all, Asian elephants are the national symbol of Thailand. But why is this elephant sanctuary different? How is it ethical?
We work with Elephant Nature Park, founded by Sangdeaun Lek Chailert. She had a passion for wildlife from a young age and has since gone on to become a loud, important and well-respected international voice in elephant advocacy. Her park is home to more than 35 elephants. As opposed to other elephant tourist spots which exploit the elephants, this sanctuary provides tourists and volunteers with a chance to interact with the animals in a manner which is respectful and not harmful. There is no riding the elephants or making them do any tricks of some sort. Instead, guests can feed the elephants, care for them and educate themselves on the elephant industry in Thailand.
Beyond just the elephants, the park homes more than 400 dogs which have been rescued from the streets of Chiang Mai and the Bangkok floods from 2011. A full-time vet and clinic are employed by the nature park to care for these dogs. They have areas to play in, things to climb on, areas to swim in and many friends to interact with! The foundation also works to help desex dogs within the community and educate people about the need to stop the breeding of strays. This is very important so that these dogs can live a great life.
From one of our volunteers on his first day of his challenge:
“Today was incredible. We walked the whole park and visited most of the elephants we will be working with over the next 6 days. There are 80 elephants here, some blind, some injured from land mines, traps and logging and others just traumatised at the hands of man, but amongst all this park is home to health, strong, baby elephants. So blessed to be here and to be part of this amazing team.”
Nathanael Simpson, Griffith University
So, if you are interested in going to Thailand to work hands on to protect their national symbol, a dying species and prevent animal abuse – this challenge is just for you. Not only will you be working with the elephants, but in the second week of your challenge, you will volunteer in a hill tribe to improve the quality of education offered there. This challenge encompasses a number of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that only Thailand can offer you.
If you can’t make it on our challenge and are still interested in lending a hand to Lek’s initiative, find out how you can help here.