Elephants are in trouble in Thailand. Not only is the wild elephant population decreasing due to habitat loss and poaching, but domestic elephants are also in danger. Historically, domestic elephants were used in the logging industry in Thailand, a practice that helped to destroy the very habitat the elephants relied upon. After this logging activity was banned, most of these elephants ended up on the streets of big cities. Here they are forced to work as begging tools and tourist attractions - giving rides to tourists or posing for photos. Other elephants roam the cities on their own, which is unhealthy for the elephants and quite dangerous as many elephants are involved in horrific traffic accidents each year. And the elephants have no laws to protect them from abuse or mistreatment. The mission of this elephant rescue centre is to stop the suffering of these magnificent creatures. They do this by providing a sanctuary for neglected and mistreated elephants that would otherwise be living on the streets of Bangkok or other large cities. The elephants are free to live and roam safely on a large plot of land that has been generously donated to the centre. The care and attention that they receive ensures that they can live healthy and natural lives, no longer having to perform or carry out back-breaking work for the pleasure of tourists.
Volunteers provide care for all the elephants at the sanctuary. This includes cleaning enclosures, preparing food and feeding the elephants, walking the elephants to the pools and the river for bathing, scrubbing and washing the elephants, and moving fodder from the unloading area to the elephant paddock.
Once or twice a week you will help with the harvesting of food for the elephants. Volunteers travel to local farms where they help cut, lift and gather banana trees, pineapple bushes and palm fronds. This can be very hot and tiring work—but well worth it when you see how much the elephants enjoy their meals.
Volunteers also help feed and care for the sanctuary dogs, and help with upkeep around the centre.
The morning starts early to avoid the heat of the day. Shifts are from 6:00 am – 4:00 pm with time off for breakfast, lunch and water breaks. Volunteers have one day off per week.
Volunteers stay right on site in cabins, and you will share your cabin with 1 – 3 other people. All cabins are the same gender, unless there is a special request. There are western bathrooms and showers (with cool water – refreshing!) for volunteers to use and laundry services are available for a small fee. All meals are included. Food is provided for you to make your own breakfast (toast and tea), while Thai food is served in big lunches and dinners.
There is no internet access at the Rescue Centre, however there are internet cafes in the nearby town.
Do you have questions about safety? We have answers right here!
Airport pick up and drop off (at the closest airport), accommodation, meals, on-site training, donation to Placement Partner, AEI Travel Manual, emergency support while at placement, carbon credits to offset 3 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, premium Individual Travel Insurance (up to $500, 000 USD in emergency medical coverage), travel discounts (through automatic membership to a volunteer only travel discount program), 24/7 travel and emergency assistance, enrolment with the Global Travel Academy to earn a certificate in International Volunteering. This 3-hour online course is curated by travel professionals and is designed to help you get the most out of your adventure.
Flights, entry visa costs, international and domestic airport taxes, immunizations and medications.
What is Serious
Our partner in Thailand aims to educate people, particularly children, to end cruelty to animals. Their focus is on stopping the illegal trade in wild animals for the pet industry, discouraging the use of animals for entertainment, preventing hunting and promoting conservation of Thailand’s natural resources. One of the most significant aspects of wildlife conservation is the education of local communities and raising awareness among tourists, who often inadvertently create a big demand for the exploitation of wildlife. Riding an elephant or having your photo taken with one may seem harmless to a tourist, but this exploitation has far reaching effects on the animals. Your work with the elephant sanctuary supports all of these efforts. By lending your help and spreading the message you become an important part of the campaign to end the suffering of elephants. You will learn about elephant conservation, the plight of “street elephants” in Thailand and the reasons behind the decline of the wild elephant population.
Your hands-on work with the elephants will provide you with an understanding of their husbandry, nutritional and social needs. And it will give you the practical experience of working with elephants so that you are comfortable and confident around these incredible animals. Want to know more about the ethics of volunteering with elephants? We have been happy to contribute to a Travel and Leisure article about elephant tourism and are happy to be certified Elephant Friendly by World Animal Protection.
What is Fun
You will never forget the first time you see an elephant up close! Each day you will be working directly with the elephants. Although they are large, the elephants are very gentle and are used to people - they just don’t want to be chained or to give rides anymore. You will be socializing with them, walking with them to different areas of the sanctuary, and even giving them a scrub once in awhile. If you love elephants, then this experience is for you!
The elephant sanctuary hosts many international volunteers, and you will undoubtedly make new friends with these like-minded travelers. Volunteers work side-by side each day and relax together when the volunteer duties are finished. You can hang-out in the common areas, read, use the pool table or swim in the nearby lake and river. In the evenings, volunteers often walk together to the nearby town to shop at the markets, buy a cold drink or visit the internet café. Volunteers can also travel to the town of Cha-am which is a bit further away by taxi, or visit a nearby resort to use the pool, eat at the hotel restaurant or enjoy their spa services.
There are day trips arranged for volunteers to visit national parks where you can see animals in the wild and enjoy the beautiful scenery and waterfalls. These tours are an additional cost, but the fees are quite reasonable for volunteers. You will take home countless memories of this beautiful country and the people and elephants you will get to know so well!
Dates and Details
This is an ongoing program with operations year round. There are no specific start or end dates, however volunteers are asked to arrive on a Sunday.
The Elephant Sanctuary is located on the same grounds as the Wildlife Rescue Centre. Some volunteers choose to divide their time between both volunteer opportunities.
Are you thinking of fundraising for a portion, or all your fees? Many of our clients have been very successful with their fundraising efforts. To learn more about their successful fundraising projects and see how you can fund raise for your experience, please visit our fundraising page!