Overview

Help manage an elephant sanctuary and receive career development opportunities.

Kick start your career on this multi-faceted internship in Thailand’s stunning Chiang Mai region. Teach English to community members, assist with plant biodiversity studies with a focus on elephant foraging, and contribute to the rehabilitation of elephants which have been rescued from tourist camps. Discover the fascinating culture and lush mountains in this Northern region of Thailand in your free time. Sign up here today and get 12 months of Lion membership with Conservation Careers included.

Overview

Travel to the lush mountainous region of Northern Thailand around Chiang Mai, and contribute to conserving the Asian elephant by living and working with traditional elephant-keeping communities.

This internship consists of 3 aspects – community (teaching), plant biodiversity (with an emphasis on elephant foraging) and elephants. Each of these projects are run independently, but are integrated and highly relevant to each other. The community project consists of teaching English to children at the school and to the elephant keepers (mahouts), as well as supporting community efforts to reduce their financial dependence on their elephants.

The plant biodiversity project involves researching elephant foraging habits and working towards formulating a foraging guide based on the observations made on our elephants. Other biodiversity projects may include surveying biodiversity in the forests around the village, heading up night hikes to look for gibbons, porcupines, and other nocturnal animals, and identifying unique birds and insects. The elephant project consists of leading elephant health checks, studying the behaviour of our herd, and educating other volunteers about Asian elephants.

While each project has many established aspects, interns are encouraged to develop their own ideas and introduce new aspects to these projects.
Although you will be able to enjoy hiking with the elephants 5 days of the week, the rotation of the internship means your responsibilities will shift during the course of your stay.

All internships are geared at developing your leadership and role model skills, allowing you to develop a variety of key soft and hard skills that will put you a step ahead the rest of the pack. Our partner has been running community development, education, and conservation projects since 1997 and our highly experienced field staff will help you gain and improve vital skill sets to improve your future job prospects.

After a successful internship, qualifying candidates may be given the opportunity to work for our selected partner in Thailand or in other countries around the world where they operate. Field work positions can be paid or unpaid, range in duration from one month to one year, and availability varies.

Our Award-winning Partner

Conservation Careers has teamed up a family-run organisation with an amazing culture and an awesome team of people across the world who are passionate experts in their chosen field and will make your experience a truly unforgettable one (in a good way).

Their award-winning projects receive over 2000 participants every year, and we’re proud to say that the vast majority of them describe their experience with us as ‘life changing’. Our approval rate from over 20 000 participants since 1997 is over 95%.

A key component of the success of their community development and conservation projects is the participants who join our programs. Opportunities include high impact volunteering from one week and up, internships for those looking for career development opportunities, Challenges that allow a one week adventure all for a good cause and a range of programs for school groups and younger volunteers.

If you register your interest below, you’ll put you in touch with our partner to take the booking and to plan your trip!

To see all our Internship opportunities, please click here.

Testimonial

“”As an intern on this program I’ve had what I can genuinely say to be some of the best and most rewarding experiences of my life. Living and working closely with the Karen people of Huay Pakoot village, I’ve gained firm friends, learnt a great deal about Karen culture, helped the villagers sustain their environmentally sound traditional way of living, been involved with the education of the village children, and fallen in love with this remote, lush and stunningly beautiful part of Thailand.” – Murray Robertson (United Kingdom)

Location – Chiang Mai

Surrounded by breathtaking mountainous scenery in northern Thailand, volunteers will quickly ease into a very peaceful way of life that still exists here. Project work itself takes place in Mae Chaem District, a 5-hour journey into the mountains, where the famous Karen elephant-keeping communities reside and who have shared a unique and sacred relationship with elephants for hundreds of years.

Life on the Internship

During your first 6 weeks, you will work alongside other volunteers and learn about the day to day running of the project. Your days will be split between morning hikes into the Chiang Mai forest with the elephants and their mahouts. In the afternoons you will return to base where there will be lectures on elephant keeping and other training needed to assess the elephant’s health and conduct surveys in the forest. The following 6 weeks will see you go through training sessions with previous interns/staff where you will learn more about the 3 aspects incorporated into this internship.

The final 12 weeks of your internship will be spent running and organising each intern project for one month each. Our elephant conservation internship will allow you to work closely with our elephant herd, their mahouts and the local community in an effort to promote sustainable eco-tourism.

Accommodation

You will stay in basic accommodation within a traditional Karen village. As this is a traditional community, you should expect to adapt and show respect for the environment and the culture in which you will be living as well as act a role model for both locals and volunteers. Over time you will become truly immersed as you learn the local language and cultural traditions.

Project Details

The population of Asian elephants and their habitat is rapidly declining. With less than 1,000 left in the wild in Thailand and around 3,000 in captivity, we are one of very few viable alternatives to the unshakable reality of their domesticated future within tourist camps.

Please note, we operate serious projects and internship programmes and as such we do not partake in riding elephants or having them demonstrate skills learnt from being trained.

The focus of the internship is on ensuring that these captive elephants are successfully reintroduced into a protected forest. Your contribution will help the conservation of this beautiful animal species, by providing the funding and hands-on support needed to keep this project going.

The overall goal of the project is to have semi-wild herds of elephants living in their natural habitat, supervised by their mahouts.

How This Project Makes a Difference

Elephants can be very expensive to care for, and generally viewed as private property by locals used as a means of generating income, forced to make money through tourism because of a lack of viable alternatives.

However, as an unregulated industry, elephant tourism can be an ugly business. Elephants require a very specific environment, socially, mentally and physically to be able to thrive. With a huge increase in the demand for tourist camps elephants are deprived of the need of their self-medicating diet, highly migratory urges to move large distances, complex social interactions and brain stimulation. This can in turn lead to shocking health repercussions for the elephants.

Our volunteering with the local community aims to provide an alternative for elephants outside of camps so our villager’s elephants can live healthy lives in the forest that will ensure their long term conservation and survival.

Free Time

Volunteering with our partner not only allows you to participate in programmes assisting disadvantaged communities or endangered ecosystems, but it also offers wonderful opportunities to travel in the local area in your down time or further afield either before or after your programme. Many decide to travel after volunteering, solidifying the lifetime friendships established on the programme.

Our long term field staff are a great source of advice and are here to help you make the most of your time abroad. Remember to ask about discounts on local activities and side trips through your association with our partner. Our Chiang Mai field teams have helped us put together the following information on trips and travel options in Thailand!

Chiang Mai is a quiet rural Thai village, giving you a unique chance to learn about the traditional Karen culture. Learn to cook Thai and Karen dishes with community members, and learn about everyday life in this traditional setting.

Included Side Trips

The location of this project is remote. Leaving Chiang Mai city you embark on a 5 hour journey into the mountains. On the way, we pass through the Doi Inthanon National Park (Thailand’s highest peak) and usually stop for a walk to one of the spectacular waterfalls.

Due to the remoteness, our programme is based in and around the village. The programme is field based which gives you the opportunity to explore the surrounding forests on the daily hikes with the elephants. Travel and side-trip opportunities from the village need special arrangements, but the prospects for immersing yourself in the local area and village culture are huge.

Optional Side Trips

While on the programme, there is ample time for you to plan side trips and organise transportation. These are not part of the programme and are best taken as a weekend trip or as an activity before or after joining the programme. We are always ready to assist, provide recommendations and up-to-date information. Locally, trips can be arranged to neighbouring villages and town like Mae Chaem and Mae Hong Son. These are great places to wind down, get a traditional Thai massage or explore nearby temples.

Though we are well off the main tourist route, opportunities exist for you to go bamboo river rafting, rock climbing, visit Doi Inthanon National Park, relax at a local resort/spa, and for something completely different… learn how to make a machete using traditional techniques!

Further Travelling Opportunities

Thailand is a country with a massive range of fantastic places that you could visit. If you have the time and budget, you could consider going to see the following; the waterfalls of the picturesque Khao Yai National Park, the local tribes of Nam Province, the beaches of Ko Tao and Mu Ko Chang Marine National Park, the golden kingdom of Ayuthaya, the temples and nightlife of Bangkok, just to name a few! Chiang Mai city abounds with tour operators offering a huge array of amazing side trips in the local province, throughout Thailand and beyond into neighbouring countries.

Dates and  Costs

The programme lasts 24 weeks and costs Rand 60,350.00 (ca. £3,600).

What’s Included

  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
  • All necessary project equipment and materials
  • All necessary project training by experienced staff
  • Certification and summary of training and experience received
  • Comprehensive training program that encompasses theory lectures, group study and field practise and a weekly review with your mentor
  • Confidential professional reference
  • Final evaluation from your mentor
  • First Aid & CPR training and certification
  • Living and working within an indigenous community
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • Teamwork and leadership experience
  • Transportation (as required for project work)
  • Weekly evaluation from your mentor
  • Welcome meeting
  • Work placement – if successful on internship
  • 12 months of Lion membership with Conservation Careers

What’s Not Included

  • Additional drinks and gratuities
  • Extra local excursions
  • Flights
  • Food during the placement portion of your internship
  • Internal transport to placements
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Personal kit
  • Police or background check (where necessary)
  • Visa costs

Reserve your place or ask a question

About Conservation Careers - Internships

Conservation Careers has teamed up a family-run organisation with an amazing culture and an awesome team of people across the world who are passionate experts in their chosen field and will make your experience a truly unforgettable one (in a good way).

Their award-winning projects receive over 2000 participants every year, and we’re proud to say that the vast majority of them describe their experience with us as ‘life changing’. Our approval rate from over 20 000 participants since 1997 is over 95%.

A key component of the success of their community development and conservation projects is the participants who join our programs. Opportunities include high impact volunteering from one week and up, internships for those looking for career development opportunities, Challenges that allow a one week adventure all for a good cause and a range of programs for school groups and younger volunteers.