Support community efforts to help reintegrate elephants into their natural habitat, from their previous lives in tourist camps.
Travel to Thailand’s Chiang Mai Province and volunteer with elephants relieved from working in the tourist industry. Assist with the elephants’ rehabilitation and help mahouts (traditional elephant keepers) and other villagers establish alternative livelihoods. Discover the fascinating culture and lush mountain forests of Northern Thailand in your free time.
Volunteer in the mountain forests of Northern Thailand and spend part of each weekday in the field with elephants relieved from working in tourist camps. Leaving their tragic pasts behind, these gentle giants now live improved and more natural lives in the Chiang Mai Province of Northern Thailand – an area famous for its traditional elephant keeping communities. This is a hands off, ethical program; all work is done by observation.
Volunteers can learn about elephant behaviour and contribute directly to the elephants’ lives by providing working alternatives for the owners, mahouts and villagers, allowing the elephants to live in the forest. You will observe elephants alongside mahouts who draw on generations of tribal knowledge about elephants.
During your stay in Northern Thailand, you will learn about elephant history, behaviour, training, biology, social interactions and more. You will have the incredible opportunity to observe our elephants in their natural habitat. While learning about elephants from the local Karen community, who have worked alongside elephants for centuries, you will witness the improved welfare conditions you are involved in bringing to these incredibly intelligent animals.
Our Award-winning Partner
Conservation Careers has teamed up with an award-winning, mission-driven organisation with a team of passionate experts across the globe who will make your experience a truly unforgettable one.
Founded in 1998, they run programs in 21 locations, in 13 countries around the world, each aligned to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as well as the objectives of local partners. They welcome participants from all around the world and help facilitate their development into global citizens. This is how they achieve their mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Their commitment to running high-quality sustainable development and experiential education programs has earned them recognition from numerous organizations such as Panthera, the Seychelles Parks & Gardens Authority, as well as Stanford, NYU, Duke, and Ohio State.
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 Conservation Careers Internship opportunities, please click here.
“I have had the opportunity to observe and work closely with these social and complex animals, which would be impossible with elephants in the wild. Staying in a traditional Karen community has been a million miles away from life in England. I have been made to feel really welcome here and I feel privileged to be part of a project that is helping both the elephants and the community in which they live.” – Claire Wigham (United Kingdom)
Location – Chiang Mai
The population of Asian elephants and their habitat is rapidly declining. With less than 1,000 left in the wild in Thailand, but around 3,000-4,000 in captivity. Our partner provides one of the few viable alternatives to the reality of their domesticated future within detrimental tourist camps.
Please note, this is an ethical volunteer program and we do not partake in riding elephants, demonstrating unnatural skills, or interacting hands-on with the elephants more than necessary. Unfortunately, due to deforestation associated with agriculture and logging, there is little viable habitat available to release elephants completely into the wild in Thailand. Moreover, the current laws classifying elephants essentially as livestock presently inhibits progress in improving welfare conditions. The good news is that this project is one of the few viable models that puts elephant welfare as a priority.
Your contribution will help to keep these elephants in protected forests, continue the conservation of these beautiful animals and what remains of their fragmented forest habitats, as well as provide funding to keep the project running whilst offering alternative livelihoods to the local community. The goal of this project is to have semi-wild herds of elephants living, socializing, and foraging in their natural habitat, supervised by their mahouts around their local village.
How this project makes a difference
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.
During your program, you’ll also have the opportunity to experience tailor-made adventure and wellness activities. These have been specially designed to further immerse you in the diversity and richness of the habitats and cultures around you.
Exclusive local experiences:
- Learn traditional Karen cooking
- Connect with the Karen people’s culture
- Forage for forest medicine with a village elder
- Visit Thailand’s highest peak
- Explore Thailand’s elegant and mysterious waterfalls
- See amazing biodiversity on a night trek
- Take a sunrise hike up Two Tree Hill
- Sleep under the stars alongside Asian elephants
BONUS! Conservation Career Kick-Starter online training programme (worth £295)
Do you want to spend your career helping wildlife to flourish, but are feeling a little lost, confused or disillusioned?
Start your career in wildlife conservation with a unique programme of training, support community & jobs from Conservation Careers!
The Conservation Career Kick-Starter is a proven step-by-step system to get clear, get ready, and get hired as a professional conservationist.
Whether you’re at university and planning your next steps, a graduate in the job hunt or working in an unrelated job but interested to switch into conservation, this course is designed to help you.
After going through the course, you’ll have created a personal career plan which will give you confidence in your job hunt and will make everything quicker, simpler and more fun!
All you need to do is register your interest in the project below, and if you choose to make a booking we’ll save a place for you on the Kick-Starter when you get back from your placement.
Included with the Kick-Starter is a year’s full-access to the world’s biggest conservation job board with over 15,000 jobs, plus access to our private online support community, CC Pro.
Dates and Costs
- 1 week £1,895
- 2 weeks £2,195
- 3 weeks £2,445
- 4 weeks £2,745
- 5 weeks £2,995
- 6 weeks £3,345
- 7 weeks £3,595
- 8 weeks £3,795
- 9 weeks £4,095
- 10 weeks £4,395
- 11 weeks £4,645
- 12 weeks £4,895
Register your interest below to learn about available start dates.
About Conservation Careers
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 them as ‘life changing’. Their 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 their programs.