Overview

Explore the beautiful region of the Chiang Mai province and gain practical research skills while working with Thailand’s semi-wild elephants.

Surrounded by beautiful forests, ornate temples and lush mountainous scenery, you will live and work amongst the famous Karen elephant-keeping communities who are renowned for the unique and sacred bond they have shared with elephants for hundreds of years. Assist with monitoring the reintegration of elephants relieved from the tourism industry back into the forest.

baby elephant

Overview

Gain unique insight and become immersed in the culture of Thailand’s traditional elephant-keeping communities while contributing to this multi-focused program. The internship gives you the opportunity to gain work experience in three different aspects: elephant research, community development (teaching), and biodiversity.

The community development aspect will focus on teaching English to children at the local school, homestay families, and the elephant keepers (mahouts). You will also be involved in supporting community efforts to reduce their financial dependence on their elephants.

The biodiversity program involves surveying and identifying reptiles, mammals, insects and birds in the local area using different techniques. The elephant programme consists of leading elephant health checks, studying the behaviour of the herd, educating others about Asian elephants and reintegrating captive elephants into the protected forests.

The rotation between the different programs affords you a variety of experiences and the opportunity to get involved with the different aspects of the programs, while at the same time giving you a broad range of professional skills and experience for your future career. The internship encourages participants to develop their own ideas and introduce new aspects to help further their contribution to the conservation of an incredible species. Interns will be given specific leadership responsibilities as well as weekly assignments and evaluation from their mentors, who will monitor their progress throughout their stay at the hub.

observing an elephant

Highlights

  • Learn about Asian elephants. Gain an academic understanding of elephant behaviour, and experience the bond they share with their mahouts and the role they play in Thai culture.
  • Explore Huay Pakoot. Experience the unique Karen culture and lush mountains of this beautiful region of Thailand while observing elephants in their natural habitat.
  • Get hands-on experience. Get broad exposure to a variety of conservation fieldwork projects and training opportunities to grow your skills.
  • Contribute to vital research. Support a team of scientists and academics with ongoing, cutting-edge research that gets published and makes an impact.
  • Work for real partners. Work on a real project for a conservation partner to address critical environmental issues in the area.Stand out from the crowd. Participate in practical training sessions to develop your leadership skills and receive guidance from experienced mentors.
  • Advance your career. Gain international experience, receive four recognised qualifications and get a LinkedIn reference to boost your CV.
  • Live in remote habitats. Travel off the beaten track to live and work on a research station in the wild. Get exclusive access to protected species and unique ecosystems.

conservationists

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!

Explore all our Conservation Careers Internship opportunities.

view over the rainforest

Chiang Mai

Located in the heart of Northern Thailand, our partner’s research station in Chiang Mai is surrounded by breathtaking mountains, fields and forests. With beautiful hills all around, they have a bird’s-eye view over the fields and forests below. In the rainy season, the clouds roll through the base at eye level. Being the middle of the jungle, elephants can be found throughout the surrounding areas.

When you arrive you’ll be welcomed by the villagers with a traditional Geju ceremony, which they perform for all new participants upon their arrival. During the Geju, food is blessed and pieces of string are tied onto others’ wrists to wish them good fortune.

The project work takes place in the Mae Chaem District, a 5-hour journey deep into the mountains, where the famous Karen elephant-keeping community resides. This community shares a unique and sacred relationship with elephants.

a group of conservationists overlooking the rainforest

From our partner’s research station it’s about a 50-minute walk to the river where you can see buffalo walking about. Despite being very afraid of people and quite shy, you might sometimes see them in the village. The open-air base is divided into two buildings. The older building is usually reserved as a study area – or for staff meetings, presentations and lectures. It has a table with chairs, a hammock for reading, and a few small desks. The newer building is where people socialise. The library is in the new building. It’s small and basic, consisting of a few bookshelves.You can catch some amazing sunsets right at the base, and when night comes, kick back and enjoy stargazing around the fire pit we often hang out at in the evenings. During free nights, we like to watch movies on the projector, visit a villager’s home, or take a night stroll. Games (board and card games) are well received and enjoyable to interact with the local community members. There are also a few friendly dogs around the base.

a group of conservationists eating

Activities

Some of the example typical activities you could participate in on this program.

  • Fieldwork training. Learn how to identify species, conduct surveys and population assessments, and assess threats to terrestrial ecosystems and ecosystem-level processes.
  • Lead conservation surveys. Hike through the nearby forest to collect data on elephants, gibbons and other notable species, including birds, mammals, insects and reptiles.
  • Project work. Participate in conservation and community work, including data entry, workshops and English teaching for community and ecotourism benefit.
  • Leadership training. Learn how to plan and set team goals, create supportive team environments, and reflect on your own leadership style.
  • Leadership responsibilities. Data entry, report writing, species list updates, and fieldwork checklist maintenance, and assisting with homestay orientation for new participants.
  • Personal project. Work on an individual project that aligns with your personal interests.
  • Mentorship. Meet weekly in a small group with other interns and an experienced mentor to receive project guidance and feedback on your leadership style.

three conservationists

Skills

  • Data collection
  • Data entry
  • Population ecology
  • Species identification
  • Survey research
  • Wildlife conservation

Dates, durations & costs

Register your interest below to learn about upcoming dates, durations and costs.

What’s included

General
  • Food
  • Safe and basic accommodation (usually shared)
  • Airport pick up (unless stated)
  • All project equipment
  • 24-hour in-country support from local staff
  • 24-hour emergency desk
  • Experiences

Activities

  • Sustainable project work
  • Data collection and research
  • Leadership responsibilities
  • Personal project

Mentorship

  • Weekly group sessions
  • Internship supervisor guidance

Pre-program training

  • Pre-departure webinar
  • Pre-departure training (online)
  • University of Richmond endorsed specialisation course
  • University of Richmond endorsed leadership course

Welcome training

  • Welcome presentation
  • Health & safety
  • Local culture & environment
  • UN SDGs
  • Impact & ethics
  • Child protection

people cooking

What’s included (continued)

Advanced leadership training

  • Personal development record
  • Project planning and management

Career services

  • University of Richmond careers course
  • Career coaching sessions (x2)
  • Career guarantee (participants must join a program for 3 months or longer)
  • LinkedIn reference – upon request
  • Job portal

Certificates

  • Program certificate
  • University certificate – specialisation (University of Richmond)*
  • University certificate – leadership (University of Richmond)*
  • University certificate – careers (University of Richmond)*

*Upon successful completion of the online course.

What’s excluded

  • Flights
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Visa costs
  • Police or background check
  • Personal items and toiletries
  • Additional drinks and gratuities

Register your interest!

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.