Work and learn alongside Veterinarians at an Elephant Sanctuary and a Dog Rescue in Thailand
This two-week adventure of a lifetime gives you the opportunity to go to Thailand to volunteer at an Elephant Sanctuary in Northern Thailand, providing hands-on care, love, and support for the 65+ elephants who live there. You’ll also have to opportunity to work with our staff vet to care for dogs at a dog rescue clinic in Chiang Mai, Thailand where you will get hands-on practice providing medical care. You will also get the chance to experience magnificent Thailand first-hand.
This group is open to Eckerd College students referred by Eckerd College student Kaitlyn Cole. It is not sponsored by, affiliated with, or endorsed by Eckerd College.
Each group of up to 12 students will have its own US veterinarian accompanying them and will have the opportunity to learn from other Loop Abroad veterinarians with a variety of expertise who will be on the same program.
• Feed and help provide medical care to elephants throughout the program
• Learn about all aspects of care and management of captive wildlife
• Have the chance to meet world-renowned conservationist and ENP founder Lek Chailert
• At the dog rescue clinic, you will learn to provide treatments and help out during surgeries to the dogs at this local organization in need.
• Assist in neuter surgeries & Learn and practice small animal clinical skills.
• Discover what it’s like to be a vet in the tropics
• See a bit of the best of Chiang Mai on the weekends, including temple visits and other cultural and adventure exploration.
* January 4 – 20, 2020
$3,080 USD not including international airfare. Airfare on the group flight from New York is an estimated $1,800 roundtrip including all taxes and fees. If your group has over 10 students, Loop Abroad can arrange a group flight for your group from the airport of your choice.
This tuition represents a 20% discount on our regular program tuition for your group. No additional discounts or aid are available.
Your space is not held until your $1,000 deposit (credited toward tuition) is paid. Your deposit is due by June 1, 2019 to secure your private group booking. Balance of your tuition is due by October 1, 2019. Interest-free payment plans are available.
All housing, meals, and activities are included in your tuition. Tuition does not include medical insurance – if you don’t have medical insurance that covers you while abroad, you can purchase travel medical insurance. We can help you find a plan that meets our insurance requirements.
Travel off the group itinerary must be approved by Loop Abroad and carries fees. Please contact [email protected] before booking travel off the group itinerary.
This program provides the following hours for your vet school (VMCAS) application:
Veterinary Hours: 72
Research Hours: 8
According to the AVMA, “If you have the opportunity to work… for veterinarians who work with different species, that’s a bonus that can make you more appealing to a veterinary school admissions committee.” We’re proud to offer you that opportunity!
You will get to know your vet during the program, and they will get to know you! If you participate to the best of your ability, you will be well-positioned to ask for a recommendation letter at the end of the program.
Loop Abroad can provide you with a pass/fail transcript for the course “Tropical Shelter Medicine, Management, and Welfare: From Companion Animals to Elephants” at your request (cost of official transcript is $360). This course is the academic component of your program, with 3 credits from Iowa Wesleyan available.
Enrollments are accepted on a rolling basis until the program is full. Once you enroll, your space will not be held until you pay your enrollment deposit ($1,000) or your first payment of your enrollment deposit if you are paying on an interest-free payment plan. Your deposit is due by June 1, 2019 to secure your private group booking. Balance of your tuition is due by October 1, 2019.
Please note that “private” means all the students in your group will be in the same group for activities, and there will not be students from other schools included in your group. However, it doesn’t mean your group are the only students on the project or in your housing.
We’re extremely excited to show you what Northern Thailand has to offer. Chiang Mai is home to many of our staff and a very special place in the hearts of all of our students. It offers unparalleled cultural experiences in a safe, comfortable environment.
This program is divided into two weeks. In one week, students work with our staff vet to care for dogs at a local dog rescue clinic in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Students learn how to assess the dogs’ health and do exams, and get hands-on practice providing medical care. The other week is spent at the Elephant Nature Park, providing hands-on care, love, and support for the 65+ elephants who live there.
By bringing our own vet to the dog rescue clinic, we provide necessary treatments and surgeries to the dogs at this local organization in need. Students are in the examination room in small groups, assisting with procedures and surgeries and learning hands-on from the vet.
Here are some of the activities you can expect to participate in:
The dog shelter at ENP provides many opportunities for students to help. They may also have opportunities to shadow the elephant trainer, participate in a diet study, or any number of other things going on at the park.
Students will likely also have the chance to meet world-renowned conservationist and ENP founder Lek Chailert, and will get to learn a bit of Thai.
Participate in a classroom-based course taught by a Loop Abroad veterinarian to learn more about elephants, companion animals, and their care. In addition, your vet will help you learn about elephant anatomy and physiology, body condition scores, and behavior. You’ll get to work with some of the elephants on the property one-on-one.
In the evenings and over the weekend, we will have a chance to explore city life in Chiang Mai, including visits to local street markets for eating and shopping, and dinners at local restaurants.
Loop Abroad’s groups will have the opportunity to assist the staff in all aspects of caring for the Elephants and other animals. There will be ample opportunities to observe the animals amidst work time.
A note on safety: At the Elephant Nature Park, we work only with female elephants. Elephants are accompanied by at least one trained caretaker at all times. The Elephant Nature Park has been hosting volunteers since the early 1990s and has an exemplary safety record. All dogs at the clinic and the Elephant Nature Park have been vaccinated against rabies.
You’ll notice that elephant riding is not included in this itinerary. Learn about why we don’t ride elephants.
Either the Elephant Nature Park or the Chiang Mai week may come first in your itinerary.
Every program begins with a safety orientation. We’ll discuss how to stay safe and healthy during your time in Thailand. We’ll also discuss best practices for staying safe with all of the different species we will be interacting with, and staff will always be on hand to further instruct students regarding safe interactions with animals.
While most dogs are very friendly, some would rather be left alone. It is important to approach all dogs carefully. In order to safely interact with animals in a shelter and clinic setting, students and staff need to have an understanding of animal handling and behavior.
Staff and students will discuss animal behavior, including signs of anxiety, and animal handling and restraint before interacting with the dogs.
At the Elephant Nature Park, we work only with female elephants. Elephants are accompanied by at least one trained caretaker at all times. The Elephant Nature Park has been hosting volunteers since the early 1990s and has an exemplary safety record. All dogs at the clinic and the Elephant Nature Park have been vaccinated against rabies.
You will have the opportunity to bathe, touch, feed, and get plenty of up close photos with elephants, but it is important to also allow the elephants to have the freedom to enjoy their natural environment and the company of their elephant friends. It can be even more rewarding to watch the elephants interacting with their natural environment from a distance because this is when their true personalities shine!
Students will always be accompanied by trained guides and volunteer coordinators who will instruct students in how to safely interact with the elephants.
Learn more about Thai culture, conservation, elephants, or veterinary medicine
None of these books are required reading. You can purchase any of the books on our suggested reading lists at the links below.*
Chasing the Dragon’s Tail: The Struggle to Save Thailand’s Wild Cats, by Alan Rabinowitz. Alan Rabinowitz is one of the leading authors on protecting large cats in the wild. He is the director of the Science and Exploration Program at the Wildlife Conservation Society, and has led research expeditions all over the world. He is known for founding the world’s first jaguar reserve, which lies in Belize. This book is a sad and beautiful tale of the author’s struggle to understand Thailand and to help save the wild cat population of Thailand.
A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants, by Jaed Coffin. Jaed Coffin lives in Maine, and was raised in the United States as a Thai American. When he was twenty-one-years-old, he left college life in New England to be ordained as a Buddhist Monk in his mother’s native village of Panomsarakram, Thailand. This book is the story of his time in Thailand, and explores themes of displacement, ethnic identity, and cultural belonging. (NOTE: this book isn’t about elephants.)
When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals, by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy. This New York Times Bestseller was heralded as “A masterpiece, the most comprehensive and compelling argument for animal sensibility…”. Elephants are the national animal of Thailand, and are an important symbol in religion and culture there. They are also intelligent, social animals who are on the brink of extinction in Asia and Africa. This text is a great exploration of the emotional lives of elephants and an eye-opening tale for students of conservation and the behavior of animals, human or otherwise.
Elephant Memories, by Cynthia Moss. Cynthia Moss is founder and director of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project in Africa. As a study of a family of African Elephants in Kenya over twenty-seven years, this book is a moving and important book. “One is soon swept away by this ‘Babar’ for adults. By the end, one wants to curse human civilization and cry out, ‘Now God stand up for the elephants!’”, wrote Christopher Lehmann-Haupt of the New York Times.
Tales of an African Vet, by Dr. Roy Aronson Booklist says, “For a veterinarian, it’s one thing when one’s patients are cuddly pet cats, dogs, and the occasional hamster. It’s quite another when the cats turn out to be cheetahs, the dogs are part wolf, and the hamster? Well, that could be anything from a gorilla to an elephant, a puff adder to a crocodile. Through equal parts luck, timing, and desire, Aronson augmented his 25-plus-year career as a small animal veterinarian in South Africa with house calls to treat some of the world’s largest and most dangerous creatures. Except that in Aronson’s case, the “house” was anywhere from a rhino’s cage at the renowned Pretoria Zoo to a lion’s pride in the densest African bush. The case histories of the animals treated in these treacherous locations provide an exhilarating glimpse into the lives of numerous valuable and endangered species. As intrepid as Indiana Jones and as compassionate as Dr. Doolittle, Aronson shares harrowing, and sometimes humorous, adventures in an engrossing memoir about an unexpected career.”
The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild, by Lawrence Anthony Publisher’s Weekly says, “In 1998, prize-winning conservationist Anthony (Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo) purchased Thula Thula, “5,000 acres of pristine bush in the heart of Zululand, South Africa,” transforming a rundown hunters’ camp (dating to the 19th century) into a wild animal preserve and a center for eco-tourism. In 1999, Anthony agreed to take in a herd of “troubled” wild elephants, the first seen in the area in more than a century. Winning their trust, becoming deeply attached, and even learning how they communicate (deep, rumbling “whispers,” sensed rather than heard), Anthony took enormous risks in the form of enraged elephants, distrustful neighbors, and poachers. Over time Anthony succeeds in his larger goal, winning support from the six Zulu tribes whose land borders the reserve (“most Zulus … had never set eyes on an elephant”); they eventually join Anthony’s venture as partners in a larger conservation trust. An inspiring, multifaceted account, Anthony’s book offers fascinating insights into the lives of wild elephants in the broader context of Zulu culture in post-Apartheid South Africa.”
Last Chain on Billie: How one Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top, by Carol Bradley ” Like the majority of captive elephants, Billie was captured as a calf, surfacing in the U.S. in 1966 as a four-year-old. After several years in a private zoo, she joined the circus, where she was trained to perform. Circuses are an extremely demanding environment for elephants, with constant travel from one town to another, multiple shows per week, and continuous noise. Although she learned difficult tricks and was a star, Billie rebelled and began to be known as a difficult elephant, gaining a reputation for attacking her trainers. Meanwhile, two former elephant trainers had grown disenchanted with circuses and the distorted lives that circus elephants lived, and they decided to found a sanctuary for former performing elephants in Tennessee. The story of how Billie got to the Elephant Sanctuary, and of how the sanctuary overcame the prejudices of both the circus and zoo communities, is both heartrending and uplifting. Full of details of the brutal life endured by performing elephants, of battles between Billie’s owner and the U.S. Department of Agriculture over her ultimate fate, and of Billie’s eventual adjustment to a life of freedom, Bradley’s newest has produced a well-researched winner.” – Booklist
*Links are affiliate links – thanks for helping to support Loop Abroad!
“This program gave me so many amazing experiences! I am so happy that I decided to go on this trip and experience vet wok and the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand.”
Kayla D., Thailand College Veterinary Service 2016