Work and learn alongside Veterinarians at an Elephant Sanctuary and a Dog Rescue in Thailand
This two-week program puts you alongside a veterinarian whose job is to teach you so you can learn and practice new skills while helping animals in need. Work in a dog shelter and learn clinical skills including blood draws, suturing, skin scrapes, and assisting in spay and neuter surgeries. Spend one week living at an elephant sanctuary learning about and caring for rescued elephants. Evenings and weekends are filled with fun activities such as zip-lining and exploring street markets.
This program is organized by Texas A+M student and Loop alum Lori Reyes and is open to Texas A+M students. It is not sponsored by, endorsed by, or affiliated with Texas A+M University.
Applicants should be comfortable working with animals and getting their hands, and everything else, dirty. Maximum group size is 12 students to make sure every student gets valuable one-on-one instruction.
• Feed, bathe, and care for rescued elephants
• Assist in dog neuter surgeries
• Learn and practice small animal clinical skills
• Discover what it’s like to be a vet in the tropics
* June 16 – July 2, 2018
Our College Veterinary Service program is a full adventure on its own, but it can also be combined with other Thailand two-week programs back-to-back, including:
Combine two programs for an automatic 10% discount on your tuition. Airfare costs stay the same. You can also combine College Veterinary Service with Veterinary Service: South Africa for additional airfare.
Tuition is $3,275 USD not including international airfare (a 15% discount on our regular programs). Airfare on the group flight from New York, NY is estimated at $1,900 round-trip including taxes and fees.
Students combining this program with “Lori’s Group: Australia” will be responsible for their own airfare but will have Loop’s fees for flying off the group itinerary waived. In addition, the tuition for each two-week program will be reduced to $3,015 for a total additional discount of $405 on the two programs combined.)
No additional discounts or financial aid are available, but you can fund-raise individually or as a group.
Tuition includes all meals and activities.
Your tuition includes donations to ARK and the Elephant Nature Park to help fund medicine, food, and care for the animals.
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. This course is the academic component of your program. If you are seeking credit from your college or university, please contact us for assistance.
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 November 30, 2017 to secure your private group booking. Balance of your tuition is due by February 1, 2018.
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.
Home to over sixty elephants who are no longer able to work in elephant-based industries or have been rescued from inhumane conditions in logging, trekking, or circus operations. The Park and its founder, Lek Chailert, have been recognized time and again for tireless efforts to improve the lives of elephants in SE Asia.find out more
This program is divided into two weeks. In one week, students work with our staff vet to care for dogs at the ARK (Animal Rescue Kingdom) Dog Shelter 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 Ark Dog Shelter, 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.
Students will have classroom time each day with the vet to go over the information they need to know to carry out each days treatments, skills practice, and activities.
Evenings are low-key and may involve market trips or outings in the city. Over the weekend, the group will have a chance to see a bit of the best of Chiang Mai, including temple visits and other cultural and adventure exploration.
The other week is spent living and volunteering with the elephants at the Elephant Nature Park and participate in a specially-tailored volunteer program. Students work with the elephants, helping to feed them, bathe them, cut their food, clean their homes, and provide overall care for them. They will also help with sanctuary upkeep and have the chance to participate in cultural activities.
There will be a chance while at the Elephant Nature Park to learn from the elephant vet on staff, help provide medical care to animals in need, learn to test for various medical conditions in large mammals, and possibly observe surgical procedures in the on-site dog clinic. 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 also have the chance to meet world-renowned conservationist and ENP founder Lek Chailert, learn a bit of Thai, enjoy tubing down the river that runs through the reserve, and get to some of the elephants on the property one-on-one.
You can get details on housing and meals here. All housing and meals are included in your tuition.
Your tuition includes donations to ARK and the Elephant Nature Park to help fund medicine, food, and care for the animals.
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 Ark 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.
Check out a sample itinerary here.
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 ARK 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.
Here are some books that might be interesting to students traveling to Thailand who want to learn more about Thai culture, conservation, elephants, or veterinary medicine.
A special thanks to Charlotte Leonetti, book reviewer and student travel blogger, for helping us put together this book list from the huge amount of choices available. You can purchase any of the books on our suggested reading lists here.
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
"Loop Abroad provided me with a unique, remarkable experience to interact with elephants in a veterinary setting. I loved it and would definitely recommend it!"
Grace F., College Veterinary Service 2017
Michigan State University