Work with an elephant vet at an elephant sanctuary to care for, learn about, and volunteer with elephants.
Students age 20 or older who are currently enrolled in veterinary school or have been admitted to vet school and will attend in fall 2018. Individuals of any nationality may apply. Fluency in English is required.
Applicants should be comfortable working with animals and getting their hands, and everything else, dirty. This program can accommodate a maximum of 12 students per session.
*June 30 – July 16, 2018
*Dates indicate departure from and return to New York. Some flights depart early in the morning and may require students to arrive in New York the night before. Loop Abroad reserves the right to cancel any program at any time; in case of such cancellation by Loop Abroad, all payments will be returned in full.
Our Vet School 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 Vet School Veterinary Service with Veterinary Service: South Africa for additional airfare.
Tuition is $3,850 USD not including international airfare. Airfare on the group flight from New York is $1,749 round-trip including taxes and fees. Tuition is all-inclusive (including housing, meals, activities and transport) during the program. Pickup and drop-off are at the international airport in Bangkok, Thailand.
Not Included: Airfare to and from Bangkok, any independent travel before or after the program, non-water beverages and snacks. Please note that to arrive in Thailand for group pick-up on July 1, you may need to depart the US on June 29 or 30.
We’re extremely excited to show you what Thailand has to offer. Elephants World is a sanctuary for old and injured elephants in Kanchanaburi province. It is one of the most beautiful parts of the country with waterfall and caves, as well as the nearby city, within easy reach.
Program pick-up takes place in Bangkok, Thailand on Sunday. Your group will travel to the elephant sanctuary together, where you will stay for 13 nights.
Monday to Friday, your group will work with your US and Thai elephant veterinarians to provide medical care to the elephants at the sanctuary. Your group may assist with a small amount of husbandry chores if needed, but most of your day will be spent learning about elephants, observing elephants with your vet, and providing hands-on upkeep and medical care to the elephants on the property. Every day will have a lecture-style component as well as hands-on learning labs and other opportunities.
On the interim weekend of the program, we will take a break from work and travel to neighboring Kanchanaburi during the day to relax, visit beautiful waterfall and caves, tour the city, and enjoy some time off. We will return to the sanctuary in the evenings.
On the final Saturday, we will depart for Bangkok in the late morning and have lunch together before departure.
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.
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 staff who will instruct students in how to safely interact with the elephants.
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.
Learn more about Thai culture, conservation, elephants, or veterinary medicine
A special thanks to Charlotte Leonetti, teen 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 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!
"As a vet student, I was looking for a completely unique experience before starting clinics. Loop Abroad and the experience at ENP exceeded my expectations and provided both a medical and cultural experience that can't be found anywhere else."
Lindsey K., Vet School Veterinary Service 2016
University of Minnesota