Volunteer with elephants

In this article, we share our tips to help you volunteer with elephants and
give a selection of the best elephant volunteer projects

How to volunteer with Elephants in Asia

Volunteering with elephants at sanctuaries has seen a significant increase in popularity due to the tourism industry.  This is great for raising funds for the sanctuaries but it is important to understand that unfortunately not all elephant sanctuaries and projects are ethical. Ethical elephant volunteer projects and sanctuaries can be hard to distinguish due to their popularity many are exploiting the elephants especially the young that attract a lot of attention and their welfare isn’t always a top priority like the organisations make out. It is estimated that 60-75% of wildlife tourist attractions are having negative welfare impacts on individual animals and their conservation status, don’t be part of such a negative statistic.

Elephant rides, the real story

So many tourists volunteering with elephants are told to believe that it is natural to ride elephants and that they enjoy it. The reality is they are often torn away from their mothers at a young age and confined to small spaces to habituate them with humans, because this does not come naturally to them as wild animals. They are then starved, deprived of sleep and beaten into submission because the fear of being hurt is what makes them comply with this perverse tourist practice. So, before you plan on paying large sums of money, now you know the truth, think about where you could be giving that money to promote ethical practices in elephant conservation rather than contributing to the issue.  Is it really worth depriving an elephant of their dignity all for an Instagram picture?

Swimming with Elephants

This is another popular activity that tourists love, the elephants however, not so much. If you saw a group of wild elephants in a river would you jump at the opportunity to go and bath or swim with them? The answer is most likely no, so why would you think that it is okay to do so with captive elephants? Not only is it not enjoyable for the elephants who would normally be rolling around playing in the water but are now forced to stand still for the safety of the visitors but it is also incredibly dangerous for you. An elephant can move significantly faster than any human even in water and with their weight it is not something you should be willing to risk. Not to mention the transmission of tropic infections through the water and the risk of bacterial infections being passed from and to humans alongside the urine and faecal matter from the elephants in the water. Where is the appeal?

The definition of a true sanctuary

An ethical elephant sanctuary should be a safe space for them to live. They allow the elephants to have agency over their day to day lives rather than being dictated by the wishes and commands of tourists. A place for the elephants to retire from work and live freely in an environment as close to their natural habitat as possible. Enabling them to live out their lives with dignity once again in a place where their welfare is a top priority.

Tips on how to volunteer with elephants

  1. Donating towards positive change. Every volunteer that visits donates to the cause and helps EVP care for sick and abused elephants. You will also help fund the community projects providing resources like health care, community assistance and funding to protect the forest.
  2. You make a direct impact. Anyone can donate from home which is a great place to start but there is nothing more valuable than putting the work in and seeing the impact you make first hand. For volunteers this will include: maintaining elephant food farms, replanting endangered trees to help repopulate the forest, restoring trails, assisting in research, checking and monitoring elephant health and so much more!
  3. How could you say no? If you love elephants and want to contribute to their conservation whilst being able to see them in their natural habitat in a respectful way then there is no better place than a volunteer elephant sanctuary. Learning about each individual elephant and their life stories compared to seeing them as they live now in the sanctuary is such an eye opening and life changing experience.
volunteering with elephants

Elephant Valley Project, Cambodia

The Elephant Valley Project is more than an elephant project. The project is focused around the community with which the elephants live, the elephants mahout and their families as well as the villagers.
Volunteer wildlife rescue centre

Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand

I have known the owner Edwin for many years. He is one of the leader wildlife activists in SE Asia. The centre works on many projects and provides rescue, rehabilitation and long term sanctuary services to the animals caught up in the illegal wildlife trade.
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