Elephant Welfare Project in Eastern Mahout Communities

Unpaid + benefits + expenses
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Based in Thailand's Eastern province of Surin, this project works with the communities that have lived and worked with elephants for hundreds of years.

Since the country's ban on logging and prevalence of machinery, work for elephants and their owners (known as Mahouts) is limited and with no other opportunities, the people of these communities and their elephants often starve. The government has developed initiatives that aim to encourage communities to use elephants to help attract tourists to the area. Additionally, the natural habitats of elephants are decreasing. Whilst 90% of Thailand's land was forested in 1900, this number had dwindled to just 22.5% in 1995. Efforts of projects such as this one have helped to improve this figure but more work is needed.

This project, which currently houses 13 elephants, works alongside these communities to encourage tourism development to be shaped by ethical and responsible eco-tourism approaches.

The aim of the project is to give and create a better life for captive elephants, free from abuse and to establish sustainably managed forms of free-range natural elephant tourism.

Role of the volunteer

Volunteers bring an international perspective to the work of conservation and ecotourism, passing along their knowledge and enthusiasm to local residents who will benefit the most from this work.

Within the elephant village help is needed with looking after the elephants (walking, bathing, feeding), maintaining and harvesting crops to feed the elephants (sugar cane and bamboo) and general maintenance in the village (building elephant shelters, repairs, etc).

Because the elephant's habitat is decreasing in the local area, volunteers will be required to help restore the animal's natural surroundings through reforestation. You will also have the opportunity to help explore ecologically sustainable and elephant friendly tourism options in order to help create new and responsible forms of elephant based tourism, as well as learning about unethical elephant management practises.

Skills Required

No specific skills are required for this project, but a love of animals is a must. Work is fairly physical therefore a moderate level of fitness will be needed. Volunteers must be friendly and flexible.

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