When most teens think about the best way to spend their summer, we bet volunteering isn’t at the top of their bucket list. But it should be! Especially when you can help elephants at a sanctuary in Thailand. You’ll never forget the summer days you spent caring for this endangered species.

Elephants at sanctuaries have been rescued from unethical tourism like riding camps and circuses. Sadly, they’ve endured a working life and aren’t able to return to the wild. So they rely on human support for shelter, food, and safety, and depend on volunteers for sustainable, healthy lives. Here’s how you can help!  

High school student feeds an elephant on their teen tour to Thailand

First, choose wisely

You might be surprised to hear that not all elephant sanctuaries are operated on ethical principles. Many sanctuaries still require elephants to do tricks like paint with their trunks or put on small “shows” for visitors. This is a disappointing reality.

Before you volunteer, it’s important to choose a tour provider whose priority is ethical tourism! Travel For Teens is proud to be one of the only teen travel providers to teach teens about traveling responsibly. We care for the communities, environments and wildlife with whom we interact. For this reason, we vet the sanctuaries we work with to make sure that the organization’s trainers, called mahouts, provide humane treatment. Most importantly, an elephant sanctuary should never allow visitors to ride the animals for any reason. After all, the goal of volunteerism is wildlife sustainability!

Below, are just a few of the rewarding experiences you’ll have when you volunteer to help elephants in Thailand with us.

Help elephants roam freely

One of the goals of elephant sanctuaries is to provide natural habitat for the elephants to call their home. They’re encouraged to roam freely as they would in the wild. Because the elephants aren’t kept in pens or enclosures, volunteers hike through Thailand’s lush forests to find wherever the elephants have chosen to forage that day. It’s such an exciting experience to come face-to-face with the elephants in the environment! 

Elephants play in the river as seen by teenage travelers during summer youth travel program in Thailand

Contribute to important conservation research 

When you stumble across a family of rescue elephants on your hike, you may be asked to observe their behaviors. Asian elephants have the largest brains of any land mammal on Earth—they’re incredibly intelligent! Just like people, elephants are emotionally diverse and lead complex social lives. Volunteers take notes on how the elephants interact with each other and their environment. This behavioral research is an important contribution to wildlife conservation!  

Educate the community

One of the best ways to combat the illegal trade and captivity of elephants is education. Sanctuaries provide important education to travel volunteers about ethical tourism. Many people around the world aren’t informed about the plight of the elephant and the urgency of their situation. Volunteers can then pass this knowledge to others, family and friends, to spread awareness of this important issue.

For this reason, volunteers often help community members so they can participate in these ethical alternatives and create a sustainable economy. The hill tribe communities are friendly and welcoming. Volunteers experience life-changing cultural exchange when they learn, teach and work toward this important goal together with the Thai people. 

High school student help elephants in Thailand on a summer volunteer trip.

Support elephant sanctuaries 

When you visit an elephant sanctuary in Thailand and volunteer your time, you directly support the organization and their ability to care for these animals. Elephants are the largest mammal on Earth. They can spend 18-20 hours a day eating up to 250 pounds—that’s a lot of groceries to buy! As you can see, it’s a great responsibility to not only provide enough food for a rescue elephant but also many other necessities. Sanctuaries often rely on travel volunteers to provide the funds they need to care for the elephants. Even better, when other elephant owners see that the financial burden can be eased, they’re more likely to pursue humane lifestyles for their elephants. Your volunteerism is important and so is your visit! 

Learn how to help elephants in Thailand

Travel For Teens is very proud to be one of the only teen tour operators to support ethical tourism. We do not ride elephants on any of our programs because we believe in the conservation of wildlife. We offer a wide variety of international travel experiences for teens who want to help animals on a summer volunteer trip. Contact us today to learn more about our upcoming travel opportunities or to find a program that’s right for you.

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