Thailand is home to some of the world’s most diverse and beautiful wildlife. Elephants, tigers, bears, snakes, parrots, and countless other animals call the vast forests and parks around the country their home. However, the hunting of wildlife, deforestation, trade of wildlife as exotic pets, and even consumption of wildlife has all contributed to a steady decline in numbers of some of the country’s most exotic and stunning wildlife. Now it is up to us to prevent further destruction through conservation of their natural environment, research programs, and educating people about the importance of wildlife. Volunteering to teach not just young children, but industries, governments, and local communities about the importance of conservation via programs such as rescue and release projects, can make an enormous difference to the future well-being of these animals.
A major part of wildlife conservation is the education of people. Targeting people with a professional interest in animal welfare such as veterinarians, animal wardens, policy and enforcement officers, and researchers is only part of the job. Our aim is to also educate stock men/women, slaughter men/women, poachers, and other people who have a direct hand in the decline of Thailand’s wildlife. Our main goal is to ensure Thailand’s most iconic wildlife species, including but not limited to, elephants, gibbons, bears, tigers, and snakesare secure and recovering their numbers in the wild. This is not an easy task with many of these animals used for transportation of heavy loads, touted as tourist attractions, not provided with adequate water or food, and generally mistreated. The only bright future for Thailand’s wildlife is people like you who come to volunteer, conserve, and educate.
Dog Meat Tradition
Wildlife tourism is a hugely profitable, popular, and cruel business in Thailand. Animals such as gibbons, tigers, and pythons are used as photo-props for tourists to pose with and post on their social media accounts. The sad truth is these animals are gravely mistreated, drugged, and unhappy. Places such as the infamous “Tiger Temple” do not contribute to the conservation of tigers, but instead exploit the animals for money. The animals are not treated with care, are not legally obtained, and suffer from fear and stress. Wildlife tourism is one of the saddest and most prevalent forms of animal abuse in the country and educating tourists is an essential part of stopping this practise.
Circuses, sub-standard zoos, and tourist parks are the main arenas for wildlife in entertainment. From photo-prop animals to dancing bears, and costumed animals to trick-performing wildlife, the use of animals in entertainment is extreme exploitation. It is common to see animals such as elephants, crocodiles, monkeys, and bears used to perform shows or tricks across the country. These animals are kept in smelly, confined spaces, leading to stress and fear. They are often denied basic water and food and are generally kept in chains for most of their lives. While it may seem entertaining to watch an animal performing an amazing trick, this is simply the result of horrific abuse.
As in most countries around the world, it is illegal to keep protected wild animals as pets. However, many people are ignorant or simply ignore the law and see it as a trophy to have a wild animal as their pet. Illegal pet trade is an extremely lucrative business with poachers hunting wild animals, taking them from their natural habitat, and locking them in cages for the rest of their days. Many of the animals poached in the wild are just babies, taken after their mother has been hunted and killed, and then sold as an exotic pet. Many of these animals grow up very quickly and are dumped into the wild, defenseless and ill-equipped for a life back in the jungle or are abandoned at a nearby temple.
Wildlife has often been associated with mystical powers or remedies and to this day many wild species of animals are hunted for their meat. Bear meat is especially lucrative, exported to China where it is said to boost sexual performance and health. A bowl of bear claw soup can sell for hundreds of dollars. There are even reports of tourists coming to Thailand where they “enjoy” the slaughter of a bear in front of them before sitting down to consume its meat. This practise is abhorrent and unfortunately unregulated in Thailand. While bears are heavily affected, snakes, tigers, and monkeys are also poached for their meat. Every year, countless animals are traded either from or via Thailand for medicinal purposes in China, South Korea, and Japan.
As in many places around the world, the use of wildlife in clothing and cosmetics is alarmingly commonplace in Thailand. Wild animals are trapped in bone-breaking steal traps, clubbed to death, electrocuted via the mouth or anus, have their neck broken, and skinned alive all in the name of fashion. Fur is a major industry throughout Asia and working against the use of fur in the fashion industry plays a big role in wildlife conservation. In addition to this, the cosmetic industry is not regulated as heavily in Thailand as elsewhere. Many animals are used in the testing of cosmetic products leading to diseases, mistreatment, poisoning, brain damage, and other horrific effects. The use of animals in cosmetics and fashion is something that we fight to stop through education.
Elephant are synonymous with Thailand for years has been domesticated much like horses in Europe and the Americas. However in 1989 The Thai Government banned logging and the use of elephants in this work leading to thousands of elephants becoming vulnerable to poaching and even other forms of money-making such as street begging. The owner of a Thai elephant (Mahout) is often seen as having a special bond with the animal, however, this is rarely the case as a practise known as "Phajaan" or breaking the animal spirit occurs which leads to obedience from the elephant for fear of punishment. The poaching mistreatment, destruction of habitat, and trading of elephants are all factors which are contributing to the steady decline of elephant numbers.
At the Elephant Refuge & Education Centre (EREC) we currently care for 23 Asian Elephants: 1 young male, 1 young calf and 21 older females. The majority of the elephants have been rescued from elephant trekking camps where they have been brutally used to entertain tourists. Whilst volunteering at the EREC you will have the chance to interact with some of our elephants in an ethical setting. You will wash and walk our elephants, create enrichment for them, as well as clean their enclosures and go on harvests to collect all their favourite trees, plants and grasses. Whilst volunteering at the EREC, you will have the opportunity to work with all of these elephants. We allow some interaction with some our elephants at certain times, such as washing and feeding. The other times they are hands off and in retirement.
The volunteers will help us care for our animals. They will be involved in feeding and cleaning enclosures, creating enrichment, as well as helping with other projects around the center. We also hope to create change by educating volunteers in ethical tourism, so they can share what they learn here with family and friends.
At all the projects, we usually have availability if you book a few months in advance, however these can be popular projects sometimes, so we need to know which dates the volunteer would like to come before offering you a place. Our volunteer program starts on a Sunday (which means the departure day will also be a Sunday of volunteers final week), and lasts for one week.
Note: Volunteers can also choose to combine both volunteering experiences and help us in many ways.