EP1 ELEPHANT SANCTUARY
Elective Programme 1 (EP1)
Elephant Conservation Volunteer at Save Elephant Foundation’s – Surin Project
About the “Save Elephant Foundation”
Camp Thailand is proud and honoured to be able to be partnered with the “Save Elephant Foundation”. We donate 5% of our merchandise sales to Save Elephant’s Foundation’s Surin Project and we sponsor and support an Elephant in the Surin Project in the name of all of our Camp Thailand participants and staff. You can encourage others to do the same. Save Elephant Foundation is a Thai non–profit organization dedicated to providing care and assistance to Thailand’s captive elephant population through a multifaceted approach involving local community outreach, rescue and rehabilitation programs, and educational ecotourism operations. Each of their flagship projects are aimed at accomplishing that mission, as well as working towards these goals:
- to expand self-sustaining eco-tourism operations that benefit local communities and ecosystems
- to better incorporate efforts into local communities and to ensure their benefit through continuing operation
- to become a leader in the field of Asian elephant research through academic outreach and education programs
- to create practical, positive reinforcement based elephant training and rehabilitation programs
- to establish an international volunteer community that raises awareness to issues facing the Asian elephant
- to more fully integrate with the global conservation community to facilitate dynamic cross-cultural networking
About the “Save Elephant Foundation” Founder
Sangduen “Lek” Chailert was born in 1962 in the small hill tribe village of Baan Lao, two hours north of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Her love for elephants began when her grandfather, a traditional healer, received a baby elephant as payment for saving a man’s life. Lek would spend many hours with her newfound friend, named Tongkum (Golden One), resulting in a passion that would shape the rest of her life, as well as the lives of others.
With a love and respect for her country’s national symbol, and the knowledge that they were becoming endangered, Lek began advocating for the rights and welfare of the Asian elephants in Thailand. In an industry steeped in tradition, advocating for positive change in the ways domestic and wild Asian elephants are treated has not been an easy battle. However, with hard work and determination her voice is now internationally recognized. In addition to several documentaries produced by National Geographic, Discovery, Animal Planet and the BBC, Lek has also won many honorary awards.
Lek’s mission continues to affect others as her voice is heard throughout the world. Her story and voice have made an impact in the minds of all who give their lives to animal welfare and conservation. Lek’s mission to save the Asian elephants continues to expand. She has formed the Save Elephant Foundation and a dedicated team works tirelessly by her side to protect the Asian elephant.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton invited Lek to Washington, DC in 2010 to honor her as one of six Women Heroes of Global Conservation. But, the accolades do not end there. Lek was named one of Time Magazine’s Heroes of Asia for her work in conservation in 2005 and the Ford Foundation’s “Hero of the Planet” in 2001.
Lek has earned two honorary degrees from Rajabaht Chiang Mai University – a PhD in Sustainability and Conservation and a PhD in Veterinary Science. Finally, the National Geographic documentary Vanishing Giants, highlighting Lek’s work with the Asian elephant, was recognized by the Humane Society of the United States with the Genesis Award in 2003.
Today, Lek continues to be at the forefront of elephant (and other animal rights causes), raising international awareness and encouraging other countries in the region to follow her lead, as well as helping provide sustainable alternatives to local villages. At the same time, she maintains special relationships with the animals she rescues. Most days, she can be found at Elephant Nature Park spending time with the rescued herd.
Save Elephant Foundation’s - Surin Project
The Surin Project is a unique and innovative concept aimed at improving the living conditions of captive Asian elephants by providing economic sustainability for their owners through responsible volunteer tourism. We work alongside the Gwi community in the Surin Elephant Study Centre located in the village of Ban Tha Klang in the Surin Province in North East Thailand
The Surin Project’s main focus is to get some of the elephants in the study centre out into more natural surroundings where volunteers can walk alongside them and observe these magnificent creatures acting like elephants should be. This offers the mahouts who own the elephants an alternative form of employment to elephant riding or elephant shows which are the main forms of income for many mahouts in the area to support their elephants and families.
Surin Project – Elephant Conservation Volunteer
Location: Surin province – NE Thailand by Cambodian Border
Duration: One to Eight Weeks
The Surin Project is a unique and innovative concept aimed at improving the living conditions of captive Asian elephants by providing economic sustainability for their owners through responsible volunteer tourism. We work alongside the Gwi community in the government run Surin Elephant Study Centre located in the village of Ban Tha Klang in the Surin Province in North East Thailand .
The Surin Project's main focus is to get some of the elephants in the study centre out into more natural surroundings where volunteers can walk alongside them and observe these magnificent creatures acting like elephants should be.
This offers the mahouts who own the elephants an alternative form of employment to elephant riding or elephant shows which are the main forms of income for many mahouts in the area to support their elephants and families.
What to Expect
Volunteers coming to the Surin Project should expect to be immersed in the local Gwi culture in the remote village of Ban Tha Klang. Working alongside the mahouts and the local community they will learn more about this unique culture and their relationship with elephants.
Most importantly volunteers will get a chance to go out on daily walks to observe the Surin Project elephants interacting with each other in a more natural setting without being ridden.
During their stay in the village volunteers can expect an attack on their senses and will see some of the realities of how captive elephants can be used in the area.
The Surin Project is like Elephant Nature Park, with some considerable differences:
- the land is government-owned, so our ability to build new structures is limited
- The Surin Project does not own or buy any elephants, the elephants are owned by their mahouts, so how they are treated is ultimately not our decision. The mahouts who join the project agree to leave their bullhooks at home and to take part in project activities. However they are free to leave at any time with their elephant. It's up to us to provide them with enough incentive to stay on the project and support our concept (we can only do this with volunteer support).
- There can be between 150-200 elephants living at the Study Centre, The Surin Project can only support up to 12 elephants at a time.
- Elephants that are not members of the Surin Project can be kept on their chains for most of the day with little or no shade. Many show signs of stress which we call stereotypical behaviour
- Many of the elephants in the area can be used for other forms of elephant tourism in the area such as the local elephant show and elephant riding which we do not support.
- Volunteers may be exposed to a certain amount of suffering during their stay because of these surroundings and can witness the use of the bullhook which many mahouts in the area use to control their elephants.
For many, this may put them off wanting to volunteer here, however, they must remember that with their presence here, they are taking part in something positive, and although it may seem like they can't do much to help the other elephants in the area they are helping show the mahouts and local community that they want to see a better form of tourism for the elephants. If they don't see these benefits they will only keep doing what they know.Hopefully, in time as volunteer numbers increase and we show the local mahouts that people are willing to see elephants in this way we will adapt their mindset to be more considerate of the elephant's welfare and expand our ability to support more elephants and mahouts in this area.
Accommodation and food
You will be living on site in basic but comfortable accommodation. You can have a room to yourself or share with a partner or friend if you wish. Here you will fall asleep to the sounds of elephants calling. Volunteers will eat together for every meal. The food is excellent, with a buffet style breakfast and dinner with many different dishes to choose from. We also support local noodle shops and restaurants where you will eat lunch. Vegan and vegetarian food is always available and all dietary restrictions are catered to.
What is Provided?
- Transport from Buriram to the Project and back
- Clean, convenient accommodation on site. Rooms come equipped with mattress, sheets, pillow, mosquito net and fan
- Three delicious meals per day, served in buffet style with great amount of choice
- Surin Project t-shirt
- Reusable water bottle and pouch
- Drinking water and ice
- English speaking staff on hand at all times to ensure your safety and be on hand to answer questions and provide you with a practical education about elephants, the culture and anything else you may have questions about.
What do I need?
- A full passport valid for the duration of your stay.
- Insurance (covering your placement time and any planned independent travel).
- Any additional costs such as trips, snacks, soft drinks, entertainment, souvenirs etc (allow a few hundred Baht per day depending on lifestyle).
All About Your Volunteering Position:
|Starting From:||Arrive on Monday no later than 3pm.|
|Ending:||Depending on where you want to return to you will either leave on Saturday evening or Sunday morning.|
|What to Bring:||We suggest that you travel as lightly as possible. We recommend that you take the following:
Essential items: Flashlight, Earplugs, Alarm clock/watch, Basic First Aid kit, personal medication, Towel, personal toiletries, sunscreen, Insect repellant, flip flops, closed shoes, long sleeved shirts and trousers, extra socks.
clothing (Cold season: November - February; can get quite cold at night times).
Recommended but not essential: reading material, travel games, camera, small daypack, gardening gloves, wide brimmed hat- we can provide gloves and hats on site if you do not have these items.
Important Note about clothing: Please remember to pack clothes that are respectful to the local culture- t-shirts that cover your shoulders, shorts that come down to your knees- No bikini's, string vest tops or hot pants allowed. You will be asked to change if you are wearing any of these items.
|Operational Months:||All Year Round.|
|Accommodation:||Clean, convenient accommodation on site.|
|Meals:||Three delicious meals per day.|
|Other||A practical education on the challenges facing elephant conservation,
free t-shirt and reusable water bottle.
|Volunteer Contribution:||The cost to volunteer for one week (Monday - Sunday) is 13,000 Baht.
(approx.. 235 GBP)
Testimonials on Trip Advisor about the Surin Project
Surin Project Video on their page and on You Tube
Camp Thailand Participants: Meet Fah Sai
Sponsorships are a great way to show your love, compassion and support for an elephant at the Surin Project.
Camp Thailand is currently sponsoring “Fah Sai” (Clear Skies) on behalf of all Camp Thailand participants. Your sponsorship money helps to provide the best food, medical care and shelter possible for Fah Sai.
Fah Sai – Born 1990 Nong Nun – Born 2003
Fah Sai, meaning “Clear Skies” is the largest female in the herd. With her mahout, Thong Dii, she had to travel around Thailand for several years selling snacks and begging on the streets. They joined the Surin Project hen it began and they are the perfect example of mutual respect and harmony between elephant and mahout. Fah Sai loves to stay close to her best friends, Euan Luang and Nong Nun (Fluffy Cotton). She and Nong Nun are inseparable they share a shelter in the sanctuary and they both love the water so much they are always the last ones to leave.
If you or your family and friends would like to sponsor an elephant in the Surin Project or if you have any questions about the programme please don’t hesitate to contact:
Philip Crabb E-Mail Philip@CampThailand.co.th