Volunteer Thailand Elephant Sanctuary

The Volunteer Thailand Elephant Rescue Project gives a safe sanctuary to Thailand's domesticated elephants.

These animals would otherwise be roaming the streets of big cities, be kept in bad conditions at working elephant camps or be otherwise exploited in the tourist industry.

Globalteer is UK registered charity providing volunteer placements working in Wildlife Rescue and Conservation in Asia.

Volunteers provide hands on assistance to the professional Mahouts (elephant keepers) to ensure these beautiful animals live a life as close as possible to their wild relatives. Volunteers bathe and wash the elephants daily, walk them through the forests to forage, clean their enclosure and learn all about these magnificent animals.

To find out more about elephant conservation in Asia, visit our Asian Elephant information page.

Please note that this is one of our most popular projects and volunteer places fill up quickly so applying as early as possible is strongly advised.

Duration: 1 to 12 weeks

Hours: 6 days per week

Activities: Walking, feeding and bathing the elephants

Location: Thailand

Accommodation: Shared rooms

Requirements: Aged 18+

Donation: From UK£485 / US$730

The Elephant Sanctuary Location

The elephant sanctuary is located 3 hours south of Bangkok near a small village. The centre is next to a lake, surrounded by dense forest and national parks that are important to Thailand's elephant conservation.

Less than an hour away are the beach resorts of Cha Am and Hua Hin where the volunteers go for shopping, days off and nights out. The local village has internet access and some shops but has no tourists, so is a real insight into the Thai way of life. During time off volunteers can arrange camping trips into the remote National Parks or go on night safaris to spot Thailand's wild animals.

The accommodation at the centre is in clean but basic bungalows and rooms most often are shared. The bungalows have comfortable beds, fans, western style toilets with a manual flush and cold showers. On site you will find a communal area for eating, a small bar and kitchen.

Volunteers have access to free hot drinks, filtered water, bread, jam and other essentials. Two main meals, Thai and occasionally Western food are prepared by the cook. Vegetarians, vegans and those with food allergies can be accommodated. Evenings can be spent watching DVD's, relaxing with a book or socializing with fellow volunteers.

To find out more about Thailand, visit our Volunteering in Thailand Fact File.

Daily schedule at the Elephant Sanctuary

Volunteers work a 6 day week, the working day starts early and can be long but there are many breaks throughout the day to relax or hang out with the elephants. You will work closely with the Mahouts who always accompany the elephants. Be prepared to work hard!
Volunteers staying for one or two weeks are required to arrive at the elephant sanctuary on a Sunday. For a duration of three weeks or more, volunteers can start on any day of the week.

An example of a typical day:

Start your day at 6.30am
Get breakfast from 8-9am
Lunch at noon
Workday ends approximately 5pm
Dinner at 6.30pm

Here is an example of some of the work you will carry out with the elephants:

•    Cleaning the elephants’ paddocks each morning and evening.
•    Washing the elephants in their paddocks with hoses and brushes, depending on the schedule.
•    Collecting the elephants’ dung and food waste for composting.
•    Walking the elephants to the lake or into the forest to forage.
•    Collecting fruits for their big appetites, and harvesting banana trees, sugar cane, pineapple or corn for fodder.
•    Learning all about these gentle giants, and performing basic daily health checks on the elephants.
•    Sharing the responsibility of taking care of the domestic animals at the centre, including Sam, the rescued beach pony and the dogs.

These are only examples of what your daily activities may be. The elephant sanctuary is continually evolving and the needs of the elephants may change before or during your stay. Rest assured we are very flexible with volunteers’ personal needs, but we do require the same flexibility in return as the elephants are the top priority.

Please be aware that harvesting pineapple plants, banana trees and corn for fodder is essential and regular work for volunteers. This involves chopping and dragging plants and trees over rough ground. Some heavy lifting is involved, which can be quite tiring work in the heat. It is essential that you wear appropriate clothing (sun hat, gloves long sleeves and trousers) and sturdy footwear for this task, pace yourself, and drink plenty of water.

Got a question about volunteering with elephants in Thailand? Try our Thailand Elephant Sanctuary Frequently Asked Questions

The Elephants at the Sanctuary

Many of the elephants have previously been used as "begging" elephants in various cities or working at elephant camps in tourist resorts. The sanctuary gives safe haven to approximately 10 elephants. The number of elephants at the sanctuary can vary based on space available and funds needed to rescue an elephant. Read on to learn about some of the elephants that you will meet!
The babies of the group at the elephant orphanage:
SoyThong is 4 years old, she and her Mahout sought refuge at the elephant orphanage after she had worked on the streets as a begging elephant. She has holes down both ears from piercings from when she was working on the streets.

KanGluey is a 3 year old elephant. Kan Gluey can be a naughty elephant! He loves drinking from the hose but if you don't get a move on he will try and grab it himself. Both of the babies truly love being at the elephant orphanage.
Bua Ngun - Age 65+

Bua Ngun has spent only two years in the wild and was then taken from her mother to end up as a working tool for humans. She was trained to destroy her own home when she became a logging elephant on the Thai-Cambodian border.

Not much more is known than this about her early life with humans but we can still see the scars from many years of hard labour. She never grew to a full size elephant and her legs and back are bent due to the hard work she endured.

After the logging ban in Thailand, she ended up at several elephant camps in Bangkok, Ayuthaya and Pattaya where her work was to take foreign and Thai tourists on her back to make a living for her owner. Before her rescue and arrival at the sanctuary she ended up as a begging elephant on the streets of provincial cities, again to provide an income for her owner.

Bua Ngun sadly passed away peacefully in 2013.

June - Age 65+

June was caught from the wild as a baby, ripped away from her mother and trained for a life of hard labour, she has spent the last 60 years enduring forced labour in the logging industry, as a street begging elephant and in the tourist industry.

June's owner called the elephant sanctuary as she wasn't able to work anymore. When June was rescued she was severely mal-nourished and looked a skeleton. She is now safe from harm at the sanctuary and will spend the rest of her days work free, happy and healthy.

June sadly passed away peacefully just a few weeks after her best friend Bua Ngun died. We are grateful that June and Bua Ngun were able to spend their last years in such a wonderful place, free from the burdens of labour and abuse.

Pai Lin

Age - 50+
Features - Very pronounced cerebral domes on her head. Has a deformed back as a result of carrying heavy seats for up to six people.

Character - Likes to place food on her head like a crown. She does not usually like Kjaew Ta.


Kjaew Ta

Means "glass eye"
Age - 45+
Recognition - Blind in left eye. Small elephant, least hairy and lightest in colour.

Character - Generally has a good temperament and rocks back and forth when approached (if she likes you). Likes to rub against trees and be first in line when walking.


Age - 26+
Features - Similar to Nong Bo but smaller. Before rescue, she was hit by a car on the city streets, she now limps and stands with her injured leg sticking out.

Character - Best friends with Nong Bo, they always hang out together. She responds well to kindness, but is quite cheeky and has a tendency to destroy manmade structures.

Nam Phon

Means "Rainwater"
Age - 40+
Recognition - Hairy tail and head. Two pink spots on her tail and rear, and pink on the top of her trunk.

Character - Very good natured and friendly. Quiet, gentle and sensitive. Slow when walking and least eager to go deep into the lake. Most gentle when hand feeding.

Extra activities

Days off can be spent at the beach in Cha Am or Hua Hin which are less than an hour away. Cha Am is a quiet resort frequented mostly by Thais whilst Hua Hin is busier and has many western tourists. You can find great shopping opportunities (especially on market days), great nightlife and a variety of restaurants at both resorts.

On Monday mornings and Friday and Sunday nights, you can find the market in the local village where you can try a variety of Thai foods from the street stalls or shop for cheap bargains.

The centre is on temple grounds and therefore you can see authentic Thai temples and even a 15 metre long laying Buddha, all close to the centre.

Visit the local village to get an experience that very few foreigners get. The village is just a 5 minute walk from the centre but is not frequented by tourists, so you get a unique insight into true Thai culture unaffected by the huge influx of tourists that the rest of Thailand experiences.

Camping in the National park is an additional activity you can enjoy. Occasionally volunteers get together and hire a taxi into the National park. Overnight camping, treks and visiting the waterfalls in a rarely visited National park is an unforgettable experience that is highly recommended. You can see a variety of animals, birds, insects and amazing vegetation.


Required Donation

The required donation to the project is stated in UK £pounds and US $dollars.

The donation includes:
  • Pick up from Bangkok airport / hotel, Cha Am or Thyang.
  • Accommodation for the duration of you stay at the sanctuary.
  • All main meals (breakfast is DIY - basics provided!)
  • Full in country support from the project co-ordinator.
  • Comprehensive information brochure.
  • Assistance and advice for traveling to Thailand.

The donation does not include flights, visas or insurance although we can provide information as required.

Discounted rates are available at this project for combinations with the Thailand Wildlife Sanctuary as follows:

1 week with the Elephants and 1 week with the Wildlife project - GBP£700 / US$1,050
1 week with the Elephants and 2 weeks with the Wildlife project - GBP£800 / US$1,200
2 weeks with the Elephants and 1 week with the Wildlife project - GBP£800 / US$1,200
2 weeks with the Elephants and 2 weeks with the Wildlife project - GBP£900 / US$1,350
3 weeks with the Elephants and 3 weeks with the Wildlife project - GBP£1,150 / US$1,725
4 weeks with the Elephants and 4 weeks with the Wildlife project - GBP£1,340 / US$2,010

Click here to apply for the combined Thailand Projects

Application process & requirements

The minimum age for volunteering is 18 years old. No previous experience or qualifications are necessary but we do require volunteers to be respectful and open minded to the cultural differences they will encounter in Thailand. Volunteers must be reasonably fit as the work can be demanding in the tropical heat. You must be able to speak English.

Volunteers must have a similar ideology to the mission of the elephant sanctuary. Wildlife trainers and those who exploit wildlife for the benefit of people are not suitable for this sanctuary.

  1. Click on the link below to fill out an application form.
  2. Add "@globalteer.org" to your E-mail safe list to ensure that you receive a response.
  3. Your application will be reviewed and if accepted you will be notified via E-mail within one week.
  4. Pay your deposit to secure your placement within one week of acceptance.
  5. Research your destination, book your flight, inoculations and ask us any questions you may have.
  6. Full amount is to be paid 10 weeks before the start of your placement.
  7. A comprehensive information folder will be sent to you with all information including a packing list, Thailand cultural differences, Buddhist Monk etiquette, useful language phrases, rules at the elephant sanctuary, useful phone contacts and full project information.
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