A Guide on Volunteering at Elephant Sanctuaries in Thailand

Many tourists are starting to become aware of what unethical elephant tourism is and what it does to captive Asian elephants. These intelligent creatures have been subject to abuse and mistreatment in order to be more docile around tourists and travelers. Activities such as elephant riding and street walking are becoming more and more unfavored as people continue to learn the plight of the animals. If you love being around these majestic creatures and don’t want to participate in any unethical elephant activities, there’s an alternative option for you.

Volunteering at elephant sanctuaries in Thailand is a rewarding and life-changing experience. You’ll get an opportunity to witness and care for rescued elephants that are no longer capable of returning to the wild. Most of these animals rely on human support for their overall health and nourishment. Sanctuaries often serve as a safe haven for these captive animals and they offer plenty of volunteering projects for you to participate in.

But before you volunteer, there are a couple of things you need to know. We’ve created this guide so that tourists can make smart decisions when volunteering at elephant sanctuaries in Thailand. Read on to find out.

What you need to know before volunteering with elephants

When choosing which organisation to volunteer for, it’s important to keep these questions in mind:

1. Will volunteers undergo proper training?

Yes. Ethical elephant sanctuaries train and inform volunteers properly before participating in any task. The volunteers will train with mahouts and elephant keepers to know how to interact safely with the creatures. Choose an elephant sanctuary that accompanies all of its volunteers with a mahout at all times. Unethical elephant sanctuaries let volunteers handle elephants on their own and this can put the animals in distress.

2. Is there other work involved aside from working with elephants?

There is plenty of work to be done when you choose to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary. Not only will you interact with the elephants, but you’ll also do plenty of manual labor. You’ll get to prepare food, clean the surrounding environment, assisting with local projects, and many more. This keeps the sanctuary close to a wildlife-like environment where the rescued elephants can relax and live freely.

Ethical elephant sanctuaries offer volunteer programs that don’t affect local employment. As a volunteer, it’s crucial to do your research first to make sure that you’re not taking away a paid job for the locals.

3. Are all elephant sanctuaries ethical?

No. Not all elephant sanctuaries operate in an ethical manner. Some are cleverly disguised as elephant sanctuaries to attract tourists. Before you volunteer, read the reviews and look for feedback on the elephant sanctuary. You’ll know it’s a legitimate safe haven for elephants when they don’t keep the animals in enclosures and they limit any tourist contact as much as possible. Volunteering at a vetted elephant sanctuary is the best way to go so you can be confident that you’re not falling for a tourist trap.

Which sanctuaries should you volunteer for in Thailand

There are plenty of ethical elephant sanctuaries in Thailand that offer volunteering programs. Below is a list of excellent volunteer projects where you can contribute your full support:

Mahouts Elephant Foundation

Mahouts Elephant Foundation is a UK-registered charity program that allows volunteers to work with elephants in Thailand’s northern mountains. They’ve been awarded the ECOA grant in 2017 for their excellent work in caring for rescued and retired Asian elephants. Volunteers can witness the elephants roam in a lush, protected forest that mimics their natural habitat. You’ll collaborate with local Karen villagers and offer a helping hand in doing community tasks.

Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park is the premier destination for elephant volunteering in Thailand. It’s the most established parks in the country and often times booking is done in advance. Elephant Nature Park cares for disabled, blind, and orphaned elephants while promoting ethical elephant tourism in Southeast Asia. Volunteers can participate in hands-on conservation work like feeding the elephants, preparing their meals, doing maintenance work, and even cleaning up elephant poop.

Kindred Spirits Elephant Sanctuary

If you’re looking for an up-close and personal time with elephants, Kindred Spirits Elephant Sanctuary is the place to go. Volunteers can get immersed in a village life of hill-tribe communities in Chiang Mai. Elephants in this sanctuary are rescued from harmful elephant tourism and are kept in a semi-wildlife environment. You can join hikes along with the elephants along the Thai forest and enjoy their companionship. Volunteering programs at Kindred Spirits Elephant sanctuary include manual labour, and community teaching provided that you have classroom experience and a native-English ability.


Volunteering at elephant sanctuaries is a great way to help promote ethical elephant tourism to travelers in Thailand. Not only will you help the plight of Asia’s captive elephants, but you’ll also contribute to the local community and leave a lasting impression on the sanctuaries you visit. This guide will help you choose which elephant sanctuaries to volunteer for, with tour operators such as Trunk Travel helping to make such arrangements. So keep these tips in mind before participating in any programs.

Asia, Traveling