Thailand Wildlife Conservation Short Term Internship

Explore the beautiful region of the Chiang Mai province while gaining valuable skills on our multi-faceted Wildlife Conservation Internship


Program Information

Surrounded by beautiful beaches, ornate temples and lush mountainous scenery, you will live and work amongst the famous Karen elephant-keeping communities who are renowned for the unique and sacred bond they have shared with elephants for hundreds of years. Discover this fascinating culture while contributing to the rehabilitation of mistreated elephants, learning about plant biodiversity and teaching English to the local community.  

United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals

Overview

Gain unique insight into the fascinating culture of Thailand’s traditional elephant-keeping communities while contributing to this multi-focused project. The internship gives you the opportunity to gain work experience in three different aspects: community (teaching), plant diversity and animal care.



The community aspect will focus on teaching English to children at the local school as well as to the elephant keepers (mahouts). You will also be involved in supporting community efforts to reduce their financial dependence on their elephants.

The plant biodiversity project mainly focuses on researching elephant foraging habits and working towards compiling a foraging guide based on your observations from monitoring the elephants. However, you may participate in a variety of biodiversity projects such as night hikes to look for gibbons, porcupines and other nocturnal animals, identifying unique birds and insects as well surveying the biodiversity in the forests around the village.

The elephant rehabilitation programme consists of leading elephant heath checks, studying the behaviour of the heard, educating others about Asian elephants and reintroducing captive elephants into the protected forests.

The rotation between the different projects affords you the opportunity to really make a difference to the communities in a variety of different ways while at the same time giving you a broad range of professional skills and experience for your future career. The internship encourages participants to develop their own ideas and introduce new aspects to help further their contribution to the conservation of an incredible species. Interns will be given specific leadership responsibilities as well a weekly assignments and evaluation from their mentors, who will monitoring their progress throughout their stay at the hub.

After a successful internship, qualifying candidates may be given the opportunity to work for GVI or selected partner organisations in Thailand, or in other countries around the world where GVI operate. Over 50% of GVI staff are recruited from our alumni database. Qualification for positions is at the sole discretion of Global Vision International.

Highlights Include
Living in rural Thailand; making a difference in a local Karen community; helping protect Thailand’s amazing environment; getting up close and personal with elephants; meeting people from all over the world; becoming immersed in several different project areas within the one location; living within and learning about the fascinating Thai and Karen cultures; sampling the amazing cuisine; discovering Thailand’s idyllic beaches, ornate temples and beautiful rainforests in your spare time.

Program Details

Program Type:
Location: Asia - Thailand - Chiang Mai

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Life on the Internship

During your stay within a traditional Karen village, you will be living with a local family in a rural village. This will truly give you exposure to the local culture and traditions and help immerse yourself in day-to-day life at the local village.

The internship will see you rotating between either the conservation or community projects. The rotation will allow you to ascertain a wide variety of professional skills and experience as your responsibilities shift throughout the course of your day.

Community
The internship in the local Karen community will give you the opportunity to experience a fascinating side of Thailand that tourists largely miss out on. In teaching English and promoting alternative income generation initiatives you will be helping to ensure that wider opportunities will be available to members of the community in the future.

Conservation
The captive population of elephants is regarded by many as the as the future of the species in Thailand, which is in rapid decline throughout Asia. Your conservation work on the project will see you monitoring the elephants’ behaviour and interactions, conducting forest surveys and identifying natural elephant food sources.

Your time will be split between morning hikes into the forest following and observing a herd of rescued elephants as they meander through the forests. The research you conduct will be used to support a strong semi-wild population of elephants. Back at base, your afternoon will consist of lectures to learn more about elephant keeping such as how to asses an elephant’s health and conduct surveys in the forest. As this is a traditional community, you should expect to adapt and show respect for the environment and culture in which you will be living as well as act a role model for both locals and fellow team members.

As part of the GVI Leadership course, a lot of focus will be placed on developing your leadership and teamwork skillset. After returning to base from your various field work responsibilities, you will undergo extra training with your mentor. The Leadership course enables you to get more involved by equipping you with the skills to lead teams and supporting logistics.  At the end of the internship, you will have the necessary skills, field based experience and certifications to begin a rewarding career in the conservation field of your choice.

Project Details

With the population of the Asian elephant and their habitat declining, GVI has partnered up with local community members and mahouts (elephant keepers) to help conserve the population and promote sustainable eco-tourism.

The conservation focus of the internship will be built around reintroducing previously captive elephants into a protected forest with an overall goal of having semi-wild herds of elephants living in their natural habitat, supervised by their mahouts. With less than 1000 wild Asian elephants left in Thailand and around 3000 in captivity, our project is one of the very few viable alternatives to a future within tourist camps.

Please note, we operate serious projects and internship programs and as such we do not partake in riding elephants or having them demonstrate skills learnt from being trained.

In the community, by teaching English and promoting alternative income initiatives, you will be in the position to significantly improve the opportunities available to the local Karen community.

The GVI Leadership course focuses on developing your teamwork and leadership skills. The course will involve the participants watching presentations to learn theory or working on their assignments during the evenings or afternoons after having completed their field work. A mentor will be assigned to the intern and there will be weekly one-on-one meetings to provide feedback and weekly assessment on their progress. After successful completion of the internship and the final evaluation, a certificate and professional reference will be given to the qualifying participants.

How This Project Makes a Difference
Elephants can be very expensive to care for, and generally viewed as private property by locals used as a means of generating income, forced to make money through tourism because of a lack of viable alternatives.

However as an unregulated industry, elephant tourism can be an ugly business. Circus elephants, for example, are trained to perform stressful and unnatural “tricks” and are often pushed beyond their limits in order to draw larger crowds. Elephants require a very specific environment, socially, mentally and physically to be able to thrive. With a huge increase in the demand for tourist camps, elephants are deprived of the need of their self-medicating diet, highly migratory urges to move large distances, complex social interactions and brain stimulation. This can in turn lead to shocking health repercussions for the elephants.

On this project, while gaining valuable practical conservation experience, you will help provide an alternative future for these elephants that lets them exhibit natural social and foraging behaviour in a natural forest environment. The threats to the long term survival of the species are very real and circus camps do not represent a sustainable future.

Having a good understanding of English means the number and variety of opportunities available to the local community will be significantly increased. By teaching English on this project, you will not only be making a valuable and lasting contribution to the community, but upon completion of the programme, you will have gained sufficient experience to kick start your chosen field.
Phang Nga short, mid, and long-term objectives

All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualize their contribution to the UN SDGs.Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.


Learn about the long-term objectives you will be contributing to in Phang Nga: 


1. To provide equal, quality education to children of all backgrounds.

2. To Promote Good Health and Wellbeing through education to all children

3. .Increase skills for local people to assist with equal employment opportunities in our communities within Takuapa and Ban Nham Khem

4. Increase awareness of local populations to environmental issues and facilitate change towards sustainability through scientific studies.

5. Increase our in-country capacity by providing environmental and conservation education and training

6. To assist and develop local coastal conservation efforts through providing practical support to project partners, data collection, awareness raising and habitat restoration

What's It like?

If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.

We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.

Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.

Our Ethics

Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.


Our 10 Ethical Commitments

 

Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects

We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.


 

Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.


 

Impact Reporting

We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.


 

Working Against Dependency

We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.


 

Responsible Exit Strategies

For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.


 

Clear Roles & Specialized Training

We aim to ensure that ever participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.


 

Respect for all

In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.


 

Local Ownership

We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conduct, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.


 

Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.


 

Child and Vulnerable adult policies

We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.


Continual Development

As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.


However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.


What's Included

  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
  • All necessary project equipment and materials
  • All necessary project training by experienced staff
  • Certification and summary of training and experience received
  • Comprehensive training program that encompasses theory lectures, group study and field practice and a weekly review with your mentor
  • Confidential professional reference
  • Final evaluation
  • First Aid & CPR training
  • Leadership Training course
  • Living and working within an indigenous community
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • Teamwork and leadership experience
  • Transportation (as required for project work)
  • Weekly evaluation
  • Welcome meeting

What's Not Included

  • Additional drinks and gratuities
  • Extra local excursions
  • Flights
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Personal items and toiletries
  • Police or background check
  • Visa costs (where necessary)

Exploration

Internships with GVI not only allow you to participate on programmes assisting disadvantaged communities or endangered ecosystems, but it also offers wonderful opportunities to travel in the local area in your down time or further afield either before or after your programme. Many decide to travel after their internship, solidifying the lifetime friendships established on the programme.

Our long term field staff are a great source of advice and are here to help you make the most of your time abroad. Remember to ask about discounts on local activities and side trips through your association with GVI. Our Chiang Mai field teams have helped us put together the following information on trips and travel options in Thailand!

Chiang Mai is quiet rural Thai village, giving you a unique chance to learn about traditional Karen culture. Learn to cook Thai and Karen dishes with community members, and learn about everyday life in this traditional setting.

Included Side Trips
The location of this project is remote. Leaving Chiang Mai city you embark on a 5 hour journey into the mountains. On the way, we pass through Doi Inthanon national park (Thailand’s highest peak) and usually stop for a walk to one of the spectacular waterfalls.

The programme is field based which gives you the opportunity to explore the surrounding forests on the daily hikes with the elephants. Travel and side-trip opportunities from the village need special arrangements, but the prospects for immersing yourself in the local area and village culture are huge.

Optional Side Trips
While on the programme, there is ample time for you to plan side trips and organise transportation. These are not part of the programme and are best taken as a weekend trip or as an activity before or after joining the programme. We are always ready to assist, provide recommendations and up-to-date information. Locally, trips can be arranged to neighbouring villages and town like Mae Chaem and Mae Hong Son. These are great places to wind down, get a traditional Thai massage or explore temples.

Though we are well off the main tourist route, opportunities exist for you to go bamboo river rafting, rock climbing, visit Doi Inthanon National Park, relax at a local resort/spa, and for something completely different…learn how to make a machete, learning traditional techniques!

Further Travelling Opportunities
Thailand is a country with a massive range of fantastic places that you could visit. If you have the time and budget, you could consider going to see the following; the waterfalls of the picturesque Khao Yai National Park, the local tribes of Nam Province, the beaches of Ko Tao and Mu Ko Chang Marine National Park, the golden kingdom of Ayuthaya, the temples and nightlife of Bangkok, just to name a few! Chiang Mai city abounds with tour operators offering a huge array of amazing side trips in the local province, throughout Thailand and beyond into neighbouring countries.

The Team

Cormac Healy

Base Manager
Meet Cormac, our lovely Base Manager in Jalova, Costa Rica. This Scotsman is a rather eccentric guy and his fantastic sense of humour is one of his most appreciated characteristics. He achieved a Master's degree in History and Politics, and quite evidently can keep his own in any conversation on any topic.

His love for travelling started in his younger years already and since then he has explored New Zealand, Canada, the states, and South Africa! What is his one travel must-have? "A towel of course (for further information please read a Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy)."

Mac first joined our office team as a GVI Country Expert for Thailand and Costa Rica and he particularly enjoys getting the chance to meet people who are really passionate about volunteering. He thinks of himself as Carl Frederickson from the movie Up. "Just a bloke who enjoys sitting in a comfy chair; I think we can all relate to that." Mac, we absolutely agree!

Holly Jones

community co-ordinator
Meet Holly, our charismatic community co-ordinator. She has spent  6 months internin in North Thailand on an elephant project in the village of Huay Pakoot. She focused on the community and elephants, creating a curriculum for the school educating them about Asian elephants. She has degrees in primary education and wildlife and conservation.

Her favourite part about working for GVI is doing a job that she enjoys and is passionate about. To live in a "magically breath taking place, surrounded by a team of staff and volunteers all with same mentality to make a difference".

Phoebe van Doorn

Field Staff
Meet Phoebe, our brilliant field staff member in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She has spent many years working in Australia as a bushwalking tour guide, as a teacher’s aide with disable children and working her way up the hospitality ladder to assistant manager and supervisor positions. She has spent time traveling through South East Asia, parts of Central America and North America.

She has also volunteered at animal rescue shelters in Australia and spent 6 months as an intern (volunteering) with GVI with the Chiang Mai hub. She loved it so much that she decided to stay on as staff.

What attracted her most to GVI was the opportunity to live and work in a remote, culture rich community and of course the chance to work alongside elephants.

Danielle Riley

Elephant Field Staff
Meet Danielle, our fun loving Elephant Field Staff member in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She had never really travelled much until interning with GVI Chiang Mai (apart from a Kenyan Safari which encouraged her love and passion for elephants.). She joined GVI  as an intern, and loved the project so much that she couldn't leave.

For her, the travel must-have is a positive outlook; "Every day may not be what you first expect, but only you have the ability to turn it around and make your experience memorable".

Her favourite thing about working for GVI is that her job is so unique and every day is different. Having the opportunity to partake in numerous traditional ceremonies and celebrations has given her so many unforgettable memories.

Molly Plexico

Country Director
Meet Molly, our hard working country director for both Thailand and Laos. Over seeing operations in two countries is no easy task but Molly is more than capable.

She started volunteering and travelling at a young age, working  in soup kitchens, with AmeriCorps, at animal shelters, as a Big Sister with Big Brother Big Sisters of America and as a Guardian ad Litem. She studied family development and psychology and loves to dance.

Her goal is to visit one country for every year she is alive. The most unusual place she has travelled to is Uzbekistan, on a trip beginning in Europe and ending in Southeast Asia. This is where she fell in love with Laos which began her journey with GVI. She started working for GVI back in 2012 and she is now based in Thailand. GVI has hubs all around the world and she has been lucky enough to visit the hubs in Nepal, Thailand, Laos and the office in South Africa.

Shayle Havemann

Director of Programs
Meet Shayle, our innovative and driven director for all our projects around the world. She has two honours degrees, one in Industrial and Organisational Psycology, and another in Developmental and Education Psycology. Shayle also has over 10 years experience in setting up, managing and evaluating environmental and community programs across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.

She is well-practiced in facilitating meaningful and effective intercultural engagement and this makes her the perfect person for overseeing our operations in the multicultural country of South Africa.

When not attending meetings or planning her next endeavour, Shayle can be found spending time with her family or taking part in some or other exciting outdoors activity!

Jill Walker

Assistant Director of Programs
Meet Jill, our Assistant Director of Programs and line manager for Thailand, Laos, India, Nepal, Australia and Kenya programs. ‘Manow’ (lime), as she’s locally known in Thailand where she's based, taught English, environmental education and art in the USA and Thailand before joining us to set up a TEFL and Community Development Expedition. “I haven’t looked back since!”


When Jill isn’t working, she likes reading or doing just about anything energetic. “I devour books, love cooking and enjoy finding some time to get some exercise – yoga, dancing and aerobics are some of my faves.”


What does Jill like most about her job? “It’s great to see volunteers rising above the cultural and language barriers between themselves and the communities. That, and every day is completely different, which is the way I like it- it keeps me from getting bored.” Being ‘allergic’ to being bored has led to Manow doing some pretty amazing things. “I once ended up spending a week living in a cave with some Buddhist monks while I helped them build a small adobe monk hut.”

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Publications

The best decisions in international development and conservation cannot be made without accurate and up-to-date data or informed research. Our many field teams around the world collaborate with local and international partners to analyse data and draw conclusions. In addition, many of our participants have used research they have collected on their various GVI projects to complete their Masters, Doctorate, or postdoctoral studies. We also run a fellowship program which connects postdoctoral researchers at globally-respected universities with our many sustainable development programs around the world to support their research and ensure continuous improvement of our best practices on base.


Parent Info

‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Herritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.

We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.

Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’

Parent Info Pack

Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:

Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office.
Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy.
Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page.
Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.

live base updates

Follow GVI Chiang-Mai's Facebook page for live updates straight from the field. Get an idea of the types of projects you might be involved in, meet our staff and participants, experience life on this GVI base, hear about free time activities, and learn about the local culture and environment.
 
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