2016 Study Abroad trip

'Exploring Elephants World'

Join us in Thailand! Register for the Thailand colloquium for summer 2016 and spend 3 ½ weeks in Southeast Asia with Dean Ransom and some of your Honors peers. We will also connect with some members of the Myanmar community in Akron to learn about their culture and adjustment to life in the US.

About the trip

The goal of this adventure to Thailand is to experience and appreciate the Thai culture, and of course, to enjoy a once in a lifetime opportunity to care for and interact with elephants in an extremely intimate way. By traveling to the Kanchanburi area, we will explore the more hidden aspects of Thai life and see the natural beauty of the country. An excursion to Myanmar is also planned to fully utilize the visit to such an amazing part of the world! Dean Ransom, traveling with the group, lived in Thailand for several years and knows the area quite well.

In the early 1900s, an estimated 100,000 elephants lived in Thailand.   Today, it is estimated that approximately 3,000 domestic and 2,000 wild elephants live in kingdom. Traditionally, most of the elephants associated with humans worked in the logging industry, but as a result of deforestation and devastating floods, the logging has been banned. Most elephants now work in “trekking camps,” circuses, and wandering the streets. All of these activities are dangerous for the elephants, as they often lack adequate amounts of food and poor nutrition. Such stressors lead to exhaustion which affects them physically and mentally, as it has been proven that elephants display signs of grief, joy and anger.

ElephantsWorld is a non-profit organization founded in 2008 by Dr. Samart Prasithpol. It is designed to act as a sanctuary for old, sick, and injured elephants from their work in the logging industry and trekking camps or circuses. Twelve female elephants, two male elephants, and one young male elephant born in 2008, roam the premises. Visitors come to ElephantsWorld on a daily basis to observe and interact with the magnificent creatures, and volunteers are constantly present, helping to keep the sanctuary running smoothly. Each elephant has an individual mahout (an elephant caretaker) who remains with his elephant at all times to watch and care for it.

The connection with the elephant’s mahout is just as important as the connection with the elephant. Once assigned to an elephant we will be assigned to a specific mahout. In the program, we will help the mahout take care of one specific elephant for the entire trip. This involves feeding, bathing, and observing the elephant and its behavior; ensuring that he or she is healthy and happy. Through participation in the mahout program we will gain close connections with one elephant from the sanctuary and will learn the elephant commands used by the mahouts. This program will allow us to gain a completely different perspective of life by experiencing not only the Thai culture but also the general life of the mahout.

As a travel abroad trip the costs are quite realistic. The entire trip is estimated to cost approximately $3,000, which includes hotel costs, airfare and transportation around the region. Looking into other trips to Thailand and similar opportunities resulted in fees of close to $5,000. Please consider this opportunity. It is not everyday one gets the chance to travel abroad and work with some of the most wondrous creatures of the world!