Natural Resources student volunteers at elephant sanctuary

Carly Weisner spent part of the summer caring for elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Natural Resources student volunteers at elephant sanctuary

Carly says her experience in Thailand has given her a greater appreciation for Canada’s efforts to protect its habitats and animals.

"Elephants have best friends and boyfriends. They have nannies and aunties. They get happy, mad, sad and jealous. They’re just amazing, intelligent animals." ~ Carly Weisner

Fast Fact

The Elephant Nature Park has a variety of other programs, such as sponsorships for the elephants and 500 dogs rescued from the Bangkok floods, as well as forest restoration and community outreach in Cambodia.

Carly and one of the elephants she helped look after.

Carly Weisner loves elephants. She’s spent years watching and reading everything she could about the world’s largest land mammal. But seeing one in person? “It was always just this impossible thing,” she says.

Then this Natural Resources Environmental Technology student discovered she could do her work term anywhere in the world. The decision came easy – she volunteered for two weeks at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

“I’d heard about it from a friend who knew someone who had been there. Once I found out what they were doing for these beautiful animals, I became extremely determined to get there.”

Working at an elephant sanctuary

A natural sanctuary for rescued elephants that have been treated poorly in various jobs, the 1,977 acre park offers them  a sense of freedom they may never have experienced before, all under the caring eye of trainers, known as mahouts. Carly says that she wasn’t so much working with the 39 elephants as she was working for them, making sure  they were well fed and looked after.

“I was cutting corn stalks and banana trees and loading the truck, cleaning up elephant poop from their nighttime shelters, planting corn and grass, and prepping elephant food in their very own kitchen. It was a messy job, but it was a dream come true for me.”

Leif Helmer, an instructor with the Natural Resources Environmental Technology Faculty, says Carly is one of the first students in this program to combine her studies with international travel. “She’s a real self-starter and she really stepped up to the challenges she faced along the way, from the recent coup in Thailand to working with volunteers from around the world at the park. It’s an incredible experience she can take with her into her career.”

Applying her nautural resources knowledge

Carly says her NSCC training came in handy on several occasions, particularly her knowledge of conserving wildlife and natural resources. She’s not only gained skills that will help her find employment in conservation enforcement; she’s gained a greater appreciation for Canada’s efforts to protect its habitats and animals.   

“Seeing organizations in Thailand conserve the rainforest and the wildlife without any real animal rights policies, I’m more grateful for our natural resources department, and the non-profits that ensure we comfortably coexist with our wildlife. I think this experience will help me be a better conservationist in the long run.”

But the biggest thing Carly took from her time at the park is the need for greater outreach and education about protecting these majestic animals. “There are so many things about the tourism industry and animals here that people aren’t aware of. I’d like to see publishers and trip planners promote the camps and attractions that are trying to do more good than harm.”

01/10/14

"Elephants have best friends and boyfriends. They have nannies and aunties. They get happy, mad, sad and jealous. They’re just amazing, intelligent animals." ~ Carly Weisner

Fast Fact

The Elephant Nature Park has a variety of other programs, such as sponsorships for the elephants and 500 dogs rescued from the Bangkok floods, as well as forest restoration and community outreach in Cambodia.

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