Jakrapob Thaotad (Jake)
Jake is our managing director and co-owner. He established Phang Nga Elephant Park in January 2015 with his cousin Lek. Having studied clinical microbiology in London, Jake applies his expert knowledge by undertaking regular routine health checks, and the office can be quickly turned into a veterinary laboratory. Jake’s family has owned elephants for generations and he cares deeply about their health and improving welfare. Jake is the founder and a trustee of the Southern Thailand Elephant Foundation (STEF), which works to promote the health and welfare of domesticated elephants and to provide an education forum to inform about health and welfare and to reinforce the place of the elephant in Thai culture. While delighted to welcome all visitors to the Park, Jake is particularly keen to involve children, especially those who may be disadvantaged, and to introduce them to the joys of the magnificent Asian elephant.
Jake speaks fluent English, so if you would like to know anything more about our work, do please get in touch by email or phone. If you are interested in our Volunteer program, please first scroll down and read more about it below:
Phone: +66 8 5351 5536
Sittisak Songkaw (Lek)
Lek is our head mahout (elephant handler) and co-owner of the Park. His father and grandfather before him were mahouts and he has devoted his life to elephants since he was six years old, and was mentored by his father. When Lek was 12 years old, he became a designated mahout and was assigned the family’s elephant, Choosri, taking over her care from his father. Lek and Choosri’s relationship has lasted over 30 years, and although he has now passed on the responsibility of being her mahout to Wun, he is still close to her and helps Wun to understand her needs. You can read about Choosri and Wun here. And we have a lovely video clip showing the life of a mahout at Phang Nga Elephant Park here.
Throughout Southern Thailand, Lek is a well-respected mahout and dedicates himself to the success of the Park. Lek is committed to creating the best possible environment for our elephants and promoting ethical animal-human interactions. You can watch a short documentary about Phang Nga Elephant Park including an interview with Lek if you click here
Prakairat Songkaw (Ness)
Ness is the Park’s coordinator and accountant. She is married to Lek and lives with him and their children in the Park. In the past, Ness was a hotel front office manager and so is very familiar with dealing with customers and their needs. Having been married to a mahout for over 20 years, caring for elephants has been a major part of her daily life.
The Volunteer Program
Volunteers are an essential part of Phang Nga Elephant Park. We usually employ up to four at any one time and most are gap-year students or recent graduates looking for an exciting challenge and wanting to try out living in the jungles of Southern Thailand. The appointment is usually for three months and we select up to a year in advance. Applicants must be self-reliant, confident with people, able to multitask, and share our complete love for elephants.
Please look at the documentaries in the Gallery/Videos tab. The one titled What do we mean by ethical elephant tourism? gives a good summary of our ethos and includes an interview with one of our Volunteers. The other videos will show you more about life at the Park and the work. You will need to familiarise yourself with information about the Asian elephant so please read through the information given in our Education pages.
There is a selection process and we interview all short-listed applicants. We are looking for individuals who are committed to elephant welfare, enjoy customer service and who are prepared to work hard. In exchange, we can promise a very rewarding stay, a life-enhancing experience with elephants, and authentic Thai food – a gastronomic delight.
We pay for flights, accommodation (in your own mahout hut) and meals. There is electricity, WiFi and excellent shower facilities. About 30 people live on site, including Jake and Lek and their families.
Interested individuals should contact Jake in the first instance and tell him why they would like to be a Volunteer, enclosing a CV and photo. You should write to him at email@example.com
Below you can meet our wonderful family of Volunteers since 2015 – current ones first….
A very warm welcome to Natalie! She is 20 years old and comes from from West Yorkshire, in the United Kingdom. Natalie is studying Zoology at University and thought some time volunteering at Phang Nga Elephant Park would gain her hands-on experience and knowledge of the beautiful but endangered Asian elephant. Actually, although a passionate animal lover, Natalie had never seen an elephant before coming here, so this was a completely new environment. But, not surprisingly she has fallen totally in love with all the elephants at the Park. Natalie is a hard-working, happy, friendly person and has been working with animals at local animal shelters since she was 16. She also likes sports and has been swimming since she was age 8 competing in competitions which she thoroughly enjoyed and she played netball throughout her time at school. We are delighted to have you with us, Natalie!! :)
This is Charlotte; she is 27 from Dorset in the United Kingdom. Charlotte visited the Park back in 2017 and fell in love with Choosri. She said her day at the Park was truly amazing and soon she decided she wanted a career in conservation and decided to do a degree in environmental science. Charlotte is aiming for a career in wildlife conservation and thought volunteering at Phang Nga Elephant Park would be a fantastic opportunity to broaden her knowledge and get some hands on experience of the things she is passionate about. Charlotte has always had an interest in animals as she grew up on a farm with horses, farm animals, cats, dogs and many retiles and amphibians. Charlotte is really hard working, loyal and fun. At home, when she is not studying or working you’ll find her either travelling, hiking along the Jurassic coast in Dorset or spending time with her partner and cat Bertie (who is her world!).
Elaine first became interested in Phang Nga Elephant Park after hearing stories and seeing pictures from members of her family, who had visited us previously. Elaine comes from South Africa and is passionate and knowledgeable about the wild animals that roam her country, including African Elephants. She decided that spending some time in Thailand would be the perfect opportunity to learn more about the endangered Asian elephant. Having taught in South Korea for a couple of years, she thought our Volunteer Programme was the ideal way to do fulfil her ambition. She has settled very well and hopes to use her time here to supplement her knowledge and help her reach her goal of becoming a conservationist in Africa. Welcome Elaine, we are very happy to have you here!
Anna first came to our park as a guest back in 2018 and fell in love with her elephant Duong Jai. No stranger to animals, Anna worked on her family farm growing up and cared for many animals which included horses, pigs, cows, sheep, chickens and rabbits. When Anna is not caring for animals, she is learning new skills that will help her later in life such as EMT, Firefighting and Scuba diving. Anna is from Georgia and has a fun can-do attitude when it comes to working with animals and loves the dirty jobs that sometimes can be a part of caring for elephants. At 22 years old, Anna packed up her bags and left her hometown to travel the world for as long as she can, starting with volunteering with us at PNEP for 6 months! Welcome Anna, we are happy to have you.
Julia has an amazing job in her home town of Winnipeg in Canada where she is an Animal Care Specialist at Assiniboine Park Conservancy, a charitable organisation that allows visitors to reconnect with nature and each other – it is said to be Winnipeg’s premier outdoor attraction. In the seven years Julia has been working there she has had responsibility for the physical and mental health of over 19 species and has a special interest in positive reinforcement training and the creation of environmental enrichment programmes, in which she has developed remarkable skills. In 2014, Julia came to Thailand and worked with elephants and local people to educate and to bring awareness of elephant exploitation and to demonstrate the vital necessity for ethical elephant tourism. She loves engaging with visitors and inspiring everyone to care more about wildlife and conservation. She says that after her time in Thailand her heart remained in our beautiful country and with our magnificent elephants and she is so keen now to share her passion, knowledge and work ethic with us at Phang Nga Elephant Park. Julia – we are thrilled to have you with us.
This is Finn’s second time working as a Volunteer at Phang Nga Elephant Park. He was last with us in 2018 and was so popular with our visitors we were delighted when he asked if he could come back for another tour. Finn is from the US and is now 27. He has had a fascinating career (as you can read if you scroll down and read his previous entry!). He is very much a communicator and loves telling our guests all about the Asian elephant and its importance in Thai culture. He is passionate about the work of our sister charity, Southern Thailand Elephant Foundation, and never misses an opportunity to tell visitors about the new elephant veterinary centre that is there to provide free health care for hundreds of elephants in the region. Finn is also a registered Wedding Officiant and when he was last with us he presided over a number of wedding ceremonies that the Park arranged – so if you want to pop the question in the next six months come to Phang Nga Elephant Park! Finn – it is really great to have you back (despite the flute). A very warm welcome to you.
Alex first visited Phang Nga Elephant Park in 2018 and says that the moment she saw the elephants she felt instant joy and passion. She got on really with the Volunteers and found they were all very like-minded and soon they became friends and kept in touch through social media. She applied to come back as a Volunteer in 2020 – and here she is! It is great to have you back with us, Alex. Coming from Melbourne, Australia, Alex has recently been working for a home insurance company where she was managing claims and with a lot of responsibility for customer support, but she felt the time was right for a new experience in life. Alex has a real interest in wildlife and zoology and wants to redirect her life after her stay with us to move more into that rewarding world. She loves people and really enjoys learning and sharing knowledge about the magnificent Asian elephant with our guests. Her favourite elephant is Ja Na who, like Alex, has a very sweet temperament. Among her many skills, Alex enjoys baking, singing – and talking! We know she will fit in well. Welcome Alex!
Jess comes from the lovely historic village of Trunch in Norfolk and works for a nearby General Medical Practice as a Healthcare Assistant. She has an amazing range of skills including phlebotomy (taking blood in case you didn’t know), wound care, health promotions, giving injections (ouch!), assisting with minor procedures and ear irrigation (might need a big irrigator for an elephant). She did her Foundation Degree in Health Studies in Norwich where her key modules included anatomy and physiology, the science of disease, health and nutrition, as well as law and ethics. Jess is 21 and enjoys horse riding, running and dogs – she tried a 3-mile run the day after she arrived at the Park and realised it can be a bit challenging in the heat and humidity of the jungle! Jess loves customer service and we know she will settle well at Phang Nga Elephant Park and will be a hit with our visitors. She has a passion for the beautiful Asian elephant and says she is determined to learn more about them during her time here and wants to help to share this knowledge with others. One day, Jess plans to find a job with animals – and we are confident her time with us will ensure elephants will play an important role in her future life! Welcome Jess. Lovely to have you with us.
Amie had an amazing job working as an animal keeper at Woburn Safari Park in UK, where she worked for eight years mainly with rhinos, giraffes and elephants but also with sea lions and meerkats. She started at Woburn as an Education Enrichment Assistant, working with international groups of children who who were spending a week at the Park. Amie loves animals and children so we think she will be a great fit at Phang Nga Elephant Park. She is one of those people who has a passion for travel and outdoor sports – and climbs mountains in her spare time (already she has reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Everest Base Camp). In 2017 she came for a stay at PNEP and wanted to come right back! So she applied to be a Volunteer. Amie is 28 and comes from Hertfordshire. She has always wanted to be with animals and started volunteering for work on farms when she was 16. After school she secured diplomas in animal management and animal care and also studied zoo and aquarium management. Not surprisingly, Amie plans to travel after leaving us and she is considering training to be a paramedic in the future. Welcome back Amie!
Kelsey has always been interested in animals and wildlife, and elephants in particular are one of her favourites. Although she would have loved to be a vet, she sadly realised that academic scientific studies were not for her, and she has just completed her MA in Contemporary Literature and Film at the University of Keele. Kelsey is 23 and she first learned about Phang Nga Elephant Park after her sister and brother-in-law visited us in 2016 and told her about the amazing experience they had interacting with they described as ‘our intelligent and magnificent elephants’. We agree! She immediately applied to be a Volunteer, hoping that the experience would bring together her dream of working with animals and teaching others about the correct treatment of wildlife. Kelsey, who comes from Hockley in Essex, was on our Reserve List in 2017 but persevered and reapplied in 2018 – and here she is! We are so pleased to welcome her – and her considerable social media skills. She has plans to blog about her time with us and we are looking forward to reading it. Have a great stay, Kelsey, and thanks for your wonderful support!
Emily is 19 and comes from the market town of Rayleigh in Essex. She is currently studying Animal Management at Writtle College reflecting her keen interest in animal welfare and conservation. During her studies, she undertook a 3-month placement at Colchester Zoo working with elephants, and she has also done work experience with a veterinary practice. In 2016, Emily completed the National Citizen Service Diploma, a voluntary programme for young adults to experience different activities, try new things, work as a team and learn new life-skills. This led the following year to her participation in a trekking expedition to Barpak in Nepal after raising funds to provide the welfare supplies to help rebuild the town that had been devastated by the 2015 earthquake. She has also raised funds for Guide Dogs and for YMCA. Emily has lots of outside interests including photography, caring for animals and outdoor activities. We think she is very well suited to three months at Phang Nga Elephant Park. Emily – it is lovely to have you join us. Welcome.
Savvy comes all the way from San Diego, California, and is majoring in Environmental Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She visited the Park with her parents in 2018 where she met Volunteer Sarah and became friends with Bai-Ngern and her kwan-chaang Dong. She wrote that her day spent with Bai-Ngern was an absolute dream and it was even more amazing to be able to feed her, bath her and learn her back-history. She found the experience so eye-opening she was determined to apply to be a Volunteer, so, following a fun Skype interview here she is back with us again! Animal care and nature conservation are a big part of Savvy’s life – when she was 15, she took part in a volunteer program in the British Virgin Islands, living on a small sail boat for three weeks helping with a coral reef restoration project and monitoring and tagging Hawksbill turtles. She has also done volunteering work in the community and counselling on stress management, as well as working with an animal shelter helping dogs get trained and adopted. Savvy, who is 19, says she is passionate and committed to giving back to the community and we welcome her most warmly to our community at Phang Nga Elephant Park.
Michael is 29 and comes from Manchester. He has actually been an elephant keeper in UK and was lucky enough to work with Asian elephants at Blackpool and Twycross Zoos as well as at Woburn Safari Park where there were five Asian elephants. Most recently he has been working at Odsherred Rescue Zoo in Denmark helping with the design of new enclosures and introducing training techniques for the Bactrian camel, Eurasian lynx and Asian short-clawed otters. He loves talking to the public about animals and we think our visitors will enjoy learning about his experiences and his love of elephants. Last year, he came to Phang Nga Elephant Park as a visitor and was so impressed by everything he saw here that he was determined to come back for a longer stay, so he wrote immediately to apply to be a Volunteer. We think he also rather fell in love with Thailand! His biggest problem has been leaving his two dogs at home in UK but we understand they Skype regularly. Welcome Michael – it’s great to have you with us.
Luke visited Phang Nga Elephant Park in early 2018 and fell in love with both the beautiful elephants and the fantastic work he found that we are doing here. He says that the day he spent with our matriarch, Choosri, was truly memorable and something he will never forget. When he left after his visit, and having seen how the elephants were all so happy and contented, he resolved to apply to come back as a Volunteer. And now he is here. Luke is a chartered accountant and has had wide experience of corporate finance and insolvency practice including many years working with PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the largest professional services firms in the world. He completed a 2-year secondment in Germany, working on project management, after which he decided to spend some time travelling and we are delighted he has chosen to come to us for three months. Luke lives in London and gives much of his spare time to charitable work. He is an active volunteer for Opening Doors London and is a trained mentor for the anti-bullying charity Diversity Role Models. Luke says that he really likes being part of a team that is striving to make a real difference to people’s lives. We are sure he will enhance everyone’s lives at Phang Nga Elephant Park. A very warm welcome to Luke.
Will has just got a place at Bristol University to read anatomy and will start later this year. He says he is passionate about animals and their welfare and spent most of his school holidays working with animals – at a dairy farm, lambing, cleaning kennels and catteries and even helping out on a chicken farm. His real interest though is exotic animals, particularly elephants and tigers, although he would like to do an intercalated degree in genetics to help understand how we can eradicate hereditary diseases in animals. In the elephant, he is keen to learn more about why elephants rarely get cancer – we wrote a post on this fascinating subject and you can read about it here. It was nice to hear how Will found out about Phang Nga Elephant Park through a Thai friend of Jake’s who lives in London and told him she reckoned PNEP was the perfect place for Will to broaden his experience and learn about good welfare and animal health. Will comes from Felsted in Essex and says he is always keen to learn new skills. At school he had a lot of interests ranging from rugby and athletics to piano and woodwork. He has a general love of practical activities so we will certainly try to put that to the test! Will – it is a delight to have you with us. A very warm welcome.
Bea graduated in 2018 with a BSc in Animal Behaviour from Liverpool John Moores University. During the degree course her studies included animal welfare, behavioural ecology and contemporary issues in conservation. You can see why we selected her! She has also spent time at Melaka Zoo in Malaysia working with primates and particularly orang-utang (she even got to visit Borneo to observe wild orang-utang in their natural habitat). Bea has worked as a Research Assistant at the Samara Game Reserve in South Africa, and says that her passion for elephant conservation followed on from a visit with her father to Kenya’s Maasai Mara when she was 10-years old. She feels very strongly about the need to raise public awareness and boost conservation of the elephant. Like us, Bea sees that there is a lot of false and preconceived information about the Asian elephant and stresses the importance of education about ethical elephant tourism leading to better welfare and conservation. We have also discovered that Bea is a very experienced bartender – and is actually a graduate of the European Bar Tending School in Phuket! Bea – it is so lovely to have you with us.
Taylor is 22 and comes from Tyne-and-Wear in the North-East of England. He is studying at Newcastle University and has taken a few months out to come and work as a Volunteer at Phang Nga Elephant Park. Taylor has always loved animals having looked after his own horse, three dogs, and as a child working on the family farm so he understands the challenges of animal husbandry and good welfare management. At Uni Taylor has kept up his enthusiasm working with horses as part of the University Polo Club – he says the Club is very relaxed and wants to shake off the stuffy image that Polo is for the elite. Taylor has also spent time tutoring English to 10-16 year old children at Cleadon Park Library in South Shields. His hobbies are clay pigeon shooting and he loves skiing – but not too much opportunity here. Taylor visited the Park in 2016 and he sent us a picture to prove it! He arrived back on New Year’s Day 2019 and we welcome him warmly to the team and hope he has a very rewarding and happy time with us.
Amy is our latest Volunteer; she is 19 and comes from Kent, where she plays a lot of sport including football (midfielder), hockey and rugby. Watch out mahouts! She has completed her higher education studying media, geography and psychology. She is now taking a year out to work with animals and we were delighted she applied to join our team! Amy brings an array of talents to the Park – she is a scout leader and has won a Chief Scout Gold Award as well as completing the tough Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award. Amy clearly loves animals and in 2017 she travelled with Venture Force to Sumatra, Indonesia, for a month. Here she paired up with an orangutan conservation group and an elephant conservation project. This was a fantastic opportunity to undertake research and fieldwork but also to work with the local community promoting animal welfare and conservation with an emphasis on the importance of education (a corner-stone of our policy at Phang Nga Elephant Park). Just before joining us, Amy spent three amazing months in the US, working for Camp America, which she describes as hard work and challenging but very rewarding. We hope she will find her time with us equally as rewarding. A warm welcome Amy!
Holly completed her degree in Natural Sciences at the University of Birmingham in 2017, majoring in Biology and Psychology. She has always had a deep interest in animal behaviour, especially in group-living species, and how complex behaviours develop in these animals with cognitive abilities. As a student, Holly worked as a volunteer at a monkey sanctuary in UK and found it very rewarding designing environmental enrichment for the animals, although her sadness at the primate pet trade made her resolve to ensure animals are properly cared for in accordance with their needs. She has also worked for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds at the Loch Lomond Reserve in Scotland surveying bird-life and plant-life and monitoring activity. Holly is 23 and says she wants to apply her degree to the real world. She shares our determination that the Asian elephant must be protected and their habitat conserved. Holly recognises the importance of education and making the public feel connected with animals, and really enjoys explaining science to non-scientists. As a creative person, Holly loves arts and crafts, as well as cooking and swimming. We think she will find lots to keep her occupied and fulfilled at Phang Nga Elephant Park. A very warm welcome Holly!
Jess is 21 and has just completed her BSc in Biology at the University of Sheffield. She has joined Phang Nga Elephant Park for six months as an Admin Volunteer so as well as looking after our guests Jess will also help Jake with the administration that is so important in running the Park. Jess lives in Burton-upon-Trent in Staffordshire and has always been surrounded by animals, owning three dogs, a hamster, goldfish, stick insects, as well as working with horses and cattle, and looking after friends’ chickens, and even African land snails. We can promise a few other interesting animals in the jungle, and we know she will love our elephants. In 2017, Jess visited Thailand where she first experienced the wonders of the magnificent Asian elephant. She is strongly interested in ecology and conservation and says she is thrilled to be with us. She has lots of hobbies, including drawing, netball, playing the guitar and swimming, and she recently completed her PADI open water diving course – on her days off she may well be found snorkeling and diving in Phang Nga Bay as some of our nearby islands are world famous for diving experiences. Welcome Jess. We are delighted to have you with us.
Brennan likes to be known as Finn. He came to us on 1 July 2018 after travelling around Asia for several months. Coming from the, United States, Finn is 25 and has had a very varied life since he graduated in Marketing Communications. He worked in the service and construction industry for six years, including as a railroad explosives technician, a Cellphone Tower Operations and Maintenance Technician, and even had a TV role for a while with Monsters Inc. Finn says he enjoys dealing with people and has tried to develop this skill as a PADI Divemaster, a Zip-line tour guide, and as an Outdoor Adventures Student Leader. He was also a tour guide for Falcon Outdoor Adventures at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and also for Alaska Excursions, where the climate may have been a bit different from Southern Thailand. He is clearly an adaptable guy and he says his main wish is to ensure guests and visitors have the most fulfilling experience. Welcome Finn.
Simone joined us in June 2018. She is 22 and lives in Hampshire, UK. She applied to be a Volunteer in 2017 when she had just returned from a month working in Thailand teaching English and wrote to say how much she had enjoyed working in local communities and learning about the Thai culture. She also spent time at an elephant centre in Surin in the north-east of Thailand. Simone passed her TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course so we are hoping for great things with our Mahouts’ standard of English! After school, Simone went to a military preparation college to do a BTEC diploma in Sports and Uniformed Public Services, which she says helped her fitness massively and she now goes to the gym several times a week. No problem then walking up the hills in our jungle retreat….Simone says she really loved her last visit to Thailand and found it life-changing. How will she describe her three months at Phang Nga Elephant Park? Only time will tell. A very warm welcome Simone!
Lainy has worked in the zoological sector for 12 years and was most recently employed in Leicestershire, UK, as a senior keeper at Twycross Zoo – an award-winning conservation charity specialising in Great Apes housing important breeding groups of many endangered primate species. Lainy has had a varied career since she got her university degree in Zoology and Wildlife conservation, and has worked with Singapore Zoo, Taronga Zoo in Sydney, and Paignton Zoo in Devon. She was a Volunteer for several months at the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka, aiding in the husbandry and healthcare of the elephants. Lainy has a real interest in conservation and education and we think she will be an ideal member of our team. We hope to learn from her and we think she will be a great asset to us at Phang Nga Elephant Park. We may not have any chimps or gorillas but we know Lainy will love our elephants! Welcome Lainy.
Ollie comes from Thame in Oxfordshire, England. He is 19, grew up in Singapore and has always had a love of South-east Asia. Ollie says that since he studied geography at school, he has been aware of the struggle for sustainability and the problems of habitat destruction. He fears for the future of endangered species, including the Asian elephant, and really believes in the work of ethical centres such as Phang Nga Elephant Park with an emphasis of animal welfare and a recognition of the need to restore respect for cultural values. He says he picked up on the Volunteer’s comment in the recent documentary about the Park’s mission that working here gives you something you will never get elsewhere. Ollie has just spent part of his gap year in Australia and will be with us until mid-June 2018, when he has to start thinking seriously about the next stage of his career – reading History at Durham University. His hobbies include swimming – which will be hugely popular with the elephants at the Park who never miss the chance of a dip in our pool and river with our visitors and Volunteers.
Sina is 25 and comes from Germany. In 2014, she completed a 3-month internship with a tour company in Khao Lak, a lovely strip of coastal resorts in Phang Nga Province on the Andaman Sea and only an hour or so from our Park. Whilst there, she fell in love with the Thai culture, the country and the elephants. When she wrote to apply to join us as a Volunteer, she said it would be a dream come true to work with elephants and to be able to interact with our visitors to tell them all about these magnificent animals. Sina did a course in International Tourist Management and is a passionate supporter of our ethos to educate and to ensure the elephants are happy and well cared for. She has good administrative experience too, so is helping Jake with customer care and office work. With her fluency in English, German and French, Sina is a wonderful addition to the team. We are very happy to have you with us Sina!
Sarah comes from the State of Kentucky, where she has been working in the famous Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden – the second-oldest zoo in the United States. She completed her Masters in Zoology in Cincinnati as part of the Project Dragonfly program with the University of Miami, Ohio. She has had a lot of experience with animals in many centres and zoos, working as volunteer, guide, assistant curator and most recently as an educator, where she had some fascinating duties including teaching, interpreting animals and inspiring respect for conservation and nature. These are all ideals that we aspire to at Phang Nga Elephant Park and it is great to have Sarah as part of the team. Sarah’s first degree was in Theater and Ethology with a minor in film and philosophy, so we reckon all of her training will come in useful during her time with us! Great to have you here Sarah. A very warm welcome.
Duane is a care assistant in UK, but has a passion for animal welfare. In 2015 and again in 2016, he volunteered at an elephant foundation in Sri Lanka where they work towards improving the welfare of captive elephants. He took care of a beautiful 10-foot male tusker owned by the famous Buddhist Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy. He says he really enjoys meeting and talking to visitors about the Asian elephant and loves watching and interacting with these magnificent animals. Duane shares our belief that it is so important that our visitors understand the facts about the Asian elephant and its importance in the cultures of south-east Asia. Duane’s dream is to work on the front line of elephant conservation alongside an anti-poaching unit and play his part in protecting these beautiful creatures from extinction. In his spare time, Duane loves sport, and has raised money for elephants by twice climbing Adams Peak, a 7000 foot mountain in central Sri Lanka. Welcome Duane. It’s great to have you with us.
Shairah graduated in media production at Royal Holloway University in 2010 and moved to New York to complete an internship. She has good experience in media production and is actively working to improve our exposure on YouTube and other social media. She was involved with making a film for the international boy band group McFly so we are intrigued to see what she does for our mahouts! Shairah lives in London and for the last couple of years has been First and Business Class Lounge Agent for Etihad. She has even worked as a concierge for Harrods. She speaks German which is very useful for our many German visitors. She first visited the Park as a tourist in 2016 and immediately applied to be a Volunteer. She says that being part of the team is incredible beyond what she can articulate in words! We are thrilled to have you with us, Shairah.
Cameron is passionate about animals and always has been. He is 24 and originally came from South Africa although now lives in Huddersfield in the North of England. He still spends time in South Africa though and has worked with big cats and reptiles but this is his first time up close with elephants. He spent five years studying animal and wildlife management and got his BSc degree from Teesside University. Before coming to Phang Nga Elephant Park, Cameron had a number of jobs working in zoological collections, for a tropical fish company, as an animal handler and even making pizzas. We are sure some of these talents will be valued at the Park! Cameron says he is a quick learner who enjoys hard work and learning new skills. We can promise him those, but also what we hope will be a life changing experience working with the magnificent Asian elephant. Welcome Cameron.
Santa comes from Lithuania and is a Volunteer of a rather different sort as she has joined us to help in the office with the administration and management side. She had already visited Phang Nga Elephant Park as a tourist, and met Jake then. Santa has just finished a law degree at Kingston University and has considerable administrative experience as well as speaking English and Lithuanian (and even a bit of Russian). As a student, Santa spent three weeks in Shanghai studying Mandarin and learned about the Chinese business market and culture as part of the Study China Program. We are expecting her to develop similar skills while in Thailand! She lists perseverance and pro-activity as two of her attributes but we think she has many more. She also loves elephants which probably goes without saying….
Jess celebrated her 21st birthday at Phang Nga Elephant Park in July 2017, soon after she arrived! She is from Devon and has now entered her final year of her BA in Marketing at the University of Plymouth in UK. Jess is a fantastic photographer and contributed so many wonderful photos of hundreds of our visitors and posted them to share on our Facebook page. Many will be treasured for years to come. She has a farming background and her passion for elephants became very clear as the weeks went by. Jess felt strongly about the need for organisations like ours that help the public engage with the species in a sustainable and responsible manner. The time went all too quickly for Jess and for us, and we were very sorry to see her go. Good luck in the future Jess. And thank from all the Team.
Matt is 19 and lives in Toongabbie, NSW, Australia. He is currently studying Captive Animal Studies at Richmond College, Western Sydney. Matt’s goal is to secure full time employment in the animal care industry where he wants to follow his passion for education and conservation. At home, Matt volunteers as a wildlife rescuer and carer for Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Services. He also works as an educator for a mobile zoo. In 2016, he visited Thailand to work as a volunteer building a safe house for children vulnerable to human trafficking. During his stay, he visited Phang Nga Elephant Park where he met Tom (see below) who showed such amazing passion for the work he was doing it led Matt to apply to be a volunteer. He considers it a lifetime opportunity. He is also a Red belt in Hapkido – so Mahouts watch out!
Blaid was 23 when he made his return visit to Phang Nga Elephant Park, this time as a Volunteer. He lives in York and in 2018 will complete his degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle. He loves South-east Asia and in 2011 with 16 others he led an exhibition to Cambodia and Vietnam to work with children with HIV/AIDS and then in a hospital for the mentally ill. He visited Phang Nga Elephant Park in January 2017 as a tourist and wrote to apply to be a Volunteer. We were delighted to welcome him back and he was a great member of the team, demonstrating skills in relationship building and in helping to inspire others. He was hugely popular with our visitors and staff and worked tirelessly to drive the mission statement of the Park and to help improve the experience of those who visit it. We are really grateful to him. He now helps in the recruitment and selection of candidates for our Volunteer Programme.
Joe is 23 and comes from Bury St Edmunds. He has always been a wildlife enthusiast and dreamed of working with animals from a young age. Since then, he has built on his passion in film and in 2016 achieved his Bachelor’s degree in film and television at the University of Portsmouth. He is a keen film-maker and aspires to be a wildlife cameraman. He made a couple of documentaries and promotional films for us during his six month stay at the Park and these can be seen on the website (see Gallery, Video gallery) and on Facebook. We are all very proud of the 10-minute documentary that he filmed, edited and produced about our mission and ethos (Click here). He brought with him an extensive range of photographic kit including a drone, which somehow survived a few crashes. He was a great member of the team and we were really pleased to welcome him back to the Park in 2018 when he just slotted back into the family for a couple of months – and took lots more photos. We are sure he has a great career ahead of him! We love his website specially the opening page!
Claudia was 25 when she worked with us and she comes from Hull. She loves working with different people and putting herself into various environments and cultures and was very excited to be in Thailand. She had worked in America teaching horse riding at summer camp to children of all ages, and then volunteered in Ghana for six months where she taught in the local schools and helped care for children in sickness and in health. She has always been an animal lover so getting to work alongside the elephants and learning more about them was a wonderful experience. She has a BTEC national diploma in sport and was a great addition to our 2017 team.
Tom came for six months in September 2016 but we were delighted when he asked to extend until June 2017. Although he is half-Thai, Tom, who is 22, was born and raised in UK so he enjoyed learning some of the language and immersing himself in Thai culture. Tom already has a diploma in animal management and starts his degree course in Wildlife Conservation at Liverpool John Moores University in September 2017. He came to the Park to broaden his experience of working directly with animals in a different biological environment and has loved every minute of it. Tom has been a fantastic asset to the team during his stay and his passion for our work has been wonderful. We wish him well in the future and we know we will see him back at the Park soon!
Peter was a Volunteer with us just before he took up a place to read medical engineering at the University of Cardiff. His parents and little brother, Taylor, had previously visited the Park and their enthusiasm encouraged him to apply for the position. He also enjoyed seeing something of the beautiful sites near Phang Nga including the famous James Bond Island and Koh Panyee, the floating Muslim village in the magical Phang Nga Bay.
Reiss is studying zoology at the University of Sheffield and spent his summer vacation as a Volunteer at the Park. He has worked with wildlife in South Africa, Kuwait and Honduras as well as in UK so was delighted to extend his knowledge to the Asian elephant. He was very good at explaining the work of the Park to our visitors who are always fascinated to learn more about the elephant and why it is such a magnificent animal. Tangthai was very sad to see Reiss leave
Anna was our English teacher. She is from England and after graduating with a degree in medicinal chemistry completed the CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) qualification. She then went to teach English in South America for seven months and has been involving herself in different conservation projects. During her time with us, in addition to working as a guide, she taught basic English to the customer facing staff in our Park. She is now back in UK but keeps in regular touch with us!
Marcial has worked with us twice as a Volunteer and was so successful he became our Assistant Director. He is from Switzerland and obtained his degree in tourism management. He was with us for five months in 2016 and a further three months in 2017. He says he gained a lot of work experience to help him with his future career in the tourism industry. Marcial got involved with almost all aspects of our work, including guiding tours, taking photographs, maintaining the website and developing our social media platforms. His knowledge of languages, English, French and German, was very helpful for our visitors. He is a passionate photographer and other than on the website you can find his shots of the Park on Instagram and Facebook.
Rosie studied Art History & Visual Culture at Exeter University and now works in London. She has had a lifelong passion for elephants and she spent her University summer vacation as a Volunteer in 2015 to extend her knowledge of the Asian elephant. She really enjoyed working with the visitors, sharing the ethos of the park and teaching visitors extraordinary facts about these majestic animals. Whilst volunteering at the park she fell in love with our beautiful elephant Tangthai and was very sad to leave her. However, she was thrilled to hear that Tangthai is now a mummy to a very cheeky baby girl Tonkao, and hopes to visit them both soon!
Venetia was our very first Volunteer in 2015. Her father Dr Andrew Higgins was then, and still is an Adviser to the Park, and the Volunteer program rather dropped into place after her few months working with us. Venetia is a History of Art graduate from Edinburgh University but has a passion for conservation and welfare. She is now working as Relationship Manager for Elephant Family. Her aim has long been to work in wildlife conservation and this was reinforced following her time with Phang Nga Elephant Park. She paid a return visit to see us in 2017 and we can’t wait for her to come back again. Venetia says that the initial months she spent at the Park were invaluable to her understanding of cultural differences and animal welfare. She spent a lot of time photographing and filming the elephants and helped to write and edit our first website using her own photographs. She was also trained by Lek in the basic principles of being a mahout and fell in love with Tangthai (as do most of us). Thank you Venetia for all you did for us.
Our lovely restaurant staff makes sure our visitors are well cared for. They serve a variety of drinks, snacks and traditional Thai food. Here you are looked after by Pan who always provides a smile, some delicious fresh pineapple and other delights.