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India: Volunteer program lets you work with elephants in Jaipur

February 07, 2013|By Rosemary McClure
  • Volunteers help bathe elephants in Jaipur, India.
Volunteers help bathe elephants in Jaipur, India. (United Planet )

Get up close and personal with one of the animal kingdom’s weightiest—and most interesting—mammals, the elephant.

A new volunteer program, sponsored by the nonprofit organization United Planet, is based at an elephant sanctuary in Jaipur, India.  It provides participants with an opportunity to learn about animal care and rescue while experiencing cultural immersion.

"Working with animals is important, rewarding -- and fun," says Theresa Higgs, a United Planet vice president. “We're happy to offer a program that works with such unique animals and in such a culturally rich part of the world.”

Indian elephants, long considered an important part of the culture, have dwindled dramatically in number during the past 75 years. They were declared an endangered species in 1986. Today only about 25,000 to 30,000 remain.  

Volunteers who participate in the Elephant Sanctuary Quest live and work with local people, feeding the elephants, bathing and cleaning them and performing general maintenance and upkeep on the facility.

“This program is part of our broad approach to environmental and wildlife conservation, and ultimately supports our commitment to international sustainable development and responsible travel,” Higgs says.

Those who wish to volunteer may begin their program at any time during the year but must commit to at least two weeks at the elephant sanctuary and must be at least 18. There is no language requirement. Prices for the Elephant Sanctuary Volunteer Quest start at $2,495 for two weeks.

United Planet, based in Boston, offers short- and long-term volunteer abroad programs, from one to 52 weeks, in more than 40 countries. The organization partners with local communities and maintains long-standing relationships with its partners, Higgs said.

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