September 29, 2017
Erin Viens ’18, an Environmental Studies major and Animal Behavior minor, returned to classes this fall after spending part of her summer doing big things… very big things. Viens, who is from Moretown, Vermont, spent three weeks in Thailand, where she volunteered to work with elephants at the Elephant Nature Park (ENP) in the northern part of the country.
Traveling with a study abroad organization called Loop Abroad, Viens was selected as part of a small team to participate in the organization’s Veterinary Service program. She worked alongside both U.S. and Thai veterinarians and performed hands-on work with the elephants while also learning about animal rescue and conservation.
According to Loop Abroad, more than 60 elephants who have been rescued from trekking, logging or forced breeding programs now call Elephant Nature Park their home. Many have been abused and suffer from chronic ailments or blindness. The park is largely sustained by volunteers like Viens, who help feed, bathe and care for the animals. She explained that that focus at Elephant Nature Park is on rehabilitating animals and incorporating conservation practices. “What I love most about ENP is that it is a non-riding sanctuary,” she said. “Most the elephants there are between the ages of 60 to 80, so it’s more of a place to just go and become part of nature with these amazing creatures.”
Viens spent one week of her trip volunteering at the Animal Rescue Kingdom dog shelter in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which houses more than 100 dogs who have been rescued from abandonment or abuse. Viens studied under veterinarians, helping to provide check-ups and cleanings, diagnose and treat ear and eye problems, take and test blood, calculate drug doses, administer vaccines, clean and treat wounds and assist with sterilization surgeries.
Viens, who aspires to a career in the National Park service working with exotic species with an eye toward conservation, feels that her efforts in Thailand will serve her well professionally. “Everything I got to experience will definitely help me in my career path,” she said. “I really think my experience in Thailand has prepared me for that kind of field work.”
While in Thailand, Viens explored other aspects of the country. She learned how to meditate from a Buddhist monk, hiked through a village in the mountains and learned to cook Thai food on an organic farm.
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