Program Details

  • Program Type: Internship
  • Location: Sri Lanka
  • Starting Price: EUR 1,090.00
Sri Lanka

Through the different activities of our elephant sanctuary, volunteers have a unique experience working with animals.

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International volunteers play an important role at the Elephant Foundation contributing to the daily running and future development of the charity. We welcome volunteers from all over the world, with all kinds of skills and interests. Through the different elements of the project, volunteers have a unique experience, gaining grass root entry into the local community, working with the local people in improving education and promoting our important work in achieving improved elephant care and conservation, protecting not just our own herd but elephants all over Sri Lanka!

The primary focus of the foundation is the daily care and management of the elephants living with us. Upon arrival you will be allocated an elephant to work with and will help with its daily care and if necessary medical treatment. Working under the direction of your elephant’s mahout and with other volunteers, you will be required to assist with its feeding, and bathing throughout your stay; and hopefully build a special relationship with your elephant! This requires dedicated care and responsibility.

Volunteer Placement

During your placement we need you to use your initiative to develop your own ideas or follow up those of previous volunteers. Our co-ordinators are here to help you work towards improving the foundation and promoting the projects both locally and internationally. The project is what it is today because of the hard work, drive and dedication of previous volunteers, so please do not take anything for granted- including the difference that you could make!

There are 4 main aspects to volunteer work that we ask all volunteers to get involved in, they are:

  • Foundation : The daily care and treatment of your elephant as well as the administration, fundraising, research, campaigning and museum maintenance needed to support the foundation and our many conservation projects aimed at improving the lives of elephants and people all over Sri Lanka.
  • Eco-farm Volunteers will work alongside our gardener growing many fruits, vegetables and medicinal herbs that will be used in elephant care and enrichment, in the restaurant and sold by you in the fruit shop!
  • Vets :  Volunteers will always be invited to assist the vets on visits to sick elephants and to the Peraheras (religious parades) the vets supervise. (Please note these visits cannot be guaranteed during your stay)
  • Teaching :  We have set up informal after school clubs attended by children and adults of all ages, for a few hours a week volunteers can help these children improve their English skills and to raise awareness of conservation issues. Teaching qualifications are not necessary.

Expected of volunteers

Volunteers must be able to work independently within the guidelines of the project rota. Patience and perseverance are essential, enthusiasm and a willingness to accept another culture will mean you get the most from your volunteering experience.

As a reward for all your hard work you will receive a commemorative certificate, printed on recycled elephant poo paper, the chance to receive an elephant shower and ride or elephant walk experience from your new best friend, along with memories to last a life time!

As a volunteer you will have the opportunity to experience and immerse yourself in a different culture. Undoubtedly you will face the day-to-day challenges that are Sri Lanka, but overall you'll be greeted by the warm Sri Lankan smile and hospitality, and struck by the sheer beauty of your surroundings. You will have two days off a week depending on your workload, giving you ample opportunity to explore Sri Lanka's rich cultural heritage on your own, or with other volunteers.

Program for Vet Interns

The project runs and fund a mobile veterinary unit which would be ideal for vet interns to participate in : 

- prepare, administer and feed elephant medications and vitamin balls which they receive daily 

- assist the vet assistant with any treatments the elephants receive (where needed)

 -fund raise and raise awareness about the Mobile Veterinary Unit 

- do research on vet schools or vet practices worldwide who we could contact to raise awareness about the Mobile Veterinary Unit

- update all the elephant medical record folders and elephant profiles, type up handwritten data, 

- Data analysis and reporting on the data collected from elephant dung counts and elephant behaviour studies and present them to the doctor and the founders of the foundation showing the project findings

- spend a day with the local vets treating cats and dogs and other house pets

- spend a day at Peradinya university with the trainee vets to see how they learn and practice here in Sri Lanka

- For the Pera hera we can arrange for interns to go with the doctor and do health checks on the elephants

Normal daily workload includes:

- cleaning elephant beds and enclosures, removing of old dung and food and ensuring dry and comfortable for the elephants to sleep and rest in.

- bathing elephants in the river

- feeding elephants their vitamins and medication

- clearing drains at the back of elephant beds

- Eco gardening 

- DIY and maintenance of the foundation

- improvements to volunteer area

- Fundraising and awareness

- Marketing

Google Map


  • Kara, Canada Elephants project, Jan.2016

    It is amazing how fast two weeks goes by when you have a routine to follow and you are keeping busy. I can’t believe I am already done my time volunteering with the elephants… I obviously made a mistake when I only allowed for two weeks there by booking my flight to the Philippines, but I guess it just means I will have to go back again sometime soon!

  • Grace, New Zealand Elephants project, Nov.2015

    I spent three of the most amazing weeks of my life as a voluntee. I came to Sri Lanka wanting to explore the beautiful country and gain work experience with the world’s most beautiful and largest land mammal – the elephant. I came away with this and so much more. From the minute I arrived I had the most incredible experience with the fellow volunteers, western staff (especially over a Lion or two) and the extremely friendly Sri Lankan staff and elephant mahouts. I never expected I would be excited to wake up and get stuck into cleaning elephant beds at seven in the morning !


  • Accommodation onsite, 3 meals a day and a weather dependent fortnightly BBQ! Food is cooked by our trained onsite chef
  • MEF Volunteer T-Shirt
  • Airport Transfers - we pick you up and drop you off!
  • Tour of our onsite elephant dung paper factory
  • Towels, Linen and Mosquito nets
  • Kettle, Fridge Freezer, Water Filter, Clothes Washing Bowls (Hand Wash)
  • Movie Nights using the MEF projector screen
  • Quiz Night once a week
  • Volunteer discounts and exclusive trips around the island for both work and play
  • Certificate of your placement and we can provide a reference for future employers
  • For Qualified Vets wanting to volunteer we can acquire the relevant licenses to practice.


Accommodation Details

Accommodation is onsite surrounded by palm trees and overlooking paddy fields. Mosquito nets, clean linen and towels are provided. The bungalow and cabins are maintained by our Bungalow Keeper Abey.

Your volunteer placement fee includes three local style meals a day, which are provided at the Colonial House, lunch is a vegetarian meal. There is also a private lounge at Club Concept opposite MEF. Do not expect the range of food available that you would find in the capital (Colombo), however the food will be fresh, nutritious and delicious - food that you will be helping to grow in the Eco-garden! and wherever possible special dietary requirements will be accommodated.

The Bungalow - Bedrooms are shared facilities with bunk beds with en-suite western bathroom facilities, there is also two refreshing outdoor showers.There is a basic kitchen area with sink, kettle, water filter and fridge freezer, washing bowls for your clothes and a lounge area with books to read and free WIFI.The Jungle Cabins - Five cabins that can each sleep three people. All cabins features a bunk bed and a single bed. The jungle cabin facility has its own shower and toilet block attached. Volunteers in these room will also have access to the bungalow for the facilities there.Please be prepared for occasional power cuts and water shortages, Ant trails, that are all part of the fun here in Sri Lanka!

We are unable to accept new arrivals between 11th December 2016 and 1st January 2017.

Volunteers working during the Kandy Pera Hera season (20th - 30th August) will find that there are fewer elephants during this time.


No refunds are permitted, unless agreed by the President the Foundation. If you need to cancel or change dates, please provide at least 24 hours notice. Please note that your new rearranged date may only be accepted if there is space available, again this depends on numbers.

Our foundation is situated on a beautiful 15 acre estate known as ‘Samaragiri’, which has been home to the Samarasinghe family for many generations. The family has owned elephants since the 1960’s. In 1979 Mr Sam Samarasinghe (1939 – 1991) an animal lover opened the estate to the public as Club Concept Elephant Bath.

The Foundation was founded in Sam’s memory in August 1999 with the assistance of a world renowned animal charity. It has been working continually to improve the care, protection and treatment of elephants in Sri Lanka by providing a place of care, medical services and facilities.  

Our Foundation is the only certified Non-profit Organisation working with captive elephants in Sri Lanka. We receive no outside funding at all, Volunteer money and tourism money help us sustain the foundation and the work we do, But as for future projects and developments for the elephants we rely on donations and we need your help with that. At present we are trying to raise money for the following projects and would love your support in doing that:

  • landscaping and enrichment for the elephants free roaming enclosure and incentives for their keepers to support this. We will need trees and plants and natural toys for the elephants to have shade and nice tings to eat and stimulate them whilst inside the enclosure
  • A Medical foot bath for the elephants who have feet problems including foot rot, this will allow us to treat them onsite during our daily vet check time, much more sanitary than treatments in the river as will be sterilised and cleaned specifically for medicinal purposes
  • A drainage system for the back by the elephant beds so we can install water wells at all the elephant night beds so they have access to water over night
  • Night time enclosures- starting with Lakshmi and Pooja, Mother and daughter first

If you struggle for ideas or need some guidance of what we are raising money for or how you can help raise it, please contact us and we will gladly assist you.

We have raffle tickets for sale which you may want to sell to  your friends/family/colleagues as an easy fundraiser and a chance for people to visit us for free if they win. Tickets costs 500 rupees and we can email/whatsapp people photographs of their tickets with their names on. 

We also have an Adams's peak challenge that some volunteers get involved in. If this was included as part of your to do list in Sri Lanka anyway this is a great way to raise money. Its a sponsored hike in the middle of the night over 7000 steps to the top for sunrise.Let us know if that was something you wanted to be involved in that would be amazing. 

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