By Leena Ali
Carly Weisner is a second-year student at Nova Scotia Community College in Bridgewater. Next month, she'll travel to Thailand to volunteer at an elephant conservation reserve in Chiang Mai.
BRIDGEWATER - Carly Weisner has never worked with elephants before, but her longtime dream is about to come true.
The second-year student at Nova Scotia Community College in Bridgewater is heading to Thailand to work at an elephant conservation reserve.
"Elephants are just really cool because they're such a gentle animal for their size," she says. "I just think that they're so fascinating and I've always loved to be able to interact with one."
The 22 year old is part of NSCC's Natural Resources Environmental Technology Program and, as part of her on-the-job-training, will volunteer for two weeks at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
"I would just really like to see how the elephant nature park, specifically, is helping the species and the efforts that they're putting forth," she says.
Two of her close friends from high school will also be joining her on the trip. Throughout her program, she's learned about local efforts to help endangered species and looks froward to gaining international experience with conservation projects.
"It's just kind of cool to see it from a different perspective and a different culture and a totally different part of the world," she says.
"The Asian elephant population is kind of on a decline for a lot of reasons to do with tourism. There's a lot of issues, like elephant trekking. There's a lot of inhumane ways that they use elephants," she says.
Typically, they'll mount chairs on elephants to ride them more comfortably.
"If you're going to ride an elephant, it really should just be you sit on their back. They're used the same way that horses are used for us. But some of them are just not treated fairly at all, as far as their training methods go," Ms Weisner says.
For some of the elephants, "their ears are almost completely gone because they've been beaten or whipped. They get infections that aren't treated, they're getting worked further than they should," she says.
The elephants she'll work with are under rehabilitation and live in an area that is as wild as possible.
"It's the closest environment to their natural environment that they kind of provide for them. It's not so much captivity, there are boundaries, but ... they try and keep it natural for them," says Ms Weisner.
The park also administers medicine and helps baby elephants that have been rejected by their mothers. Ms Weisner will be helping with some of these duties, as well as habitat restoration.
During her stay, Ms Weisner will be living in a small hut at the park. The beds are covered in mosquito nets and are elevated.
"I think it's because they have a lot of issues with snakes," she says.
"I don't need the luxury ... as far as my accommodations. I'm not really high maintenance," she laughs.
Ms Weisner starts her volunteer program on May 19 and has set up an on-line fundraiser at http://bit.ly/1mLbMLD.