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June 11, 2018

Tending to elephants in Thailand

Summer is well underway for two Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources students. Jaden Prevost, junior, and Kiley Lafferty, senior, spent two weeks in Thailand helping animals and learning hands-on what it's like to be a veterinarian.

Both students who are majoring in animal science traveled to Thailand with the education abroad organization Loop Abroad, which allowed them volunteer opportunities at a dog shelter and an elephant sanctuary.

Loop Abroad's veterinary service program connects student volunteers with veterinarians from the United States and Thailand. For one week, Prevost and Lafferty volunteered at the Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand where they learned about animal rescue and conservation on a larger scale.

The Elephant Nature Park is home to more than 60 elephants who have been rescued from trekking, logging or forced breeding programs. Many of them had been abused and suffer from chronic injuries and blindness. Both Prevost and Lafferty fed and cared for the elephants, as well as learned about their diagnoses alongside an elephant vet. The Elephant Nature Park is also home to more than 1,000 animals, including cats, dogs, water buffalo, horses and cows.

Prevost and Lafferty also volunteered for a week at the Animal Rescue Kingdom dog shelter and helped run Loop Abroad's Dog Rescue Clinic in Chiang Mai, Thailand. These shelters are home to over 200 dogs who have been rescued from abandonement or abuse.

Studying under the supervision and guidance of veterinarians leading their group, Prevost and Lafferty gained valuable experience by providing check-ups and cleanings, diagnosing and treating ear and eye problems, drawing and testing blood, administering vaccines, cleaning and treating wounds and helping with sterilization surgeries.

The opportunities afforded to them have been life-changing. "This trip gave me so many cool experiences," said Prevost. "Volunteering with elephants, dogs and cats was incredibly rewarding, and I am so grateful to have been part of this program."

To engage in their field of study and explore a new country and culture has made an impression that will last a lifetime. "This experience changed my life," said Lafferty. "I'm so grateful for the knowledge I have gained."