A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Walton’s Danielle Dixon, a UK junior, spent three weeks in Thailand studying conservation, animals

This summer, Danielle Dixon, 20, of Walton, spent three weeks in Thailand helping animals, studying conservation, and learning hands-on what it’s like to be a veterinarian.

Danielle is a junior at University of Kentucky, majoring in Animal Science and Equine Science. 

Traveling with study-abroad organization Loop Abroad, Danielle was selected as part of a small team that volunteered giving care at a dog shelter, worked directly with rescued elephants at an elephant sanctuary, and volunteered in marine conservation on the island of Koh Tao.

Danielle Dixon (Photo by Loop Abroad)

The Veterinary Service program brings students to Thailand for two weeks to volunteer alongside veterinarians from the US and Thailand.  For one week, Danielle and her team volunteered at the Elephant Nature Park in Northern Thailand to work hands-on with the giant animals and learn about animal rescue and conservation on a larger scale. The Elephant Nature Park is home to over 60 elephants who have been rescued from trekking, logging, or forced breeding programs. Many of them had been abused and suffer from chronic injuries or blindness.

At the Elephant Nature Park, they are cared for by volunteers from all over the world. Danielle helped to feed, bathe, and care for elephants, as well as learn about their diagnoses alongside an elephant vet. The Elephant Nature Park is also home to over 1,000 animals, including cats, dogs, water buffalo, horses, and cows, and is sustained in huge part by the work of weekly volunteers like Danielle.
 
For the other week, Danielle volunteered at the Animal Rescue Kingdom dog shelter in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The shelter is home to over 100 dogs who have been rescued after being abandoned, beaten, or abused. While the dogs can be adopted, any who aren’t will be cared for by the shelter for their whole lives.


While she studied under the veterinarians leading her group, Danielle and her team made a difference in the lives of these dogs. By providing check-ups and cleanings, diagnosing and treating ear and eye problems, taking and testing blood, administering vaccines, cleaning and treating wounds, and helping with sterilization surgeries, the students were able to help support the health and well-being of these dogs.
 
Danielle then spent a week on the island of Koh Tao in the South of Thailand, working through Loop Abroad with the New Heaven Marine Conservation project. She helped to do marine surveys via snorkeling and freediving, worked on creating artificial reefs to help rebuild the coral reefs of Thailand, and studied marine conservation.
 
Loop Abroad has animal science and veterinary programs for students and young adults age 14 to 30 and offers financial aid and fundraising help. Interested participants can inquire or apply at www.LoopAbroad.com. Admission to veterinary and marine programs is selective and Danielle was selected based on her transcript, admissions essay, and professional references.

Taking care of the elephants (Photo by Loop Abroad

By following a study abroad model instead of a voluntourism model, Loop focuses on educating its students so that they can contribute and serve in meaningful ways. It also works with locally run animal welfare organizations so that students contribute to long-term improvement on the ground in the countries they visit. With programs in Thailand, South Africa, and Australia, Loop Abroad is able to support animal welfare and conservation around the world because of its students and their dedication to helping animals in need.

The program’s Managing Director Jane Stine says, “Our students are some of the most amazing people I have ever met. They are kind, compassionate, dedicated, hard-working individuals who have big goals and want to make a big impact. It’s amazing to see how eager they are to learn and challenge themselves. Over the last eight years, we’ve seen them go on to do some wonderful things.”

Of her trip, Danielle says, ““My time in Thailand was truly a life changing experience. From bathing in the River at Elephant Nature Park, to assisting in four surgeries, I will hold these memories with me for the rest of my life. Thank you Loop Abroad for providing me with the trip of a lifetime!”

From Loop Abroad

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