Animal Sciences student cares for rescued elephants in Thailand visit

Working with elephants at a Thailand sanctuary this summer, WSU student Isabel Mocca learned what it’s like to be a veterinarian.


Learning first-hand what it takes to be a veterinarian, Washington State University student Isabel Mocca spent part of her summer helping rescued elephants at a sanctuary in Thailand.

Mocca, 20, a sophomore in animal sciences and pre-veterinary medicine, traveled to Thailand with a study-abroad organization called Loop Abroad.

“This program made me a better student and future vet,” she said. “I became much more well-rounded in animal healthcare, was able to see first-hand what is faced in the real world as a veterinarian. I was able to learn under some spectacular vets, which fueled my love for animals and learning even more.

“Experiencing Thailand’s culture while providing medical care to elephants at the Elephant Nature Park has changed my life forever,” added Mocca.

For one week, Mocca and her team volunteered at an elephant sanctuary outside of the city of Chiang Mai, to work with the giant animals and learn about animal rescue and conservation on a larger scale.

The elephants at the sanctuary are rescued from trekking, logging, or forced breeding programs. Many were abused and suffer from chronic injuries or blindness.

Mocca helped to feed and care for elephants, as well as learn about their diagnoses alongside a veterinarian.

The sanctuary is home to more than elephants, with over 1,000 animals, including cats, dogs, water buffalo, horses, and cows. It’s sustained in huge part by the work of weekly volunteers like Mocca.

She also volunteered at a dog rescue clinic in Chiang Mai. The shelter is home to dogs who have been rescued after being abandoned, beaten, or abused.

While she studied under the veterinarians leading her group, Mocca and her team made a difference in the lives of sheltered 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.

With programs in Thailand, South Africa, Australia, and the Amazon and Galapagos, Loop Abroad supports animal welfare and conservation around the world. The program works with locally run animal welfare organizations, helping students contribute to long-term improvement in the countries they visit.

Learn about Loop Abroad here.