”The gibbons were singing when I arrived. Their lilting music as they call to each other every morning is unforgettable. The gibbon chorus is the signature tune of the Wildlife Rescue Centre. Their welcoming song made me feel good to be back among the Wildlife Friends of Thailand.
Edwin Wiek set up the Wildlife Rescue Centre in 2001. He does a remarkable job, and the Centre is thriving. News of the animal rescue work at the Centre is spreading all over Thailand, and as a result more and more rescued animals are being brought here. This keeps the construction team busy building enclosures and cages to house the new animals. The Centre had expanded since my visit the previous year, with a big new enclosure for the elephants.
The volunteers spend much of the day feeding and watering the animals and cleaning out their cages and enclosures. It takes a lot of time to prepare and distribute fruit and vegetables to more than 180 primates. Most of the gibbons are white-handed gibbons but there are a few individuals of other species like the siamang, white-cheeked gibbon and Pileated gibbon. There’s an assortment of macaques: pig tailed, long tailed, stump-tailed and Assamese macaques and beautiful dusky langurs. Meat has to be cooked for all the carnivores, among them Bernie, the cassowary, the civets and the curious binturong or bear cat. Volunteers also clean out the dens and provide enrichments, interesting things to stimulate animals confined to cages. When that’s all finished the volunteers help out tasks like constructing new dens, clearing up rubbish and painting walls.
I have worked with the elephants. I consider it an incredible privilege to spend time with those enormous ladies, they are such characters !
Elephants need a lot of food and the mahouts and volunteers work together gathering food from the fields, pulling up pineapple plants and cutting down banana trees by the truckload. The elephants are also fed bananas, watermelons, sugar cane (but not too much!) mangos and other seasonal fruits. During the day they are hosed and showered or taken for a swim.
At the end of the day, when they’ve done with feeding, watering and cleaning, the volunteers are free to spend their time as they wish. Volunteers come from many different nations, from many different backgrounds and are all sorts of ages – so there is always someone new to talk to.
In a perfect world there would be no need for Wildlife Friends of Thailand. Wildlife trading is wrong and illegal. It may not be right, but it does happen and in our imperfect world traders can make big money buying and selling wild animals, much as other businessmen profit from trading cars and TVs. This trade will continue as long as people buy wild animals to keep as pets. I can’t do much to prevent it in my everyday life, but when I next have time off I will be going back to Thailand again to help care for some of the victims of the wildlife trade that Edwin has rescued. It is a crazy place but I love it. Keep up the good work! “
“It was great to be working as part of team with the other volunteers. I loved working with the animals and always felt I could never do enough for them. My awareness of environmental issues was ever increasing and something I continually learned about there.
Our daily duties were to feed the animals, clean in and around the cages, to build new enclosures and develop the environment by planting/watering trees. The volunteers working there at the time were motivated to do more than their duties, so I think we all put in a good amount of work that benefited the centre.
The Wildlife Rescue Centre was a well run organization. I feel it offered me so much more than just what I was there to learn and to do. The founder was knowledgeable about current environmental issues and shared these with us on a regular basis and we were working closely with other Thai workers, introducing us to their culture and language.
When I arrived, I was shown what to do by various volunteers, as there is a lot to learn; it takes a couple of weeks to fully know what you are doing. After a month, it is second nature and easy to teach others the jobs that need to be done. When necessary, the volunteer coordinator checks up with everyone, that the jobs are being done correctly.
The communication between volunteers and staff is vital, and I found it ran smoothly because of this. I expected maybe a mattress on the floor, with lots of cockroaches! I found a twin room with a private toilet and shower, clean and sociable. The communal areas had seating and tables, and lots of space to socialize in. It was great to spend the time in company of about 30-40 other people, all coming and going.”
“ I spent over three months in Thailand and I can say without question that the two months I spent at Wildlife Friends of Thailand Rescue Centre was the most fun I had.
The work is rewarding and although you have no hands on contact with the animals you don’t need it, just watching them interact with each other and enjoying the food and enrichments you give them is enough. Even participating in constructions jobs with no animal contact can end up giving you some of the most rewarding experiences of your stay. Watching the baby bears go into the new large enclosure that I had help work on is a thrill I will never forget.
You work a six-day week, which might sound a lot, but you find that the work is so enjoyable that you don’t want a day off. I would only make it until about 11am on my day off before I was asking if I there was any painting to do or if I could help with any extra work, and there is always extra work to do if you are willing.
There is a daily changing roster with jobs such as feeding, sweeping and cleaning cages and enclosures, changing water bottles, enrichments,
plus some more specialized job that you might get to do if you a planning a longer stay.
Most of the animals at the centre have had a pretty hard early life and the centre’s main goal is to give them a better life, encourage them to start acting as they would in the wild and forming bonds with their own species. There are new arrivals all the time and watching a langur that has never even seen another of its kind be introduced into a langur group and see them start hugging and grooming in minutes makes you realize the importance of the work being done at the centre.
It is amazing how much pleasure you can get from working to make these animals lives a little better. From the big jobs of building a new enclosure to small things like gathering fresh leaves for them to eat. I would recommend this project to anyone, I know I for one would go back and volunteer again.”