Thailand Wildlife Sanctuary Volunteer Stories
Here are a sample of experiences from previous volunteers at the Thailand Wildlife Rescue project.
The animals at the centre are delightful, funny, and devilishly clever...My time there was an unparalleled chance to learn about animals: their care, feeding and habits. It was a chance to become really close to some
of the animals. You will never forget when a (formerly) aggressive monkey becomes used to you and reaches out to groom you. The animals at the centre are delightful, funny, and devilishly clever. You will miss them and remember them clearly for the rest of your life.
In addition to the animals, you'll meet fellow volunteers from around the world and make friends with them. You'll never forget when a (formerly) aggressive Brit reaches out and offers you a smoke. Lastly, it's a real opportunity to learn about a small part of Thailand. You get to know the people, and some of the customs. You'll pick up strange and muddled Thai vocabulary, mostly concerning fruit and tools. And, in the end you'll really come to enjoy the beauty of the place you stay in.
I still miss the Rescue Centre and the friends I made, both human and animal...Four hours after having been shepherded onto a bus at Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal, I was shepherded off the same bus at Cha-am, where I was to meet a taxi to take me to the Animal Rescue Centre at Khao Look Chang. As the taxi driver pointed out pineapple farms and temples along the way, I couldn’t decide whether to be excited at meeting lots of like-minded new people, or to be terrified at meeting a load of strangers who already knew each other.
I needed have worried, however. As soon as I arrived at the centre, I was greeted by friendly faces, of both the human and primate varieties! My only worry was how on earth I was going to remember everybody’s names!
I started work the very next day. My first job was ‘Bears’ which involved feeding and cleaning out the enclosure of the bears, including Malayan Sun Bears and Asiatic Black Bears. It was hard work but very enjoyable working outside in the sunshine and an amazing experience to get so close to exotic animals for the first time. All day long as I worked, I could hear the gibbons singing and whooping, an unforgettable sound.
My second job at the centre was perhaps the hardest to pick up. This was feeding. Although simple in principle, it involved remembering the location of all the different gibbons and macaques, of which there are close to 250, not to mention the fact that some of the monkeys and apes have special ‘issues’ when it comes to feeding. Some have to be fed simultaneously to avoid fights, others have to be fed away from their peers or their food will be snaffled by the pushier animals, not to mention the ones that had to be fed slightly different diets or to be fed in different parts of the enclosure. All in all, there was a lot to remember, and I’m not sure that even after 3 weeks I ever got it completely right!
I spent my last couple of weeks working with the animals in ‘Quarantine’ which turned out to be my favourite job of all. The job is peaceful and you get to work at your own pace. Best of all, the juveniles lived in an enclosure in ‘Quarantine’ so I got to watch the baby gibbons playing and spraying each other with water when I hosed down their enclosure. There was also a beautiful Siamang Gibbon called Marmi who lived in ‘Quarantine’ who was very noisy and had a tendency to set every other gibbon in the centre off in song if someone she didn’t know came into the ‘Quarantine’ area.
Did I say it was peaceful? Well, perhaps not always! I’ve been back in England for 2 weeks now and I still miss the Rescue Centre and the friends I made, both human and animal. I particularly miss Sam, the long suffering pony that wanders around inside and out, the dogs that accompanied us on our walks into the village to use the internet and Elton, the mischievous Hornbill who was far too clever for his own good. I definitely plan to come back to Khao Look Chang again one day."
Emma - United Kingdom
Most of the animals at the centre have had a pretty hard early life...I spent over three months in Thailand and I can say without question that the two months I spent at the 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 primates, sweeping and cleaning cages and enclosures, changing water bottles, enrichments, feeding and cleaning after the bears plus some more specialised job that you might get to do if you a planning a longer stay. I was given the opportunity of looking after the quarantine animals, which includes the infant gibbons. Watching them play all day is a pleasure. Most of the animals at the centre have had a pretty hard early life and the centres 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 realise 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."
Jeanette - Australia
My best experience was when I got to go on a rescue to pick up two bears...I volunteered because I love animals and the Thailand center is a really worthwhile cause. When you are at the center you become attached to many of the animals because you work so closely with them through the daily feedings and observing their behaviour. My best experience was when I got to go on a rescue to pick up two bears.
That was an amazing experience, to feel that you have helped some animals to have a better future. Overall everything at the center was a good experience and it really taught me a lot of things that I can use to work against animal abuse in the future. During the time I spent at the center I made more than 100 new animal friends and 20 new volunteer friends and I’m going to miss all of them!
A truly rewarding experience and one that I would recommend wholeheartedly...During my time here I have been thrilled with the many opportunities that have presented themselves. To learn so much about the amazing wildlife Thailand has to offer and to really help them have better lives has been a truly rewarding experience and one that I would recommend wholeheartedly.
Moreover to be able to share this experience with so many great people from all over the world has been a gift. I’m glad I took the opportunity to come here and now I can leave with the satisfaction that I have done something lasting and worthwhile for Thailand’s wildlife and with a new found respect for those people who dedicate their lives to working for the safety and survival of these animals.
Amy, New Zealand
The centre and the animals have really touched my heart...I’m sitting here pondering about how to express my experience at the centre in just a couple of sentences. And my conclusion is: It’s impossible! So many things happen in just one single day, so many impressions and feelings. What I can say is that it has been an incredibly emotional and educating time.
I feel truly privileged to have had the opportunity to work so closely with these animals and to actually feel that I’m helping them to get a better life. Many of them are very damaged by people and to actually be a part of a daily routine where you get to help them, is truly rewarding. However I do think that one should be aware that this is not a clean and cuddly job, but that the work is very hard and that the animals are wild, damaged and not pets. If one is here with that in mind and really wanting to make a difference, then the experience at this place will be rewarding beyond words.
The center isn’t a “petting zoo”, it is a rescue centre where the animals come first at all times. I will carry a lot of warm memories back home. How Ting Tong- the crazy macaque and Smokey the beautiful macaque both loved their food, how Ollie the otter squeaked with joy when he got to play with water, how Pom, the baby bear grew in front of my eyes. There are just too many things to mention and since I’m getting all misty eyed writing this, I’ll just wrap it up with the following: The centre and the animals have really touched my heart. I feel lucky to have spent my 8 weeks here and I just can’t believe that I’m leaving in two days. I’ll just have to say like Arnold: I’ll be back!!
I wished I could have stayed for longer...I volunteered at the centre in Feb and absolutely loved it. Kao Look Chang is a really beautiful, chilled out place with a really friendly little village. There was a good balance of work and relaxing and exploring time and on days off there is quite a few places nearby to visit such as Hua Hin which has a nice beach and some good pubs to go out in! The centre is well organized and run.
There is a really interesting range of animals there and new ones arriving all the time but most importantly with the rehab program for gibbons you feel like you're contributing to a program that is actually making a difference and has a real future.Edwin took us on a jungle trip to the national park which was about 30 mins drive away and so we got to see some of the species at the centre in the wild plus some wild elephants and loads of other animals. The rooms are pretty basic but fine and meals are great although you do have to like rice! I wished I could have stayed for longer.
Janine, New Zealand
Every time when I’m thinking what happened, I get watery eyes...Sawadee, I’m Chris from Belgium. I’m here already for 30 days. I write this on the most unforgettable day until now. Actually I can write already a book, what I’m doing and going through. Also the contact with the animals at the center is actually not possible to write down, you should feel it yourself. But I will try to describe what I felt today. Finally after many thundershowers and rainstorms, we can use the islands again, because the natural border is high enough, the gibbons can’t jump anymore over the water.
So we decided to put SKIPPI and GIGI on the juvenile island. These are really my favorite gibbons. I will miss them but they are much better off on the island of course. First we put GIGI in the moving cage. Then we (Edwin and I) bring GIGI with the boat to the island. Edwin went to check if everything was all right, while I was waiting a shore in the boat with GIGI. BILLY and BANK, two little gibbons, came towards me and had a look. Then they really went on the boat, which was the first time that I get so close to the gibbons without any bars. When Edwin came back we went into the water and opened the cage. After some hesitation, GIGI went on the island and was welcomed by BILLY with lots off big hugging and smiling (gibbons can smile very nice), they really hold each other very close. Unbelievable to see it, this was very emotional.
Every time when I’m thinking what happened, I get watery eyes. After that we put SKIPPY on the island. He has never been on an island. He climbed very fast in the trees and was a little bit clumsy when swinging from one tree to another, but will learn it very quickly. So this was just one moment out of many. I’m going to enjoy one month more and realize how unforgettable this adventure is going to be. Lots of greetings from Chris.
My awareness of environmental issues was ever increasing...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 owner 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 couldn't believe how clean and furnished the place was. I expected maybe a mattress on the floor, with lots of cockroaches! I found a twin room with a private toilet and shower, very clean and very 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 10-15 other people your age, all coming and going.
The work that is done there I feel is of great value...I have just finished a 8 week stay at the wildlife rescue centre, at Kao Look Chang , and would like to tell you what a wonderful place it is to stay and work. The work that is done there I feel is of great value and it is a truly amazing project to have had the chance to be involved in. The setting is beautiful, accommodation, clean, comfortable and not nearly as basic as I had expected, and the staff, friendly, approachably and dedicated and passionate about the project and animals. I have enjoyed my time there a great deal.