Hello everybody and welcome to Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand!! WFFT was founded in 2001 by a Dutch gentleman in love with mistreated or disabled animals. So this year it’s the foundation’s 10th anniversary! Our first day here is strange, a bit like having jet-lag. We wake up at 6:00 am as elephants (the animals we’ll be taking care of) are fed at that time. We’re pretty tired as our first night here was a bit of a nightmare: the foundation houses not only elephants but MANY other animals in need of help. There are bears, monkeys, apes, crocodiles, tigers, otters, wild boars, exotic birds, eagles, turtles, rabbits, dogs and others. We love dogs but we don’t love their ‘barking & howling concert’ on our first night here. Jesus! That was serious noise! The next morning, Tommy (volunteer staff member) explains there was a King Cobra somewhere around us (aaaah!) and that is why the dogs where going bananas. Good news is, the cobra will probably eat the mouse I found on my bed on my first morning. Not sure who was trembling more: the little country mouse or myself. Guys, we’re in the middle of nowhere, in the amazingly beautiful Thai countryside (1 hour away from Hua Hin) – so if you come here, expect to find just that: wildlife! However, it’s all worth it when we see the animals. UNBELIEVABLE CREATURES THESE ELEPHANTS!! Today we’ve spent the day with June and Silver Lotus. These 2 females are between 65 and 75 years of age, they were used for forced labour for most of their lives and because of this misfortune, now carry with them terrible scars (both physically and mentally). Elephants are NOT a protected species in Thailand (unlike other animals) and are used for anything ‘useful’: carrying materials, working in Circuses to entertain people, as transport etc. Silver Lotus, for example, has terrible abysses’ all over her body as she was kept in spaces made of concrete which is really bad for them. Her back and rear legs are bent from the weight she was forced to carry. June has no teeth and we have to peel her fruit so she can eat it. They are very gentle and very ‘human’; they welcome the attention and wait patiently while the Vet takes care of their wounds. I am gob smacked at their grandiosity; they are not only enormous but seem almost pre-historical. Their skin is hard and thick like leather, they can move really fast in a second, they trump is unbelievably strong (they crush and eat banana plant like it’s nothing!!), their eyes are gentle and their presence is very impressive. It is inconceivable that anyone could actually harm such a fantastic creature. Like I said, day-routine starts early, with feeding and cleaning the leftovers from the day before, preparing food (peeled for June, normal for Silver Lotus), and cutting banana plant with a machete (be careful how you use it, it’s dangerous!!). This routine is repeated again in the afternoon, whilst in between, there are special projects to attend (today we planted pineapple trees, which will hopefully give some fruit in a year) and the Vet’s visit, as well as ‘watering’ time which June dreads, but Silver Lotus loves!
We also got a tour from Tommy, who explained several very interesting and important facts about the work they do here, for all animals. I mentioned already all animals in the centre have been mistreated or abused in some way, or are disabled. For example, some dogs have recently been rescued from the Bangkok floods, whilst others are sick, blind, wounded in accidents or simply, abandoned. Tommy describes the stories of other wild animals rescued from terrible lives. The only tiger kept here is currently at the end of his life. He has a nervous system problem and cannot walk properly; he is in a very poor state and it is heartbreaking. Tommy explains he was taken from his mother, castrated, claws taken off and chained to a wall so people could take pictures with it. Most Apes were used as PETS by people; they find them very cute as babies, to cuddle and feed, but when they grow older (as any wild animal), they bite and destroy homes and suddenly become a burden to owners. Bears are used for terrible things: as dancers, in fights with dogs, as food and to use certain parts of their bodies which are considered ‘useful’ for medicine. Eagles, too, were pets. Now they need to be trained on how to find food on their own before being released into the wild again. One of the apes we saw (the Macaque species) appeared to be ‘bowing’ every time we walked by. They explain to us he was trained to do that, possibly for people to give money. Now he can’t help doing it.
We are happy to be here and help in any way we can. In this place they TRULY need help; volunteers pay a small contribution for coming here, which is used almost entirely for the animals (not like the Panda project). Physical help is definitely needed too; everyone is welcomed and appreciated. If any travellers are looking for an opportunity to be close to animals and help them (they really need it!) please check their website: www.wfft.org . Tommy tells us he could house many more volunteers.
Our team leader, Craig from Scotland, tells us there are all sorts of people here. Students on a Gap year, pensioners looking for a new activity, people like him who needed a change of life after years waiting for a promotion which never came etc. Emma, another volunteer, tells us she worked in Investments for 10 years and coming here changed her life. ‘It is beautiful work’, she says, - quite simply.
We’ll tell you more about it at the end of the week.
B & M
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