Wildlife Friends Foundation, Thailand.

In December 2019 I had the absolute pleasure of spending two weeks volunteering with lots of lovely people at Wildlife Friends Foundation, Thailand (WFFT). I had been travelling around South East Asia with my ‘Wonderful Supportive Boyfriend’ and I was desperate to do something working with animals and give back a little after having such incredible experiences.

It’s not my boyfriend’s cup of tea, which is absolutely fine, so we decided to have two weeks to ourselves to use however we wished. I signed up to work with the wildlife for one week and the elephants for another, and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

Since its inception, the WFFT Wildlife Rescue Centre has given shelter to 1000’s of wild animals. Many of these animals are rehabilitated and released back to the wild. Those that cannot be released are provided with shelter for the rest of their lives.

Learn more: Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand.

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elephant

If you are a fan of this blog then you are probably all too aware that animal tourism is a problem, animals are being mistreated for tourist entertainment the world over and although it can get you a great selfie, it comes at the cost of the wellbeing and health of the animal.

WFFT work hard to try and rescue as many animals as they can from these conditions into the centre, where they can be cared for and, in some cases, eventually returned to the wild where they belong.

It is obviously not a perfect solution, as many of the animals cannot be released back into the wild, however, I do believe that WFFT are doing all they can to give these animals the best next chapter of their lives – and if they can’t be in the wild, then this is probably the next best alternative. 

Although in captivity, the animals are housed on donated temple land – the abbot of the Kao Look Change temple generously gave a huge plot of forest for the animals to call home – and there has clearly been lots of thought into their enclosures to ensure that they have the space to act wild, yet can still be observed to ensure their continued health and wellbeing.

Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand

As an organisation their main objectives are:

  • To rescue maltreated and/or neglected wild animals.
  • To provide sanctuary for sick and disabled animals.
  • To rehabilitate and release where possible and care for those who are unable to be returned to the wild.
  • To educate people, particularly children, to stop cruelty to animals.
  • To campaign against illegal trade in wild animals, discourage use of animals for entertainment.
  • To prevent hunting and promote conservation of all-natural resources, fauna and flora alike.
  • To cooperate with and assist Royal Forestry Department and other organisations with the rescue and conservation of wild animals.

I’ve struggled writing this blog because, to be honest, I don’t really know where to start. The whole experience was intense and hard, but also beautiful and thought-provoking. The animals that I interacted with have seen such pain and had such difficult lives that I felt guilty for being a part of the same species that had done this to them, yet simultaneously proud that I was a part of the wonderful team that is doing its best to create a new, better chapter. 

The animals and the people at the centre are all incredible. Whether it is the staff who dedicate the majority of their time to ensure the animals are happy and healthy, and who recruit volunteers to keep the centre going or who take the visitors around to educate them about the stories of the animals and how they ended up at the centre. They are all wonderful, caring humans and help restore the balance of good and bad in the world!

The animals are a range of characters in themselves, from monkeys who love to hate you, to giant birds who look prehistoric, to iguanas who are there for the sun and the food – their stories are beyond belief and make it impossible to not want to be a part of the solution. Anyone who says that animals don’t feel the same emotions as humans has never worked alongside animals for any length of time. They haven’t looked into the eyes of an animal who has had all its natural instincts beaten out of it or seen the joy of an animal who finally gets to live in an enclosure that is large enough for it to move around freely.

And who can forget the pack of dogs that have claimed the centre as their home. They are a pack of strays who have formed a bond alongside the volunteers and wildlife that inhabit the centre. They all have different characteristics and you will more than likely very quickly have a favourite amongst them. After a long day of work, they are a welcomed companion during the evenings, and they do love the attention!

Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand
Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand

Having animals in captivity is far from perfect, but in the world that we are currently living in, it is a necessity. The human world is rapidly expanding which, in turn, means that the wild world is rapidly depleting. Habitats are being lost and too many species are being pushed to the brink of extinction due to our thoughtlessness towards their needs. This only exacerbated through poaching for animal tourism, souvenirs, illegal pet trade and traditional medicines. The conservation of both species and their habitats is vital to the survival of the Earths beautiful biodiversity and change cannot come soon enough.

Change can happen, but it is only through facing hard truths and through educating those who will listen that we will succeed with the change we need to see.

Remember to:

  • Refuse to participate in animal tourism activities, support sanctuaries instead.
  • Don’t buy animal souvenirs, loss of demand will mean the killing stops.
  • Educate those around you and spread the message.
  • Do what you can to buy sustainably and locally.
  • Get informed on the facts.

You can find out more about the work that the WFFT are doing at the centre and beyond by visiting their website https://www.wfft.org/. You can also find them on the usual social media platforms, where you can stay updated with the ongoing stories of the animals in their care.

As with many charities, they rely heavily on donations and volunteers. They are being hit hard currently due to the Covid-19 pandemic and could use your help, if you have anything that you can spare. Travel restrictions has meant a decline in those able to volunteer and the centre is struggling. They have a huge variety and number of animals who rely on the centre staff to keep them well fed and healthy all year round. You can see the breakdown of costs and ways to help by visiting  https://covidsupport.wfft.org/ and even when this pandemic ends there are always opportunities to help – whether it be by giving your time, money or just support through sharing the work they do and spreading the word about the plight wild animals face.

Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand

This planet that we call home is an incredible place filled with a huge number of species. It’s beautiful and mysterious and something that we have come to take advantage of. Changing our ways to make room for the other species that share our home is vital for both ours and their future survival. We are proving right now, during the lockdown, that we are able to change our habits. We are intelligent, we can adapt quickly to changing situations – let’s embrace a new normal and start a new chapter for the world that means that there is enough space and enough resources for us all to thrive, side by side, as nature intended.

Originally written by Rebecca Hansell for Small World, Big Cause in April 2020 – refreshed for The Curious Environmentalist in 2021. Image credit – Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand.  

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