eMagazine by TAT Los Angeles – December 2013 (Vol. 2 No.12)

Highlight of the Month

Voluntourism is an increasing trend – and a growing niche – in the global tourism industry. More and more, travellers want not only to take meaningful and interesting tours, but also to participate in contributing to the people and communities they visit. Sometimes it’s not even people they are interested in helping, but animals.

The Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT), a registered foundation under Thai law, offers volunteers a special opportunity to work with many rescued animals in Thailand. It is a unique opportunity for animal lovers to spend time volunteering in Thailand while getting to know and appreciate these special animals up close.

The foundation, located just outside Petchaburi, a short 90-minute drive from Bangkok, has the primary objectives of conserving wildlife, and protecting the environment and natural resources. The WFFT runs a number of projects, from medical care to wildlife rehabilitation, to research on wildlife and marine mammals, as well as the release of wild animals back to the wild.
The project was founded by Edwin Wiek 12 years ago, focusing on the welfare of rescued animals, and especially on increasing awareness of the situation facing wildlife in Thailand today. The volunteer program is designed to support the daily care of all the animals at the project, to nourish and strengthen them, and to remove stressful elements from their lives.

The WFFT has two volunteer programs for those wanting to take part in helping these animals: the Wildlife Rescue Center and the Elephant Refuge Program. In both programs, volunteers help prepare and hand out the food, clean the enclosures and provide other assistance where required on the project.

Working at the Wildlife Rescue Center gives volunteers the opportunity to learn about many different species of Thailand wildlife, and one comes to learn the individual stories of these amazing animals. Despite a strict hands-off policy, the volunteers nonetheless learn the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of each animal personally.

Working with the elephants at the Elephant Rescue Program is certainly an unforgettable experience, and a very rewarding one. Daily tasks involve preparing fruit bowls, harvesting the banana trees and pineapples, cleaning their enclosures, and easily the most fun job: showering the elephants and taking them on walks.

Volunteers work 6 days per week with rotating days off. Schedules are similar each day, with minor variations depending on the type of animal you’re working with. The work can be strenuous at times, but most volunteers find it very rewarding. All programs are run by experienced volunteer coordinators who speak English.

Leisure activities include visiting national parks on your days off, where you can spot elephants and other animals in the wild. Hiking is also possible in Kaeng Krachan National Park, where you’ll get the chance to spot many birds, reptiles, and insects along the way.

In the evening, volunteers often go to the Cha-am night market, visit some of Hua Hin’s many pubs and restaurants. There is much to do, and those participating in the program build up a sense of community and accomplishment working together with animals in a natural environment.

The volunteers help to give the animals at WFFT security, fresh food, and a clean and safe environment to live after a life full of hardship. The volunteers’ donations help maintain the center, and enable WFFT to continue to rescue wildlife in need. This is a very worthwhile cause and an excellent opportunity to participate in truly meaningful voluntourism.

Caring for rescued wildlife is one of a number of initiatives funded by the TAT under the rubric of its “The Little Big Project.” Tourists are invited and encouraged to participate in these “voluntours,” to travel and contribute meaningfully, and to make BIG difference while giving so little. More information available at http://www.thelittlebigprojectthailand.com/

For Highlights of the Month - November 2013 (A Volunteer Vacation in Thailand), click here.

For Highlights of the Month - October 2013 (Living by the River), click here.