The World Wildlife Foundation Thailand (WWFT) is an Animal Rescue Centre established in 2001 in Petchaburi Province. After humble origins the Foundation, thanks to its founder Dutch born Edwin Wiek with staff, volunteers and limited sponsorship now provides a haven for over 400 rescued animals on a property with 29 hectares of land and with the support of the Abbot of the nearby Kao Look Chang temple.
Visiting the Centre provides an opportunity to gain some understanding of the real threats faced by native animals but also a real life experience to see the progression of rescued animals from being mistreated towards rehabilitation and gaining a quality of life. At one end of that scale there are monkeys with broken limbs and even serious brain injury being treated with expert Vetinary care but at the other end there are those clearly enjoying as close as possible to a natural life. This is provided in surroundings that mimic a natural habitat and free from the dangers of their previous existence.
There are huge enclosures for colonies of gibbon, islands where there is very little human intervention as well as individual attention for animals which need to learn for the first time how to live a ‘natural life’ as their own species, not some sort of ‘pseudo human’. Edwin is very pleased with recent rainfall now swelling the nearby lake as the gibbon colonies on the four islands of the lake were evacuated during drier times. Low water levels in the lake were causing concerns to the security of the colony.
Progress towards rehabilitation may be a long and difficult road particularly when animals have been isolated from their own ‘kind’ and keep in captivity in cruel and confined enclosures for many years. One of the typical scenarios for an animal rescue is when an animal has been kept as a pet but when that cute furry baby reaches adulthood, especially if it begins to display aggressive behaviour. Its keepers are then either unable or unwilling to provide the necessary care required. Perhaps the parents of the baby were killed by poachers; just adding to the animal’s trauma.
Accordingly a recued animal which has never learnt to socialise with its own kind, is often stressed and physically in bad shape upon arrival. These animals need specialist care and a place where they are unthreatened, unshackled and free to roam, becoming part of their own ‘community’.
There are no elephant rides here, with these magnificent animals free to wander around unchained. You can also see the patience of the carers with sun bears too stressed to leave a confined shelter gradually being encouraged to re-enter open spaces.
Community education is an important part of reaching the objectives of the Centre so that everyone understands that keeping these animals as pets or for commercial gain is cruel and no longer acceptable.
Just One Example
‘Bo’, a pig tailed macaque monkey was rescued from Petchaburi temple after being beaten and suffering from a broken leg. He was left on a chain without treatment for a week before being discovered by concerned locals. Bo is still recovering from this ordeal. If he finally stops pulling off the plaster cast, he now has the chance of a pain free life.
So What Are The Main Objectives?
Rescue wild animals from places where they are maltreated and/or neglected, and help them to spend the rest of their lives in a sanctuary as close to the natural environment as possible with the best possible care. In particular, provide sanctuary for those animals that no-one else is prepared to care for, e.g. the sick and disabled.
Educate people, particularly children, to stop cruelty to animals. In particular campaign against the illegal trade in wild animals for the pet industry and discourage the use of animals for entertainment, for example in performing animal shows.
Prevent hunting and promote conservation of all natural resources, fauna and flora alike. Educate local people, tourists and the international community to appreciate, understand and protect wild animals and their rainforest habitat. Cooperate with and assist the Royal Forestry Department and other organizations concerned with the rescue and conservation of wild animals.
Gather knowledge to start up a release program for those animals that qualify for re-introduction into the wild.
What’s On Offer?
The Centre offers either a full day or half day experience to visit, learn and contribute to the Centre’s future. This includes an arranged pick up from regional hotels, tours of the Centre with experienced and knowledgeable guides and the chance of walking (not riding) with the elephants and getting up close and personal after the walk to shower and feed them. This is not about tourist ‘entertainment’ and without the performance of trained animals in displays of unnatural behaviour, but interacting with the wildlife in a way which does not compromise animal welfare values.
There is also a volunteer program for those who want to contribute in a very practical way with accommodation on site and expert guidance. Not just for overseas students (often interested in a future in biological sciences) but for those who are looking for some quiet time away from city life with a focus on helping Thailand’s wildlife future.
The Centre has its own battles to fight both on the wider environmental front and in securing the safety of the animals in its care.
Finding a native deer literally stolen after cutting through the fencing then killed with its antlers removed by ‘poachers’ was a harrowing scene. Founder Edwin was quickly on the scene after a phone call from a staff member finding the abandoned body off the property some days after the event. Police involvement and a reward for the discovery of the perpetrator were immediate, but as Edwin comments, there is a limit to the amount of security that can be provided. ‘Do we really need security cameras?’
The WWFT also co-organised the 4th October ‘March For Elephants’ in Bangkok, calling for a complete ban on the ivory trade in Thailand. Worldwide condemnation of this trade is rapidly gaining pace, including condemnation in Thailand. Edwin was able to gain an assurance from the Minister of Natural Resources that the Prime Minister has ordered for changes to Thai law in relation to elephant protection, however further action is still likely to be needed before the aims of the WWFT are met.
How Can You Be Involved?
Contacts: Phone 0822458598, 032 458135. Email email@example.com
At these contact points you can find out about how to join a tour, volunteer or donate to the WWFT. Casual visitors are not encouraged. Book your visit to fully appreciate the Centre’s activities.
The Centre is about 20km from Cha –Am. Look for the green and white signs after travelling about 5 km from Cha-Am towards Bangkok on the left side of the main highway. Just follow the signs along a winding road in OK condition; it’s not hard to find. The main gate is the last of four as you arrive.