Safari Park Volunteering – Rescue
Continuing the series of our week volunteering at Safari Park Volunteers in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, the next team we were assigned to was Rescue.
You can also read about our experience on the other teams here:
Volunteer Team – Rescue
The Rescue Team assisted with taking care of all the animals that had been rescued and brought to the zoo. It was my favorite activity because I got to interact with a lot of different types of animals. All of these animals had a different back story of how they ended up at the Safari Park – some have been rescued from hotels, monasteries, and other zoos.
On our first day at rescue, since we didn’t have our motorbike yet, we hopped on team leader Tat’s motorbike with Tat and her dog Bo and headed towards the rescue side of the park. I’ve ridden many motorbikes around Southeast Asia but that had to be the most packed motorbike I’ve been on, 3 people and a dog on the handle bars.
Once we arrived at rescue we started our first chore of the morning of sweeping and cleaning out all the cages of the animals. The cages were dual zoned cages so we would lure the animals into the other side of the cage and shut them off while we cleaned one portion of the main portion of the cage. This was especially important considering some of these animals could really rip your arm off if he/she could so we had to take some precautions. There were, however, some cages we were allowed to go into with the animal because they were harmless, like the bunnies and the binturongs.
After the cages were swept, scrubbed, hosed with water, and the water bowls were re-filled, it was time to feed them. Each animal had their own special diet so Tat prepared them while we cleaned. We began to feed each animal one by one and immediately noticed each quirk with the animals as their temperaments on how they ate.
The binturongs were the easiest to feed because they would just come up to the cage and eat anything you put into their mouth. This was the first time we’ve seen a binturong, and we learned that they are also known as bearcats. They were very sweet, and Tiff’s favorite was Mr. Wendy who only had one eye – he lost it due to cataracts and glaucoma a few years back.
I found Digs, the cassowary, amusing because he was extremely picky about what he ate. It would only eat the fruit, but when you fed him vegetables, he would just avoid them or spit them out. I learned that a way to get around this was to stuff vegetables into his bananas and so he ate his entire meal. Anything that was leftover was given to the deer.
The chimps were also tough to feed as some could be very aggressive. One of my favorite animals is Chutney, a Gibbon who loves to have his back scratched. Chutney wasn’t interested in food and is known to be underweight. He likes to have company so he’ll relax and avoid eating while you’re there trying to feed him. His temperament was unpredictable, as a trick Chutney would do is he’ll knock your entire tray of food while you’re trying to feed him. After you freak out trying to pick up the pieces, he’ll then grab you and try pulling you in! Volunteers either love him or are terrified of him, since you’re never sure if he’s going to be nice or tricky. Tiff was wary of him, but I think Chutney is just a depressed monkey who is acting out for attention. Jam is another scary chimp because he’ll literally grab your hand while you try to hand feed him. You can tell he’s still not trustful of humans.
Trouble is a Phayre’s Leaf monkey, who is also very amusing to watch. She would grab the food you’re trying to feed her, then run to the back and eat it. Sometimes we’d catch her with her favorite stuffed animal toy where she’ll be so focused on trying to groom her toy.
Once feeding is complete, we had a few hours to enjoy the company of the animals and interact with them.
Later that day, all the volunteers were invited to participate in testing out a new interactive activity with the elephants where we got to walk with them, fed them bananas, watched them bathe in the water, and helped hose and scrub them down afterwards.
After that, we headed to lunch to enjoy some delicious Thai food prepared by the staff and hung out with other volunteers to catch up on their mornings with the other groups.
A fun activity that all volunteers also get to partake in, is riding the Safari Bus throughout the park, the main attraction/activity for visitors.
The bus takes you throughout the different sections of the park, where you get to see the various wildlife such as lions, tigers, leopards, (where the cubs and big cats eventually “graduate” to) and the sun bear area.
The best part is at the end, where you get to feed some of the deer, zebras, and giraffes.
We learned quickly that the giraffes will sniff out any food you have very quickly, no matter how hard you try to hide it from them!
The afternoon portion of rescue is pretty simple. We fed the chimps their vitamins and prepared food for them again. We do our last feeding of the day around 3PM and head back for the day.
Overall, rescue is one of the more enjoyable groups to be in because there are so many animals for you to interact with. There are also enrichment projects you can assist with to make sure they live a happy and healthy life at the zoo. Unfortunately we were not there long enough to participate in them but thoroughly enjoyed our time to really to get to know each of the animals at rescue. In reflecting back, it was a big difference in comparison to going to a zoo for the day and just walking through taking a glimpse of the animals. Spending a week with the animals at rescue, you feel a bigger level of connection with them because you spend a lot more time with each one and are allowed to see all of their quirks and personality.