Maybe you’ve been inspired to delve into animal conservation by the Netflix indie hit Okja, a story about a girl battling to save her pet superpig going to the slaughterhouse, and counts Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal among its cast. Or maybe you just really like animals, and want to do more for, or learn about them. If so, here are some places where you can make a difference.
1. Wildlife SOS in India
The non-governmental organisation made international headlines for rescuing and rehabilitating Dancing Bears and circus elephants from the streets, while creating alternative livelihoods for nomadic communities that depended on their exploitation. As a volunteer, you’ll help prepare food for the animals – like chopping up fruit, as well as building enrichment structures and hammocks for the sloth bears to play and rest in. You don’t need any experience, but be prepared for the heat and humidity. You’ll also have to be a team player, because you’ll be spending almost 24/7 living and working with them.
Find out more at http://wildlifesos.org/
2. Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home in Sri Lanka
Recommended by travel company Expedia, this refuge for elephants is located in Udawalawe National Park – a thorny-shrub jungle with lush grasslands and a reputation for game spotting. It shelters and cares for baby elephants that lose, or are separated from their mothers, until the age of four. By then, the elephants are expected to be mature enough to fend for themselves. Help out by managing grasslands for the elephants, cleaning enclosures, and getting involved in ongoing research activities. At this sanctuary, the elephants come first – participants are not allowed to touch the calves, or take pictures outside of feeding and veterinary intervention times. This is to minimise difficulty of integrating them back into the wild.
3. Animals Asia Bear Sanctuary in Vietnam
Sun bears and Asiatic Black Bears in China and Vietnam are often kept in captivity to harvest their bile, which is then used in a variety of traditional medicines and household products. This semi-natural sanctuary – which is run by Hong Kong-based organisation Animals Asia – houses 500 farmed bears that were recently released from captivity, and provides them a space to safely recover and enjoy the rest of their lives. Here, the bears get health checks and are observed daily as part of a study on the detrimental effects of bile extraction. Veterinary nurse volunteers with prior experience and a recognised qualification can make medicated shakes for the animals, and assist with health-checks and surgeries. If that’s not your scene, you can always sponsor a bear instead, so that they receive top care health, nutrition, and leisure.
Find out more at https://www.animalsasia.org/
4. Anantara Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai
Image: Anantara Golden Triangle
Parked on Thailand’s border with Laos and Myanmar, this luxurious resort is a retreat for rescued elephants and their mahouts. Recommended by designer travel agency Lightfoot Travel, the retreat sits on land belonging to the luxe Anantara Resorts, is funded by the hotel, and supported by guest donations. Although interaction with the elephants is kept to a minimum, you can learn more about elephant biology and behaviour from a resident veterinarian or biologist.
5. Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) in Singapore
Don’t fancy any flying time, but want to do your part? Join wildlife rescue group Acres from home ground in its quest to end animal abuse. Where feasible, the facility rescues and rehabilitates native animals, before releasing them back into nature. If they’re from elsewhere, Acres tries to fund their repatriation where possible, like in the case of Rahayu the endangered freshwater turtle, which was found crossing a road in West Singapore with a fish hook lodged in its mouth, and sent back to Malaysia. As a Wildlife Sanctuary volunteer, you will help care for the animals that ACRES has rescued, and that involves food preparation, daily feeding, and cleaning the enclosures. The animals at the Acres Sanctuary are mostly reptiles, so let’s just say this gig isn’t for the faint-hearted. The level of commitment required is at least a three-hour shift every month, for up to three months. And yes, you can also call the ACRES Wildlife Rescue Hotline on 97837782 if you find a lost wild critter or a slippery snake.
Find out more at http://acres.org.sg/volunteer/volunteer-with-us/