7th Day - Deputy to 4 Teams

Cha-am Travel Blog

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Andy the Giant Hornbill

REALLY hard to get up today. Yuck.

Today I was on 4 teams so I didn't know where I was meant to be when, all day. Plus it was just hard work and tough sheduling.

I spent the morning with Elise doing 'Special Diets' - this is the food prep for the horse, otters, mousedeer, rabbits, porcupine, iguanas, cockatoos, hornbills, langurs and loris. The langurs are leaf-eaters only, so we prep veg first so there is no cross-contamination. The otters get fishes, soaked dry cat food and cooked chicken. Everything else mostly gets a range of fruit and veg. I always promised myself that when I was put on special cages that I would feed the otters first, since their high-pitched mewing can not only be heard across the entire centre (so everyone knows when you've got round to feeding the poor things) but it is also as pitiful to listen to as a bag of kittens being murdered.

Oly the Oriental otter
I was stunned that on reaching 2 metres from these crying animals that it is no longer possible to listen to or give instructions to your partner as the shrill scream is so loud and so intense....!

By this time we were pretty late for breakfast, and I had barely time to stuff toast and coffee down me before I was due to do 'Other Wildlife Cages'. We started with the 'hardest' - the bird cage. Randy the Giant Hornbill is a particularly vicious giant bird who likes to terrorise volunteers (what animal doesn't find this entertaining I hear you ask!?). The only way we can clean the cages is for one volunteer to distract him by throwing him bits of papaya, and for the other to do a quick whip-round with the broom sweeping up leaves and guano and changing the water in the water trough.

Dum Dum - baby gibbon
Since I was scared of direct contact with Randy I decided to opt for sweeping. This proved to be a mistake when my flip-flop broke for the second inoportune moment (the first was halfway up the ladder to feed the cockatoo in a high-speed ascent) when it got firmly sucked in by mud sludge, leaving me hopping around on one foot. Elise shouted to do the sweeping in bare feet but red ants were climbing all over me and Randy chose now to dive-bomb me. Hopping around waving my broom, screaming and cursing, we just about managed to get the job done and safely out, when we remembered the water bucket was never changed. I point-blank refused to get back in there. It's only in retrospect that I remember my mortal fear of birds. Anyone remembering the 3 bird attack incidents during my first weeks in Australia, or the long-time fear of budgerigars from when I was 10 yrs old may be surprised that this didn't occur to me before I got in a cage with a 3 foot bird hell bent on snapping at my legs and head with it's 2 foot long beak.
Gay iguana (Iggy, Ziggy, Pop, Bob, or Marley - I'm not sure) "Ooh I saaaay"...

Next we cleaned up the steaming piles of horse turd from the mouse-dear and porcupine enclosure, changed the water buckets and added more water to the mud pools for the wild pigs. Here my day almost got dramatically worse when I left the enclosure gate ajar while I put the hose away and was suddenly reminded of this fact by the sound of snorting and honking from the pigs behind me. Thankfully an escape attempt was averted and we moved on to the otter cage. We were meant to clean the otter cage but having not used the food at feeding time to manipulate the otters in and out of their inside and outside enclosures we could only clean the inside cage. Once again we had a close-run disaster when I pulled the sliding gate out of it's stays and it swung freely leaving us with the only option of getting into the cage with the otters to shut it.

Sumo the Slow Loris
Again, disaster was averted, but I was beginning to realise it wouldn't be my day today.

Then onto the iguanas who need sweeping out, water changing and given a shower with the hose. 2 of these hate the bath, or at least look distinctly put out when you drench them with water, while the other 2 clearly love it. They close their eyes and almost seem to smile dreamily, waving their tails and swaying their heads back and forth in delight. Cleaning the iggys in Quarantine also meant I got to spend some time with the baby gibbons, and a grown gibbon who I spent quite some time exchanging 'ooo' sounds, or as I like to think of it, having a conversation. At one point he reached out to me, and I badly wanted to put my hand out too, but fear of the tricksy games these gibbons play I was scared he would grab my hand and yank it towards the cage like I've seen them do with broom ends and bowls. Later a colleague reminded me that much more importantly, the primates should never be touched, since they are so close to us physically that we can pass them diseases and infections that wouldn't affect us but might be fatal to them. And especially those in quarantine (even if most of them are just there because of space issues). Sometimes it's hard to remember however when the Thai staff regularly have phsyical contact with the animals. I'm glad I didn't make a stupid mistake though, however cute and innocent the gesture appeared...

Finally we cleaned the loris, which just requires sweeping the leaves in the enclosure round the tree base and changing the water bowl. We also cleaned the baby loris in the hospital, who slowly rounded his huge, beautiful eyes on us when we roused him from his slumber. Finally we got some mango leaves and fed them to the iguanas for their weekly 'enrichment' and fed the baby squirrels in the hospital lots of tiny, mashed-up food. By 11.30am I was due to fll the water bowls on the primate cages and I just made it back for twelve to sit down for lunch.

No rest for the wicked and as soon as lunch was finished I was due back on water runs for the primates, and then Laura and I cleaned the volunteer house bathrooms and emptied the shitty tissue bins. I then decided to have a well-deserved nap seeing as my schedule had left me no minute all day for a rest. At 2.15pm I started on Primates 1 team helping with food prep and feeding, and then at 3.30pm I moved to Primates 2 to sweep outside the cages. By 5pm I was totally shattered, hot and sticky and well deserved of a glass of wine and some relaxation but STILL after dinner we were down to wash-up and clean the kitchen for house duty. When I FINALLY got to sit down we played some Texas Hold Em (card games and gambling is illegal here so keep shtum), chatted and I eventually got into bed around midnight. Primates 2 tomorrow though so hopefully can have plenty of nappage to catch up! 

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Andy the Giant Hornbill
Andy the Giant Hornbill
Oly the Oriental otter
Oly the Oriental otter
Dum Dum - baby gibbon
Dum Dum - baby gibbon
Gay iguana (Iggy, Ziggy, Pop, Bob,…
Gay iguana (Iggy, Ziggy, Pop, Bob…
Sumo the Slow Loris
Sumo the Slow Loris
Cha-am
photo by: thelailama