First Day at the Wildlife Volunteer Centre - bears and noctural animals

Cha-am Travel Blog

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Cleaning the bear pool

5.45am start for 6.30am start on the day's first jobs. This is my new schedule! I woke to the sound of monkey calls in the darkness. I didn't sleep brilliantly, I kept thinking the fan was my phone alarm vibrating, and I had weird dreams about cats!

 

The first job was preparing food for 14 of the so called 'Animal Planet' bears. First we chopped up jackfruit, papaya, pineapple, watermelon and then distributed these with bananas, cucumbers, corn and potatoes into bowls according to each particular bear. We then wheeled the fruit down to the enclosure where Bouncer and Joan had already been locked into the safe enclosure.

Cleaning the bear pool
Bouncer only has 3 legs as when he was found in a trap, his leg was so rotten that it fell off when they moved him and they amputated the rest at the shoulder. He's still faster than Joan out of the pen though, so once we had been round the enclosure sweeping up bear poo (looks like sweetcorn) and leftover food, we placed their fruit around the enclosure in places they had to  climb to and let them both out.

 

Next to the pen with the littler bears. We are cleaning out their enclosure later so for now we just threw the fruit over the enclosure wall, or put the papaya and watermelon through the bars as otherwise they explode on impact.

 

Next over to Pepsi, Cola and Pon.

Bouncer getting his food
They weren't yet in the safehouse, so we rounded them in (they know to go in because if they don't breakfast is delayed), cleared up their poo and leftover food and started to put food out. Unfortunately this was a mistake as we were cleaning their pool today, so if we put food out around the enclosure we couldn't clean. Simon had to feed the bears carefully through the bars of the safe house as best he could, as they are meant to have their food placed in each corner so they don't fight.

 

Time for breakfast. We can help ourselves to any fruit or veg in the fruit house, so I had a couple of bananas and mango before onto the next mucky job...

 

Cleaning the bear pool is apparently the worst job, even worse than cleaning the otter pool (stinks of fish), which I thankfully escaped as it was scheduled for yesterday.

Neil with all the bear food
First the swampy water is drained, and the detritus at the bottom swept out i.e. plant matter, poo, food etc. Then it's down on hands and knees with a short-hair wire brush and all the slippery, green algae needs to be cleaned off before the water can be refilled. It's back-breaking work, but if that's the worst it gets then that's okay. Then we chopped up some bamboo, dripped honey down the tube, and wiped yoghurt on branches around the enclsoure as enrichment activities.

 

Back to the volunteer house for a break where I discovered I have a free period for the next several hours - hooray! I could have hung around the central area and wait to be put to work on an 'extra' activity but experience tells me to value this time as it probably won't come too often. I think a nap, reading, or taking some photos of the animals is a better use of my time until I am more used to the schedule! I was pretty filthy already, I get the feeling I will rarely feel clean in the next month. My finger nails are gross, my shoes dirty, my legs were covered in mud and poo, I got bitten by red ants a billion times but it's okay. Again I have good grounding in lower than usual standards of cleanliness after 7 months travel, camping, sweaty buses and sand....

 

After a little read and a nap we did the second bear feed which is identical except we added some eggs to the feed. And at 4.30pm it was nocturnal diets, i.e. preparing the food for the nocturnal animals; 10 palm-faced civits, 1 spotted civit, 1 bintarong, 1 hogbadger and 4 leopard cats. All the fruit had to be peeled and chopped (oranges, melon, watermelon, cucumber, papaya, bananas) some chicken and eggs boiled and distributed. The leopard cats also get dried cat food soaked in the chicken broth and some Whiskers! The bintarong also had to have medication added. Then we distributed the food in the cages, making sure first that the animals were shut away in the 'safe area' while we put the bowls in and letting them out again afterwards.

 

Showering was pretty heavenly and we made a swift exit at 6pm to a number of taxis for a 40 minute drive to Hua Hin. Originally 5 volunteers from the centre booked to go, but with 12 new volunteers, we totally crashed the party and 17 of us set off for the bright lights. In Hua Hin we made our way to Mamma Mia for a fabulous Italian meal (actually run by a bona fide Italian). I relished a glass of good red wine, plus some tagliattelle with crab, cream and mustard. I resisted dessert in favour of a Brandy Alexander at Sam Sam cocktail bar after a wander round the night market. Our group got picked up at 10.30pm so we could be home before we turned into pumpkins. The ride home was pretty hairy as I dislodged a creepy black spider in the back truck seating and it scuttled across me twice. The guys offered to turn the light on but I preferred not to see exactly what it looked like, feeling that ignorance was probably bliss. It's a testamount to how used to creepy crawlies I have become that I can be so laissez faire. Still, I stayed pretty still for 40 minutes for fear of disturbing it again...

margmack says:
really interesting to read of your volunteering experiences.....Sounds like pretty hard work ...but very rewarding too! well done.
Posted on: Jul 19, 2008
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Cleaning the bear pool
Cleaning the bear pool
Cleaning the bear pool
Cleaning the bear pool
Bouncer getting his food
Bouncer getting his food
Neil with all the bear food
Neil with all the bear food
Cha-am
photo by: thelailama