As expats and tourists in Thailand there are often a number of things which remain hidden to us. As relative newcomers to the city my wife and I were relatively ignorant of the maltreatment suffered by some of the animals here. Following a visit to a Thai animal rescue centre we feel a lot more informed – and slightly guilty about our previous lack of awareness.
The Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand is located in Petchaburi province near Hua Hin about three hours drive south of Bangkok. They run a large centre which cares for more than 450 rescued animals including bears, elephants, gibbons, monkeys and birds.
Most of these animals have been rescued from appalling conditions like some of the bears who were kept for years in cages hardly big enough for them to turn round in, or the monkeys kept as family pets in tiny apartments and fed on chocolate and sausages. Many of the elephants at the centre have had horrible lives living in Bangkok where they endured daily beatings, or have been injured on the road by trucks and buses.
It goes without saying that the animals enjoy a much happier and more natural life at WFFT. Sadly most will never be able to return to the wild but the centre gives them food, shelter and medical care throughout their lives. Seeing the fantastic work that is carried out by the organisation was extremely humbling and they have big plans to expand and take on many more animals. They are building more enclosures and building their network of supporters across the globe.
Things are a lot better than then used to be in the country; for example begging elephants are now outlawed here and slowly local people are becoming more aware of the problems associated with adopting wild animals into their homes. However there is still much work to do which is unfortunately why centres like WFFT will continue to be needed.
The centre runs entirely on voluntary contributions from benefactors as far afield as the UK and Australia. Regular volunteers help the paid staff to run the refuge; from the endless feeding through to the medical treatment of sick and injured animals. Seeing them all in action is really inspirational and I whole heartedly recommend a visit where you can interact naturally with the animals and even feed and walk with the elephants.