Over the years, Thailand has seen the growth and success of a number of organisations that have dedicated themselves to improving the plight of wild animals. These animals have suffered directly because of the country’s growth in the tourism industry as well as human interference in their natural habitats.
In recent years, the number of organisations that have been engaged in animal conservation and rehabilitation efforts has grown. Many welcome visitors, including children, which helps promote awareness of animal welfare while raising much-needed funds to continue their work.
Below are some organisations you can visit to learn more about indigenous animals and the role you can take in improving their lives. Some also feature volunteer opportunities.
The poaching of Thailand’s native gibbon population has become a major problem in Phuket and the surrounding region. The primates are captured and taken around to tourist bars and attractions where people pay to have their picture taken with the gibbons.
Phuket Gibbon Rehabilitation Project (GRP) is working to counter the abuse of these creatures. The project is located in within the Khao Phra Taew Royal Wildlife & Forest Reserve, near the Bang Pae waterfall on the island of Phuket. There, the organisation rescues, adopts and rehabilitates gibbons that have been kept captive and subjected to the physical and mental stress and abuse that life as a tourist attraction causes. Some gibbons are able to be returned to their jungle environment, but others are unable to re-adjust to the wild and the sanctuary becomes their home.
GRP is financed by donations, and they have a volunteer program whereby people help them care for the gibbons. If you have in interest in conservation and would like to be part of this venture, please e-mail [email protected]. Visitors are very much welcome as well.
Located in Petchaburi, WFFT is a volunteer based organisation that offers the chance for visitors to see 450+ rescued animals in a responsible way, free of cruelty and where the animals do not suffer as a result. Animal lovers of all ages can partake in guided day and half day trips starting at 1,100 baht (children under 6 can visit for free). Not only can you engage in the day-to-day life of rescue elephants, including walking with and showering an elephant, you can also spend time with other native wildlife such as gibbons, monkeys and deer. The fees you pay support the running costs of the Wildlife Rescue Centre and Elephant Refuge.
For those wishing to spend more time with the elephants, WFFT runs I-Love-Phants Lodge where guests can stay overnight within the WFFT property. Here, you are close to wildlife surrounded by tranquil and natural surroundings. Five spacious guestrooms are available, some with views of the elephant enclosure; the rate is 4,000 baht per night.
At the other end of the country, outside of Chiang Mai, Elephant Nature Park has become a well-known organisation in Thailand in the fight against animal abuse. The park has received recognition and awards for its work from groups such as the National Geographic Society.
Elephant Nature Park was established to provide a shelter for elephants that have become too old to serve in the elephant trekking industry, or have suffered physical and mental abuse at the hands of their previous owners. The park takes in these elephants and lets them roam the substantial grounds of the park for the rest of their lives. They’re tended to by a small army of staff and volunteers. The park also has an active program educating the public about the elephant’s plight.
Visitors are welcome and bookings in advance are required; rates start at 2,500 baht for a full day visit (children pay 50% of this rate). There is an overnight option as well.
For more information on other ethical elephant parks in Thailand, click here.