Category Archives: Volunteers

Volunteer Experience Part 2

International Volunteering

October 3, 2018

I have visited several Wildlife Centres around the world. I remember asking a Swedish volunteer why they traveled all the way from Sweden to Malaysia to volunteer at this certain Turtle Conservation Centre. They told me because this was one of those Centres where they could be reasonably well involved in the operations of the Centre. One might not be able to be as involved in a Big / International Centre.

Spending 30 hours to travel from Singapore to London, to Chicago to Arkansas, and spending a good week Volunteering at Turpentine Creek – I now understand what my Swedish friend meant. We appreciated having the very behind the scenes look we got Volunteering at Turpentine Creek. We got to shadow the Animal Care team in charge of the Big Cat exhibits, help to prepare food and medications for the Animals, build a fence for the new Bears habitat, make Enrichment/toys for the Big Cats.

If you haven’t already, do check out my fellow Animal Loving travel buddy, Dee’s recount of all the things we helped do and learned at Turpentine Creek! We were happy to help with any little task, out of our usual work lives, to do something for the Animals. One would not get this kind of access that we got at Turpentine Creek just anywhere.

It was also very educational. The Big Cats at Turpentine Creek were all rescued from some sort of sad, dire situation – results and rejects of the Exotic Pet Trade, which we learned about in depth from Hannah, our Turpentine Creek host & Wildlife Interpreter at the Refuge. A strong believer in the importance of Education to help remedy the sources of problems of the Exotic Pet Trade, Hannah championed the formation of the Education Department at Turpentine Creek.

Hannah was warm, welcoming & dedicated to answering our questions, discussing Animal Welfare issues, controversial topics.. at a pace we were comfortable with. There are hard conversations to have about what we as people like to do, and what is best for the Animals – which I think everyone needs their own time to come to face with.

As an avid photographer, spending a whole week, days and nights at the Refuge, gave me ample time to photograph the Big Cats. They tend to be more active early in the morning, in the evening, and on cold rainy days. It was challenging to shoot through the well-secured double fencing the Animals were housed in. But it was a challenge I welcomed to capture these animals as beautifully as I could to inspire people to visit Turpentine Creek.

Photographers usually seek a picture perfect environment for photos, but I have come to understand that a picture perfect place might not always be as ethical as they claim to be. Representing Animal Encounters Wildlife Tours, I look forward to promoting Turpentine Creek as a Wildlife Volunteer Destination and sending more Volunteer groups to Turpentine Creek.

We are scheduled for 3 talks upon our return to Singapore. The third including Hannah herself from the Refuge, who will be flying 30hrs all the way to Singapore in Asia to share personally about Turpentine Creek.

We are happy to be Voices for the Animals, and would like to say a Big Thank You to Everyone we met at Turpentine Creek, as well as our amazing host Hannah – for having us, doing all the hard, Amazing work they do for the Animals.

Sign up to volunteer at Turpentine Creek on their Volunteer page!

Written By: Nicole aka Nikkiko – Photographer, Animal Lover, Expedition Leader – Animal Encounters Wildlife Tours – Singapore

Volunteer Experience

A Visitor Volunteer Perspective of TCWR

Waking up to Lions caroling and watching tigers play in the early morning are two experiences I am sure to miss when I leave Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.

For a number of years, I have followed few of the big cat rescue groups in social media always marveling at the photos and videos of these magnificent creatures and the tremendous work done by the people who look after them. I was delighted when I saw there was an opportunity to be with these cats in person and knew in my heart that it was something I could not pass.

So I packed my bags and started my adventure in Singapore with another fellow animal lover Nicole. After 30 hours of flying, we were greeted by Hannah our very lovely host at the airport. We were first taken to our accommodation on site and from the get-go I was impressed. I will let the photos do the talking but you’d agree that these tents look pretty awesome.

On top of the glamping tents, there are wide of variety of accommodations options that cater for all needs. Best of all its pet-friendly, so if you can, do bring your pooch along ☺ For more information about accommodation opportunities visit TCWR website https://www.turpentinecreek.org/stay-with-us/view-all/

So here is what we got up to during our stay here.

Guided tour

We went on a guided tour given by the Wildlife interpreter Hannah. These tours are a great way to learn about each of the animals, why they are in the refuge, the multitude of problems caused by people keeping exotic animals as pets and the entertainment industry (cub petting, taking selfies, circus, and movies). While I was really excited to see these animals up close ‘well as close as you should get to a wild animal’ I was sadden by the depth of issues. The numerous health problems suffered due to inbreeding, cubs been taken away from mothers too early and to know there are more of these magnificent creatures living in captivity than in the wild. Learn more https://www.turpentinecreek.org/sanctuary/

Getting our hands dirty

The animals at TCWR eat up to 500-700 pounds a day. That is a lot of food prep. Each animal also gets a mix of medication and supplements based on their individual needs that are mixed into their food. Nicole and I got the opportunity to help out preparing the food which was a lot of fun. Even though TCWR is a big cat refuge they also have few bears who needed forever homes. We help with the construction of the new bear enclosures. We were lucky to be in the refuge during the World lion day. We helped to make enrichment for the cats and watch them play with it. Yes, they do play like your house cat but the difference is they will eat you <https://www.turpentinecreek.org/big-cat-pets/> I was reminded of this every day by Lakota one of the Ti-linger who stalked me – I suspect due to my knee injury.

A bit about the team

The animal care staff work rain, sunshine or snow to take care of these animals. Their days include cleaning the enclosures, feeding the animals, food prep, building enclosures.

The refuge also has a veterinary hospital that they perform medical care. This facility is really important given the health issues these animals have due to abuse in captivity.

Another very important aspect at TCRW is education and outreach. Lack of awareness is a significant reason why people keeping wild animals in captivity, cub pet or take selfies. Education is an important way to raise awareness among the community and hopefully put a stop to the abuse that these animal go through.

Reflection

In the short time I spent in TCWR I learned many things and there are things we can all do to help these animals.

  • Visit a true sanctuary Cub petting, taking selfies, seeing them perform is riddled with abuse and cruelty. These animals are not pets and breeding in captivity don’t help conservation. When you are planning to include an animal encounter on your next holiday please do your research and make sure you only visit true sanctuaries.
  • We can make a difference every day One of the biggest threats to big cats in the wild is habitat loss due to deforestation. Palm oil is one of the industries that have a significant impact on habitats Tigers live in. By purchasing Palm oil-free and/or sustainable products we can make a huge difference to the plight of these animals in the wild.

Finally, was the 30 hours of flying worth it. For me, it has been an experience I would remember forever. But don’t take my word for it pack your bags and see it for yourself. For more pictures, visit http://AnimalEncounterWT.com/Turpentine

You don’t have to travel across the world to volunteer at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, even locals can get the experience of a lifetime helping at Turpentine Creek by signing up to volunteer. You can learn more about volunteer opportunities on the Volunteer page. 

You can also see her photo gallery at https://www.animalencounterwt.com/turpentine

Written By: Dharani Perera – US Big Cats Volunteer – Animal Encounter Wildlife Tours – Singapore

International Volunteer Groups

Ethical Travel Awareness

August 13, 2018

International advocacy and awareness for the exotic pet trade is extremely important to bridge the gap between countries and solve global problems with exploitation of wildlife. Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has paired up with an international ecotourism company, Animal Encounters Wildlife Tours, to create a volunteer program for all students, providing the opportunity to learn about the plight of exotic big cats in the United States.

Traveling all the way from Singapore to Arkansas, our volunteer group consists of the lead organizer Nicole and colleague Dee, both very passionate about the ethical treatment of animals and environmental tourism. Nicole and Hannah, TCWR’s Wildlife Interpreter, had met previously during an animal-centric internship in 2014, in South Africa. Their friendship grew based off of environmental advocacy and a passion for being a voice for wildlife around the world.

The dedicated volunteers spent their stay in Bam Bam’s Bungalow, for a full-on Turpentine Creek experience full of lion carols. Their days consisted of learning about the plight of exotic pets throughout the United States, and in-depth discussions about the connection between issues within Asia and the U.S. They joined tours, helped to educate the public during World Lion Day about lion conservation and life history, and volunteered with the animal care team building bear habitats and prepping animal diets.

The ability to create international awareness in invaluable to TCWR’s mission to fight the exotic pet trade and save big cats and exotic animals from the pet trade. By hosting international students and volunteers, TCWR is able to create many more voices for big cats in need. The first volunteer group has brought many important ideas for the education department and improving our volunteer program. They will be writing a blog of their experience, and what they both have learned and valued during their time here. TCWR is excited to continue to work with international volunteers and make a difference for students and animals throughout the world.

You don’t have to be from another country to volunteer and help out the animals at Turpentine Creek, you can sign up to volunteer now on our Volunteer page!

 

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