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