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