The Wild Animal Rescue and Education Centre (WARED) was established at the beginning of 2001 The purpose was to house animals who can not be ( or are not yet ready to be ) released back into the wild. We also want to keep their life as close as possible to a natural situation. Conservation and education are key components of the project as we would like to limit future destruction of the local ecosystem.
WARF purchased a site in Baan Thalaenork surrounded by dense primary forest and mangrove swamps. The local Muslim community have welcomed us warmly, in part because their lifestyle is so very intertwined with the natural environment. In addition the Royal Thai Forestry Department have generously donated 600 rai of pristine mountainous rain forest, immediately behind the WARF site, which will provide an ideal location to re-house animals requiring long-term care.
Working in conjunction with WARF's Gibbon Rehabilitation Project (GRP) located on Phuket, 200km to the south, WARED will focus on education, local village participation and development as well as, of course, providing a sanctuary for threatened species. Funding for Phase 1 has already been obtained enabling the purchase of land and the building of the education centre and accommodation. Phase 2 will involve the building of quarantine enclosures, gibbon islands, further animal enclosures and additional volunteer accommodation. Phase 3 will establish a mobile schoolhouse that can tour the remote rural areas of the province. The total anticipated cost will be 10m baht and WAR are actively seeking major funding sources to complete this important project.
In 2003 , 50 macaques were rescued from animal laboratory experimentation. These animals had been kept in very small cages for the past 10 years and were in very poor condition. After lengthy negotiations the animals were released to WARF's care. Thanks to major funding from The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV). Major building work commenced early in 2003 to construct large enclosures for these animals at WARF's site in Baan Thalaenork.
GIBBON ISLANDS :
Some of gibbons will never be released into the wild. Gibbons that have tested positive for the Herpes Simplex Virus, Hepatitis B Virus and HIV Virus could potentially spread the disease to the reintroduced population as well as pose as a health threat to humans. Other gibbons have suffered body deformations that inhibit their movement, some have had their canines removed and therefore cannot defend themselves in the wild. Some are too aggressive towards humans or other gibbons. Other gibbons cannot break their bond with humans. These gibbons will have to stay with us and must be cared for the rest of their lives. This may be up to 30 years of age.
WARF has recently acquired land in Ranong near the rescue center. Plans are already underway to construct plots of land surrounded by water, which the gibbons cannot cross. On the outer perimeter of this water is an electric fence which also surrounds the island. This further insures the safety of all animals and humans alike. These artificial islands will provide a more natural enclosure for those gibbons that otherwise could will not be released. Furthermore they will not endanger wild population of gibbons or humans.
DAILY CARE-Each day has a similar pattern but no two days are ever exactly the same. The days begin early as there are many mouths to feed and our animals are all early risers. In the animal kitchen you can find the local Thai staff and volunteers busy chopping up vegetables and peeling bananas, which are all bought from a local market. Once all the animals have been fed and watered, a health check is carried out. Time is spent observing every animal in the hope of catching any problems in their early stages. Then it's on to the day's activities. These can range from moving animals to cage enrichment, from maintenance work to behavioural observations. This usually takes us up until lunch time, when everyone takes a well earned break before the afternoon feeding of the animals. Once the animals have had time to finish foraging for their food, cleaning is carried out. This is assigned on a routine basis and is not the most exciting activity but definitely an essential part of looking after our animals.
HEALTH CARE FOR THEIR WHOLE LIFE - In caring for a wide range of animals in a captive environment we are aware of the need to provide mental as well as physical stimulation to maintain their overall health. One way we do this is by finding methods to extend foraging time. For example, we have recently made feeding containers that involve a slightly more complex method of food retrieval. However we can not give them too regularly as it would become routine. Another way of doing this is refurbishing the cages; this is done every couple of months. We redesign their cages and introduce new branches and apparatus. A change is as good as a holiday and the animals appear to enjoy exploring their new environments. We are always on the look out for new ways to provide environmental and behavioural enrichment for our animals.
Our animal sanctuary always has its doors open to sick or injured wildlife. We have and always will provide for animals either brought in by members of the local community, or from our other more specialized branches. We now have a full time veterinarian, in addition to our experienced staff and volunteers. They all live on site and are on hand to provide all the necessary care. Those animals that can be rehabilitated are released once they are deemed fit enough to survive back in the wild.
THE COLLECTIVE CONSERVATION OF BAAN THALAENORK ENVIRONMENT PROJECT - The area around Baan Thalaenork is both beautiful and rich in natural resources. The overwhelmingly Muslim local population makes it's living from primary industry including fishery and agriculture. During the past decade, however, as development in the region has accelerated, degradation of the environment has become evident. Inappropriate land use and farming practices have caused a decline in local water quality and there has been a major loss of wildlife habitat. This district is also attracting a great deal of attention from developers keen to establish eco-tourism ventures along the coast. At present there is neither the infrastructure nor community involvement for sustainable growth. In order to try and combat the emerging problems we have sought and obtained funding for the above named project. Our goals are as follows:
a) Increasing the awareness of the local people about environmental issues affecting the area immediately around them, with the hope of promoting sustainable management of the resources available.
b) Informing the villagers about the concepts involved in eco-tourism development to encourage participation in future expansion of such enterprises.
c) Presentation of potential income-generating ideas to the population to stimulate enthusiasm for the project.
To achieve these aims we have already launched:
a) Monthly meetings with the community.
b) Waste management programmes.
c) Reduction in chemical waste contamination of the area.
d) Formulation of a long-term plan for sustainable management of the natural resources.
We also intend to establish a group of twenty community leaders to work alongside twenty youth leaders in the co-ordination of any eco-tourism schemes and to monitor such things as local water quality. We are in the process of setting out our plans for the progression of eco-tourism here and wish to delegate the overall control of this to a committee of interested individuals. Lastly this project hopes to offer specific training in alternative occupations that could support the local economy alongside the activities traditionally engaged in.
RECOVERY OF FISHERY COMMUNITIES IN THAILAND AFFECTED BY TSUNAMI - This project was started at the end of January 2005 to help 11 small fishing communities along the Andaman coast that were damaged by the tsunami. Ten of the villages sustained no loss of life but Baan Thalaenork was hit hardest. Out of the 230 people living here, 41 died, alongside 5 outsiders. Tragically, 17 of those killed were children.
As indicated above, fishery and agriculture are the primary sources of income in this region. After the tsunami, Baan Thalaenork lost almost every fishing craft (with associated equipment) belonging to the village. The total value of the boats destroyed amounted to 1.34 million baht (US$34,745). The great loss of life has obviously made the fishermen reluctant to return to the sea; moral and financial support is required in this particular village. The surrounding mangrove forest that is vital to the marine ecosystem was also decimated.
In the aftermath, a great deal of aid flowed into the area from various sources including the National Tsunami Disaster Relief Committee. The distribution of the money was not closely regulated and a survey carried out at the end of January 2005 by our team indicated that there were serious problems. Only fishermen registered with the Fishery Department of the Thai government had received any aid and even these people had not been given adequate funds to replace the boats and equipment as well as pay for everyday living expenses. Consequently, money intended to get the fleets operational once more was being used to subsist on. Some fishermen managed to return to their work on a small scale but found that purchasers at the local markets were unwilling to buy produce caught in the area. This was apparently due to circulating rumours that the fish had been feeding off the bodies of tsunami victims still not recovered from the sea.
In response to the issues detailed, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in association with GEF/SGP and WARF, took over the co-ordination of the relief efforts in the communities affected. The project unit that has emerged aims to:
a) Rebuild the boats needed by the fishermen to return to their occupation.
b) Restore the marine habitat.
c) Provide short-term recruitment opportunities for those formerly dependent on fishery whilst regeneration of their industry progresses.
d) Increase the capability of these small-scale fishing communities to respond to future natural disasters through seminars, study visits, discussion groups, community meetings, memorial events and further skills training.
e) Reconstruct the infrastructure and markets associated with the fishery.
f) Mobilise additional funds from private sector donors to cover costs that do not exactly meet the stipulations of the UNDP grant.
g) Survey and attempt repair of surrounding mangrove forest.
OTHER ROLES OF WARED IN THE COMMUNITY
WARED fulfils several further roles in Baan Thalaenork. Just after the tsunami we opened our buildings up for use as a co-ordination centre for aid distribution. We also hosted the lessons of the local school children for a period. Our site continues to provide a focus for village affairs. Many meetings and seminars are held here including those aiming to inform the villagers about the establishment of a local co-operative system and all the eco-tourism developments. Alongside our care of wild animals, WARED has also taken responsibility for monitoring the welfare of the domestic species kept around our centre. One example was the case of a malnourished buffalo looked after here by our vet. We have also acquired a gang of cats! Our activities and sphere of influence are constantly changing and we anticipate this will be the case for many years yet.