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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Highland Farm, Mae Sot, Tak Province, Thailand

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Highland Farm, Mae Sot, Tak Province, Thailand
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Registered: December 2007
Posts: 1
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Thailand is a beautiful and complex country full of passionate, loving people and (in my opinion) some of the most magnificent wildlife on the planet. However, Thailand is also a land of contradictions, where natural wonders believed to be sacred are polluted without a second thought and even the most revered animals are exploited. Asian elephants are still used for illegal logging and gibbons are unlawfully kept by many to attract tourists.

I have always been an animal lover and upon graduating from high school I began planning what ended up being a 3 month stay in Thailand to volunteer at a small gibbon sanctuary on the Thai-Burmese border in northern Thailand. I went into this experience with very little understanding of the Thai culture and with the full belief that Thais were the “bad guys” in this situation. However it soon became clear to me that it is the very tourists that come to enjoy Thailand’s natural wonders that are enabling the steady destruction of its beauty. I also realized that this problem is not one that can be solved by cleaning a section of forest or releasing once captive gibbons back into the wild.

My work at the sanctuary consisted of caring for gibbons that had no chance of ever going back into the wild because of physical or physiological damage caused by humans. I gave free tours multiple times a week to foreign tourists and Thais alike and tried to convey to them the threat that gibbons in the wild are under. I hoped seeing the gibbons at the sanctuary revealed to them how the gibbons’ lives had been affected by their initial capture and lives in captivity. I explained that if tourists pay a man with a gibbon to get their picture taken or eat at an establishment with a gibbon providing entertainment, they are only encouraging the capture of more gibbons when the species are already endangered! If they go on an elephant ride in the jungle, they are having fun at the elephant’s expense and facilitating the same fate for more elephants.

With all the problems in the world, it is easy to ignore something as trivial as one species being exploited to gain a tourist dollar, but the problem goes deeper than that: When people don’t have a clear understanding of the consequences of their actions, they could unknowingly be assisting with the devastation of the things they need to keep people interested! If Thailand loses its gibbons, elephants and bamboo forests, the Thai people will have lost a vital aspect of there culture, so it is necessary that tourists and Thais find ways to observe these natural assets from a distance.

I spent my time in Thailand up close and personal with animals that had lost their chance to live in the wild, but one step toward reversing this process is to spread knowledge about what is happening so what remains of this region’s natural assets can be saved. Over those 3 months I discovered that conservation can be a physical act, such as helping to build enclosures for the animals at the sanctuary, and an intangible deed, such as showing people the consequences of there actions and explaining how they can prevent those action from recurring. The world cannot change unless the mindset of its people is first affected.
· Date: December 20, 2007 · Views: 5631 · File size: 42.0kb, 264.8kb · : 1500 x 996 ·
Hours Volunteered: 900
Volunteers: 1
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 18
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 15
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