If you are an animal lover, no trip abroad is complete without your much needed dose of the cuddly, may it be from the puppy begging for scraps under your table in Vietnam or that row of fluffy ducklings paddling down the river in Siem Reap.
Instead of hitting the nearest zoo, why not try animal sanctuaries? These places often provide animals a place where they can live without the threat of abuse, poaching, or landing into the next soup tureen. They also double up as a centre to raise awareness of animal and environmental conservation.
Here are a few sanctuaries around Asia that could reignite your love for animals and compel you to want to do a little bit more good in the world.
Agra Bear Rescue Facility, India
Image by Wildlife SOS India
Mutilated and beaten into training, sloth bears are forced to entertain by dancing for a paying audience. Although this cruel practice was banned in India in the 70s, what was claimed to be the last dancing bear was only surrendered in 2012.
Not only forced into dancing, sloth bears are under threat due to the Asian medicinal market. Bear parts such as paws, bile, gallbladders and hides are sought after for their ‘cure all’ properties, categorizing them as a vulnerable species.
The Agra Bear Rescue Facility, located not too far from the famous Taj Mahal, is a place where rescued bears are treated and rehabilitated, giving them the chance to live happier lives.
Fighting to keep bears off the streets, Agra Bear Rescue Facility is currently home to about 300 sloth bears who have been given a second chance at life, as well as an array of other wildlife species.
More information: http://wildlifesos.org/visit/
Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, Thailand
Image by Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary
Although a cultural icon, the Asian elephant is one that has unfortunately found its way into the list of endangered animals. These majestic animals are threatened with death for its ivory tusks, or forced and abused into labour or entertainment. What used to be an estimated 100,000 elephants in Thailand has dwindled down to a meager 3,500-5,000 in population.
Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, however, wants to change that.
Determined to put a stop to the potential extinction of the Asian Elephant, this sanctuary provides a safe and natural haven for rescued elephants as well as spreads an awareness of the impending doom that may happen to this species should they be left alone.
Should you intend to pay Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary a visit, make sure you place your booking in advance as they keep their visitor count low.
More information: http://www.blesele.org/
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Malaysia
Image by Sabah Tourism
Known as ‘man of the forest’ in the local dialect, Orangutans can only be found in Borneo and Sumatera. Amongst our closest living relatives, humans and orangutans share 97% of the same DNA.
Unfortunately, these ginger primates are critically endangered as they lose much of their natural habitat due to deforestation for palm oil plantations and illegal logging. Over the last 20 years, it is estimated that orangutans have lost 80% of their habitat. Apart from that, because their numbers are few in the wild, they have become highly sought after as illegal pets, an addition to their already long list of threats.
Situated at the edge of the Kabili forest reserve, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre takes in young orangutans who have been orphaned and slowly prepares them for a life back in the wild.
Feeding times are daily at 10 am and 3 pm so if you are paying them a visit, make sure you don’t miss the chance to hand them a banana or two.
Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary, The Philippines
Image by Destination Cebu
Known for its little body and eyes bigger than its brain, the Philippine tarsier is one of the smallest primates around. These shy creatures are hard to find as they are nocturnal, only coming out at night. Smaller than a coconut, the Philippine tarsier is unique as its eyeballs are attached to its skull, but their heads compensate with the ability to rotate 180°.
Once a common sight in The Philippines, there are an estimated 1000 Philippine tarsiers left in the wild due to deforestation and the illegal pet trade.
The Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary in Bohol aims to protect this species from extinction via research programs, establishing protected areas and raising awareness through eco-tourism.
Short and long term volunteering programs are available if you feel the need for a little bit more cuteness in your life. Mind you, as adorable as tarsiers are, they do not like to be touched.
More information: http://www.tarsierfoundation.org/
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