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Career Change

So I’ve been taking care of wildlife for over 4 years and recently I decided to become a small animal practitioner. Why? Well, here is the story….

A trip to Jakarta earlier this year let me meet an inspiring vet who has been practicing as an exotic pet vet for a few years. We both share a strong passion for wildlife and conservation. She then advised me to start practicing as an exotic pet vet too and help illegal wildlife trade victims. If you know how much I am into wildlife conservation, you’d also know that I would be against this idea. Well, I did at first because I believed doing this would encourage exotic pet lovers out there to keep more wildlife at their homes, thus would create more demands for wildlife trade, and there would be more illegal wildlife trade victims. So I shouted out and explained my opinions. She understood of course, as it was her first thought as well, but what she said next really opened my eyes and changed my point of view. She asked me a few questions:

  • Do they, exotic pet owners, consider if there are any exotic pet vets practicing in their town before buying exotic pets? No.
  • Do they stop buying wildlife just because there isn’t any exotic pet vet available in their town? No. Almost everyone thinks a vet is capable of treating all kind of animals.
  • So what made them buy exotic pets? 1 hobby, 2 prestige. The availability of an exotic pet vet is not in their reasons to keep wildlife as pets.

The fact is, these exotic pet owners don’t really care about the availability of exotic pet vets nearby. The existence of exotic pet vet doesn’t encourage pet owners to buy more wildlife. Then what happens when the exotic pets fall sick? Here is a possible scenario:

1. They will bring the exotic pet to a nearby vet, assuming every vet knows everything about all kinds of animals: furry pets, feathery pets, scaly pets, even hairy rhinos. Unfortunately this is not true, since most clinics are familiar with only dogs and cat. Then the vet will say sorry I don’t know, so the pet owners would start complaining and the exotic pet is left untreated nevertheless. Then….

2. They will bring their pets to a number other vets, hoping a vet would know how to treat it before giving up because apparently no vet knows how to treat a sick Cuora galbinifrons (a sick what??),

3. Once they are home with only a little bit of hope left, they will (of course) do what people nowadays call “research” on the internet search engine and read random articles written by a few different people and playing with medicine to see which treatment works.

4. If the animals live, they will boast they do better than vets. If the animals don’t live, they may buy a new one from black market.

So, I decided to make a career change because in my opinion, by becoming an exotic pet vet I can educate the right targets, which is exotic pet owners who create demand for wildlife trade. In addition I can help them to improve their pet life and prevent the pet from dying (which will lead to buying more wildlife to replace the dead pet). By educating them to stop buying wildlife, I’m hoping they’ll educate other owners in the community as well. Many of exotic pet owners aren’t aware of the damage they cause by keeping an exotic pet. If I can prevent them from buying new animals, we can lessen the demand of wildlife in black market and break the illegal wildlife trade cycle.

Exotic pet vs electronics

Another thing that I realized recently is the tendency of buying some particular electronic brands based on the availability of official service center in their countries/cities/towns.

This brand is cheaper and ships faster. Yes, but there’s no service center in our town. What if it breaks or needs servicing?

Yes that’s what people consider before buying electronic goods, but do exotic pet owners consider if there’s a vet who can handle their exotic pets before they buy it (I mean before the mom is killed and the baby is taken and sold in black market)? No, because everyone thinks each and every vet should be capable of treating any kind of animals, from cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, turtles, horses, cattle, bears, and even elephants. If you think all vets can treat any kind of animals, try bringing a snake into vet clinics and see how many of them even dare to open the door and check the snake.

So now that I’ve opined my thought, could you see my perspective? What do you think about becoming a practicing exotic pet vet?

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What is BodyTalk?

What is BodyTalk?

BodyTalk is a simple and effective holistic therapy that allows your body’s energy systems to be re-synchronized so they can operate as nature intended. Every cell in our bodies has natural ability to heal itself but due to pollution, stress and our usage of supplements and drugs our bodies slowly forget that natural ability.

A BodyTalk session can restore your natural ability to heal and fix your health issues. It is based on the principle that the body is capable of healing itself at all levels – as evidenced by the healing process that is automatically initiated when a person hurts an elbow or twists an ankle.

body self heal ability

As a consciousness-based healthcare, BodyTalk enhances our natural healing ability and stimulates our bodies to balance and heal itself on all levels. A trained BodyTalk practitioner listens to what your body is saying, thus they can identify the roots of problems in your body and heal the problems on physical, emotional, psychological, and energetic levels. BodyTalk integrates seamlessly with medical science, but it does not substitute medical treatment nor medications.

The BodyTalk techniques provide insights to the areas of your body that need attention. Instead of focusing on the symptoms, BodyTalk practitioners find the underlying causes of illness by addressing the whole-person and their whole-story. What might seem like an obvious problem to you is not necessarily the one your body wants to address first.

BodyTalk symptom

If a BodyTalk technique is performed incorrectly, it simply means that there will be no result or change. It will not make things worse. It follows, therefore, that anyone who receives BodyTalk has nothing to lose and everything to gain as far as his or her health is concerned.

Indeed, every person who is sincerely interested in the concept of total healthcare and has a respect for the power of the potential of human body-mind should find out more about the BodyTalk System.

The concept of BodyTalk:

Innatism: refers to a philosophy of Plato and Descartes who assumed that a God or a similar being or process placed innate ideas and principles in the human mind. Innatism is a philosophical and epistemological doctrine that holds that the mind is born with ideas/knowledge, and that therefore the mind is not a “blank slate” at birth. It asserts that not all knowledge is gained from experience and the senses. This is what we call innate wisdom in BodyTalk.

Innate wisdom lets every single cell, atom, and system communicates constantly with every other cell, atom and system within the bodymind complex at all times. This includes communication through the nervous system, as well as the other subtle energy circuits of the body – such as the meridians and the electromagnetic frequencies that are produced by the body through its functioning. Exposure to stress, pollution, and chemical substances in our daily life can cause these circuits to become compromised, weakening or disrupting the communication between the cells and systems.

A BodyTalk practitioner connects with the innate wisdom, then using BodyTalk protocol chart they will find out which parts of the client’s body have communication breakdown that causes symptoms/problems. The left and right brain will then be balanced with BodyTalk tapping techniques to fix the communication breakdown and to re-synchronise the whole body-mind complex.

AdvancedProtocolA

The history of BodyTalk:

In 1995, Dr. John Veltheim introduced BodyTalk, a revolutionary healthcare system that uses state-of-the-art energy medicine to optimize the body’s internal communications and allow it to more effectively respond to injury and illness. Since then, the BodyTalk System has been taught to more than a thousand practitioners around the world.

Veltheim, an Australian, once ran a busy clinic for Chinese medicine, acupuncture, chiropractic and naturopathy. He became exhausted, got ill and couldn’t recover. The long search for a cure led him to experiment with blending these and other alternative therapies, creating “acupuncture without needles”.

The breakthrough in BodyTalk was achieved in 1995 when Veltheim discovered that we can tap into the body’s energy circuits by using simple muscle testing to discover areas of sluggish communication. Tapping on the head then tells the brain to “fix” the faulty circuit, followed by tapping on the heart to “store” the fix, just like a computer downloading a programme.

Until today there are over 200 BodyTalk instructors teaching in over 50 countries with translation of training materials into 10 languages, and there are over 1,300 Certified BodyTalk Practitioner helping people in over 40 countries around the world. BodyTalk is used by people in countries across the globe and from all walks of life, from professional athletes looking for a competitive edge to poor communities desperately in need of affordable healthcare.

Benefits of BodyTalk sessions:

  • Balance the brain.
  • Remove psychological and energetic blockages.
  • Balance chakras, meridians, and the energy body.
  • Ease physical discomfort.
  • Minimise negative environmental effects.
  • Helps to balance posture and physical structure of the body.
  • Balance immune system to fight microbes and to reduce allergies.
  • Reduce fear and phobia.
  • Balance unhealthy memory such of traumatic events in the past.
  • Balance the lymph, blood circulation, and nervous system.
  • Balance the functions of each organs, endocrine, body parts.
  • Ease health issues naturally.
  • Enhance your whole health and well being experience.
  • Increase concentration and work performance.
  • Lower stress level.

Who needs BodyTalk

  • People with health problems.
  • People with high stress level.
  • People with physical complaints (Read a testimonial from a professional golf player here).
  • People with emotional complaints.
  • People who wants to improve their well-being.
  • Basically for anyone, even “the superhuman among us – the Barrack Obamas, the Oprah Winfreys” as quoted from The Telegraph (Source here).

BodyTalk Telegraph

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Spay And Neuter: The Pros, The Cons, And Things To Consider

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The pros and cons of spaying and neutering

Spay and neuter – that’s a very common thing that we hear almost every day now. Many pet owners approach me and ask my opinion regarding the matter. Some are very supportive towards the spay/neuter program, some are still considering whether their pets need it or not, while some others are hesitant or worried about the side effects of it. So what are the pros and cons of spaying/neutering?

Let’s start with the pros:

  • No off-spring (obviously!).
    Finding homes for your new family members is not as easy as you may think. Every year about 17 million dogs and cats were turned over to animal shelters. Only one out of every 10 taken in to the shelters found a home. This means that over 13.5 million had to be destroyed. The tragedy is that this is unnecessary. Much of the problem could be eliminated by a simple surgery: sterilization. By sterilizing pets, owners can help lower the numbers of unwanted and homeless animal companions.
  • No risk of pyometra in queens and bitches. Pyometra is an infection of the uterus that may occur in dogs and cats. The uterus is generally filled with pus. Removing the whole uterus will eliminate the risk of getting pyometra.
  • Less risk of mammary cancer.
  • No dominance and aggressive behavior.
    Dominance and aggression are often (but not always) related to sexual hormone. Getting your pets spayed and neutered removes their sexual hormone which also removes their dominant and aggressive behavior. This is especially helpful to reduce fights in a pack of male dogs or in a clowder of toms.
  • More gentle, more calm, and more affectionate pets.

 

Apart from the pros, here are the cons of spaying/neutering:

  • Excessive weight. Neutered pets tend to become fatter because their metabolism is slower once the sexual hormones are removed. This problem can be solved by decreasing your pet’s meal portion and take them for more exercise.
  • Hormonal imbalance and diseases related to it. A few examples of common hormonal imbalance diseases are hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease. Dr. Karen Becker wrote that Dr. Jack Oliver, who ran the University of Tennessee’s adrenal lab, said that indeed adrenal disease was occurring at epidemic proportions in dogs in the U.S. and was certainly tied to sex hormone imbalance (read full article here).

De-sex, sterile, intact. Which one is better?

Before we start reading the answers, let’s familiarize ourselves with these terms to make sure we’re on the same page:

  1. De-sex: the animals have all their reproduction organs removed. Females do not have ovaries and males do not have testicles anymore. Hence they cannot breed and they don’t have their sexual hormones secreted. Examples of this practice are spay and castration.
  2. Sterile: the animals have their reproduction organ partially removed so they cannot breed and produce offspring, but they still have sexual hormones secreted by ovary or testicle. They still have their sexual hormones and minimal behavioral change is observed. Examples of this practice are tubal ligation, hysterectomy/ovary sparing spay/partial spay (applicable in bitches, but not preferred in queens), and vasectomy.
  3. Intact: no change is made to the animal’s reproductive systems. They still have their reproductive organs and hormones, and can produce offspring.

Spay and castration are the most common methods for de-sexing, but there’s another option called sterilization. If you ask me which one is better, I always opt for sterilization without fully de-sexing the pets. Popular methods of this option are ovary-sparing spay and vasectomy.

In sterilization, your pets will have almost no risk of hormonal imbalance and behavior change is minimal because the reproductive system is kept in a more natural condition than de-sexing.

Bitches which are sterilized but still have at least one ovary intact will still show signs of heat in their behavior. Some people refer this to “clean heat” because there will be no blood, but the bitch will still show heat behaviors.

Should I get my pets fixed?

i-need-fixed

Like I always say, you know your pet better than anyone else and eventually the decision is yours. However here are a few things to take into consideration before deciding to have your pets de-sexed or sterilized:

  • Indoor or outdoor pets. If you keep your pets indoor all the time and they have no chance to meet (or breed) with neighboring animals, maybe they need neither de-sexing nor sterilization. However if you don’t supervise your pets outside, please sterilize them so you are not contributing to the stray overpopulation problem. Don’t be an irresponsible pet owner who allows your intact pet outside without a leash and direct supervision.
  • Hyperactive and aggressive pets. Aggression and hyperactivity are related to sexual hormone. Most pets become less aggressive and less active after they’re de-sexed because the hormone producing organs are removed. If your pet is highly aggressive and dangerous, de-sexing is an option, but of course a better solution is to contact an animal behaviorist to alter their aggressive behavior.
  • Number of pets. If you have more than one pets in your place, they make hierarchy and normally there’s only one dominant male leading the group. The presence of other dominant males in the group will lead to fighting and possibly injuries. If you experience this problem with your pets it’s better to have them de-sexed.
  • Species of your pets:
    1. Old bitches are prone to pus-filled uterus infection called pyometra. It can’t be treated with antibiotics and the only way to treat is to remove the uterus through surgery. If you have a bitch then you should consider spaying her in her young/adult age. When a bitch is too old, there are higher risks of getting a surgery done on them (for example they may not survive anaesthesia, they make slow recovery, the surgical wound may lead to a complicated health problems, etc) and in this case often the final solution to pyometra is to put them to sleep.
    2. Spaying in queens have less complication and less negative impacts compared to spay in bitches. The only negative impact they will experience is being overweight. No significant case of hormonal imbalance disease has been observed in spayed queens.

The decision to sterilize, spay, or neuter your pet, at what age, and with what technique is a very personal decision that is based on your pet’s breed, temperament, personality, and your commitment to training, lifestyle management, and responsible pet ownership. – Dr. Karen Becker

Ready to make the decision? Or still unsure? Contact me if you still have questions regarding spay and neuter.

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Welcoming A (Not So) Tiny Girl Into This World

“I hope it’s going to be tonight, or tomorrow night.”

That’s what I kept on telling people whenever they asked when Ratu, the pregnant Sumatran rhino, would give birth. Based on calculation from Ratu’s gestation period of Andatu (Ratu’s first calf), she was due last week but there was still no obvious sign of when she would deliver the calf, so all we could do was to wait and see, apart from ultrasound-ing her every few days.

We didn’t sleep well in the last week, worried that Ratu would give birth any night and I had spent some nights going to bed at 2 a.m and waking up at 6.30 a.m only to monitor her condition. However, last week I had a hunch that she would give birth later that night so I took a nap. It was also an educated guess because she showed some behavioral change. So I took a two-hour nap hoping to see a Sumatran rhino calf that night, but unfortunately the pregnant mother changed her mind and wanted to keep her baby inside for a little bit more. That night, I couldn’t sleep and stayed awake watching a rhino sleep soundly through the night. Tricky girl!

Days went by, she was getting more and more restless, and so were we! We were hoping every single day that the calf would be born that night. I communicated with her and did a couple of BodyTalk sessions, only to find out that she did not feel safe with bright lights surrounding her forested enclosure (there were a couple of floodlights installed). I tried to address this issue but some of the staff insisted that the lights were needed. A couple of BodyTalk sessions really calmed her down though, and addressed some of her stress resulted from human’s fear.

Then yesterday, I got another hunch. This one was merely a hunch and there was no educated guess. I successfully took a three-hour nap yesterday afternoon (a piece of cake if you haven’t had enough sleep in the last 6 days) and thought if Ratu was not going to give birth that night or the following morning, I’d spend another sleepless night watching her sleeping and wallowing in the mud – the last thing I wanted to do that night. Well, it was around midnight and Ratu seemed to be restless and sleeping less, so I thought that was a good sign … before she slept again and there was no sign of labor (again! She tricked me twice, that girl!). I waited and waited and waited for almost 3 hours, and she was still sleeping. I started feeling frustrated because of the floodlights, I did not know why but I guess that was a mirror of Ratu’s frustration that I felt. At 3 a.m I was getting sleepy and finally decided to give up, but before going to bed I uploaded a silly picture/status on my Instagram, showing how frustrated I am waiting for Ratu’s calf every night.

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Just after the picture was uploaded, Ratu decided to wake up and walked around her enclosure. I decided to wait a little bit more, but she went behind a big tree and stayed there. It was dark (probably the darkest site where she could avoid the floodlights) and I could not see a thing. I was about to give up again when I heard report that her water broke and there were signs of first stage labor! I was so excited and all the sleepiness suddenly evaporated into thin air!

No words can describe how precious the moments are. From the moment when the calf’s hind legs emerged (it was posterior longitudinal presentation, video here), followed by her small body and head covered in hair, to the moment she started to stand up, fell, stood up again, until finally made her first few steps in this world!! Nature is incredibly amazing, especially when we see an animal birth, they just knew what to do from the very second they are born into this world, without being told or taught by anyone of what they should do. They just knew instinctively. Ratu did not touch her calf for the first couple of hours, and I guessed it was to encourage the calf to stand up and walk towards her to suckle. If she had approached the calf, the calf would not have tried to stand up and walk while it was vital for the calf to use her muscles immediately.

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Within less than an hour, the calf really did her best at standing up on her four feet for the first time. It took her less than an an hour and a half to start taking small baby steps, and within 3 hours after birth she had already started suckling. It was funny to see her sniffing Ratu’s belly randomly searching for the teats, not sure where to locate them.

Kudos to the new vet team at Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary! Read more about the birth on IRF’s official press release here.

adinda suckle

So adorable.

So amazing.

So priceless.

Thank you Mother Earth. I hope we, the minority of humans, can continue to preserve the nature while the majority of us are destroying it, even though we are all guilty for that.

PS. I haven’t slept all night as I’m typing this post. Forgive me for a boring-and-not-so-lively story and awful grammar, but I do hope you enjoy the story 🙂

rhino calf wefie copy

The first wefie! I don’t want to disturb the 3 hours old calf so in this case a CCTV wefie works fine as well 🙂

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Volunteer experience #2: Naucrates Sea Turtle Conservation Project

Naucrates is an NGO based in Italy with a project site in Thailand, focusing in turtle conservation since 1996. Their Thailand project is based in an island called Koh Phra Thong (Phra Thong Island) located about 200 km north of Phuket, Thailand. They monitor the beaches in Koh Phra Thong and neighboring islands to find and protect turtle nests, as well as observing wild turtle behavior. When necessary, they also relocate turtle nests to increase the number of hatchlings.

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Image source: Naucrates

How to get there:
Take a bus to Kuraburi (10 hours from Bangkok, 3 hours from Phuket). Exit the bus station, turn right, find Boon Piya Resort on your right, just about 100-200 meter from the bus station. In front of the resort entrance there’s a small office for Boon Piya travel service where you can arrange taxi and boat to go to Koh Phra Thong. You’ll need a taxi to go to the pier (70 baht/$2 for motorbike taxi, or 150 baht/$4.30 for a car taxi), then a boat to the island (150 baht/$4.30). The boat usually departs around 10-11 a.m but there is no fixed schedule so it is advised to book a day in advance to make sure the boat waits for you. The boat ride takes about one hour and along the way some very lucky people with eagle eyes might spot endangered dugongs.

If you arrive in the afternoon, spend a night at one of the few accommodations in town. Boon Piya Resort and Thararin Resort are within walking distance from the bus station, both cost around 200-500 baht/$6-$13 per night. I stayed at Thararin last time because Boon Piya was full. It is located just 50 meter farther than Boon Piya from the bus station. I found the Thararin’s owner was very friendly. She invited me for lunch and dinner together with her family, then she took me to a watermelon festival in town and later that day to the night market.

In Kuraburi you can find some ATMs, 7-11, and occasional night market where you can buy last minute ’emergency’ stuff for the island, such as flip flops, sarong, tshirt/shorts/long pants, and rechargeable torchlight as low as $3!

1kuraburi pier

The pier at Kuraburi. Get a taxi/motorbike taxi to get here.

2boat ride

The boat ride.

3tapayoi pier

Tapayoi village, one of the villages in Koh Phra Thong. This was where I landed (not in the water, don’t worry!)

 

The accommodation:

There are two accommodation sites. The first one is P Nok’s resort where you get a wooden bungalow shared for 2 people with attached bathroom. There is an upstair common area where you can relax, read books, listen to music, or talk to Nok the owner about his life in the island and how lucky he was when the 2004 tsunami happened. It is about 10-15 minutes walk away from the beach. So you can have afternoon swim and watch the sun set after working.

The second site is homestay at Lion’s Village. You’ll get your own room upstairs with a shared bathroom downstairs. The people at the village doesn’t speak English but they are very nice to hang out with and you’ll be surprised that somehow you just understand each other without speaking a common language.

The activities:

  • Early morning walk and walk and walk, with countless beautiful sunrise during your stay and sometimes accompanied by these cute energetic doggies.
    dog dog

    A dog whose name is Dog. She’s probably one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever met ❤

    snowy dog

    Snowy, an ultimate crab chaser. She’s never tired!

    When you find turtle tracks and nests you have to record the details. If you have to do night monitoring, don’t miss the starry sky and the milky way.

    DCIM100GOPROG0024508.

  • If you find a nest in a less ideal location, you’ll have to relocate the nest to a better site. We did a relocation when I was volunteering there. You can read my full story here about nest relocation as published by Naucrates blog.
  • Turtle talk. Don’t miss this one! Well, you can’t miss it anyways. It’s a one-hour presentation by Naucrates Field Leader, explaining about turtles: a few different species, the difference of each species, the behavior of wild turtle, the nest and hatching statistics found in Koh Phra Thong and neighboring islands since Naucrates has been there.
  • Wild turtle behavior observation. You’ll have to do a mini 5-minute hiking to reach the top of a hill and record wild turtle behavior when you see them.
  • In the afternoon you can do kayaking and snorkeling to learn more about the local marine life, guided by a Naucrates staff or volunteer.
  • All time favorite activity: napping on a hammock on a sunny beach.hammock.jpg
  • About once a week the staff and volunteers go to neighboring islands – Koh Ra and Koh Kho Khao, to monitor the beach and look for turtle track/nest.
  • Beach cleaning once in a while, though I did not experience it during my stay.
  • When I was there we did some work for the museum at Lions’ Village. I was lucky enough to attend the opening day of the museum too. Some students from Tapayoi came together with their teachers. Naucrates also educate the locals about the importance of conservation, both mangrove conservation and turtle conservation.naucrates drawing.jpg

The food:

Mostly Thai food, I mean very yummy homemade Thai food (think of thick curries, soups, stir-fried veggies, grilled fresh fish, marinated chickens, with fried banana fritters or fresh tropical fruits as desserts), with several options for western breakfast (their fruit muesli yogurt and banana pancake were good!), available option for vegetarian and vegan (though ‘meat’ is considered only beef, pork, chicken, and fish. Fishballs, crab sticks, and other processed food are considered ‘vegetarian’). For vegans, watch out for fish sauce and shrimp paste used as seasonings in the dishes.

Occasionally you will experience yummy Italian pasta at Horizon Eco Resort. Horizon is one of Naucrates’ supporters. This is also where you will spend a lot of time (I spent mine in one of their hammocks), and also our meeting point in many occasion. The most important thing is they have free wifi for volunteers!

Not to miss: fresh young coconut sold for $1 at Horizon Eco Resort, and Pa Nee’s coconut ball, i.e traditional snack made of sticky rice flour with sweet peanut and brown sugar filling, covered in shredded coconut. Yum!!

Recommended duration: 2-4 weeks.

Recommended time to visit:

End of January to March. Based on this year’s season, January was when the turtles first lay their eggs, and starting in late February you can start to see some hatchlings!

turtle hatchling naucrates

Image source: Naucrates

Tips for future volunteers:

  • Book directly from Naucrates website as it is much cheaper (as low as €205/$235 per week for long term volunteers) than booking through a volunteering agency. Link here.
  • Be physically fit to walk long distance (about 10 km every day, 4-6 days a week). Bring very comfortable shoes to walk on soft sand, such as sneakers or coral boots, or simply walk barefoot if you’re comfortable with it (some staff and volunteers including me prefer to walk barefoot).
  • The observation site is located on top of a small hill, so you have to hike a little. It was only a 5-10 minute walk to the top, and the staff and I did it in flip flops, but some volunteers prefer sneakers for safety.
  • Bear in mind that electricity is limited, and western comfort is very limited. Bring stuff that can keep you and other volunteers occupied that do not need electricity.

What to bring:

  • Sarong, for sun protection instead of sunblock. Sunblock is harmful for the corals and by avoiding sunblock we help to reduce plastic bottle trash. Moreover, if you stay for long term, it’s more practical to bring a piece of sarong instead of bottles of sunblock, right?
  • Wetsuit, (again) for sun protection instead of sunblock. Even waterproof sunblock formula can be easily washed away when you swim and it need constant re-applying. Wetsuit can protect you longer and (again) more practical to pack. If you don’t have a wetsuit and don’t want to buy one, consider of bringing a t-shirt for swimming instead.
  • Hat and sunglasses. Read above, I’m not going to repeat again what they are for.
  • Mosquito repellent (consider natural ingredients such as citronella or lavender or geranium). Mosquito coil and lighter can be bought in the island.
  • Head light. This one is a must. You will start your day just before sunrise and have to walk in the dark. Consider bringing a rechargeable light instead of using batteries, not only because battery is difficult to find in the island, but also because it contains harmful chemicals for the environment.
  • Snacks and comfort food. Limited choice of snack and food is sold, so for snackers my suggestion is pack your favorite yumyum.
  • Speaker for music lovers.
  • Books. You’ll have free time in the morning or afternoon.
  • Card, board games, or other activities that doesn’t need electricity.
  • Small, pocket size and low watt clip fan, just in case the room in Lion’s Village is too hot for you during the night.
  • An open mind and a good sense of humor. This one applies to any place you visit:)

 

Coming up next: volunteering at Phangan Animal Care for Stray (PACS). Stay tuned!

Read more about my tips on volunteering while traveling here.

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Feels Like Home

Around 6 a.m this morning I opened my eyes, saw sun rays penetrated my room through a safari patterned curtain covering my windows, heard the trickling sound of gentle rain, checked my watch, then grabbed my blanket and went back to sleep. I’m not a morning person (unless if morning person means they sleep in the morning, ha!) so waking up before 8 a.m is not easy for me, and the rain did not make it any easier. Half an hour later my alarm rang, so I forced myself to wake up after pressing the snooze button a couple of times.

morning sun

I took a deep breath, took a large amount of fresh air with the smell of the jungle to fill my lungs. Birds had started chirping since sunrise, with cicadas joining their jungle orchestra them as well. Every now and then I heard rustling leaves as the long tailed and pig tailed macaques jumped from branch to branch, ready to start their day. And what were those animals calling each other so loudly? They were really loud, with both ululating and bitonal screams. Oh, right, of course the siamang! I almost forgot that I’m back in the Sumatran wilderness. How I missed the jungle! But my day is not complete yet without seeing my hairy kids.

flying siamang

Flying (swinging) siamang in action

I went to see the hairy rhinos accompanied by SRS’ current veterinarian, Dr. Made Fera. We started with Harapan, the newest resident at Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary who was born in Cincinnati Zoo in April 2007 and brought back to Indonesia in November 2015. I almost fell in love instantly with him! Weighed about 780 kg (1,720 pounds), Harapan showed gentle gestures toward his keepers though sometimes he tried to chase them too. For a wildlife that was born and raised in captivity, he was doing quite well in his new home. It was Harapan’s birthday too so we helped him celebrate by making a simple ‘cake’ made of his favorite fruits and vegetables.

 

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I know I know, the cake doesn’t have its shape anymore, but at least Harapan enjoys it.

Next, we met Andatu in his stall. Andatu, my first ‘grandson’ from his mother Ratu and his father Andalas, was born in June 2012 when I was still working at SRS as a full time vet. He weighed only 25 kg (55 pounds) when he was born, but look at him now! I barely recognized him, especially now that he has two rhino horns instead of a flat nose that he had when he came into this world. More update about Andatu is coming soon.

andatu a few days old

The few days old Andatu (June 2012)

andatu adult copy

The few years old Andatu (April 2016)

After Andatu, we went to greet Andalas. Andalas is Andatu’s father who was born in Cincinnati Zoo in September 2001 and brought back to Indonesia in 2007. He was the first Sumatran rhino born in captivity. His birth sparked a big hope to breed the critically endangered species in captivity to eventually prevent them from extinction. Nothing has changed much since I saw him last. He’s still a big boy who enjoys his time in the stall, spending as much time with his keeper as possible. Such a cute boy, but hey, he’ll be a father of two real soon!

Inside Andalas’ paddock, believe or not, out of millions of trees in Way Kambas National Park, I have a favorite tree. There’s this one particular tree that strongly caught my attention. I sometimes do grounding under this tree, but recently there has been an insect nest growing at the nest so I did not dare to go closer this time.

Then, we moved to see Rosa, the most beautiful Sumatran rhino I’ve ever seen and everyone agrees. If you try to find wild Sumatran rhino pictures online, most likely you’ll end up with Rosa’s pictures (in addition to Ratu’s and Andatu’s). She’s like the supermodel in Sumatran rhino world, but a few years ago her beauty was quickly defeated by the cuteness of a newborn star – Andatu.

sumatran rhino rosa birthday.jpg

Rosa, the supermodel, enjoying her fruit feast

Then we visited Bina in her stall. I’m not going to lie, she’s my favorite rhino so far. She has a reputation of being shy and unpredictable but she captured my heart with her captivating eyes nevertheless. She was one of the first rhinos that were captured in the late 1980s to early 1990s and she’s the only survivor till today. That makes her the oldest Sumatran rhino in captivity, aged about 29-30 years old. I don’t know why, but I feel very connected to her. I feel she always has a kind of ancient wisdom to share with us humans.

We were hoping to see Ratu the pregnant mother, but that morning she decided not to say hi to me in the stall. Maybe we’ll meet tomorrow to check her and her baby conditions. If you’d like to see how she’s doing so far you can read this post here and follow IRF’s blog for future updates.

Which rhino would you like to meet most? Did you know you also can adopt them as your hairy kids? Check their pictures and individual profiles here.

 

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Expecting My Second Grandchild in The Jungle

I left that place almost three years ago. I cried in the car as my ex-field manager drove me to the local airport. One son, three daughters, and a grandson were left behind. No, I’m not talking about furry kids here, not scaly ones, not even feathery ones. I’m talking about hairy kids. I took care four hairy kids since early 2012 when I was working at Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary. Yep, they are Sumatran rhinos, or also known as hairy rhinos.

hairy rhino hair

In June 2012, one of my kids, Ratu, gave birth to Andatu, the first Sumatran rhino calf born in Asia in the last 124 years. He was an instant celebrity and gained thousands of fans worldwide, but he really deserved it. He was the cutest Sumatran rhino calf ever recorded! My heart melted almost immediately when I saw him standing up and taking the first tiny step in life. Come on, look at his cute face below and tell me if you think he’s not cute.

andatu smile.jpg

Last year, we’ve heard that Ratu was expecting the second calf, and that Andatu is going to be a big brother! Of course everyone is happy with the news. I could only pray that the second calf delivery will be as smooth as the first one. I could not be there to watch it, even though I hoped to see the baby after it was born. Last Monday, the field manager called me and asked for my help with the second birth. Can you believe it? My heart almost jumped from joy and excitement! I feel very honored to be given the chance to assist with the birth of my second grandchild 😀

It was a sudden notice, so I only had a day to pack and prepare before leaving early morning the next day. Seven hours car drive and three hours ferry ride it was, but I was so excited to see all my hairy kids again! And oh, Andatu’s uncle, Harapan, was brought back to Sumatra from United States in November last year, so I’ll have the chance to meet him too in this trip. My mind was filled with curiosity, wondering how his personality was, if he was adapting well in the jungle after spending years of living in Cincinnati Zoo, if he shared similar characteristics with Andalas, and so on.

After the exhausting ten-hour journey finally I was there again, back to where my kids are, but it was already late at night when I arrived. Only darkness and cricket chirps greeted me, followed by the same staff who are still taking care of the rhinos. Now it’s time to sleep, and let’s explore the jungle once again tomorrow.