01.05.2013 - 04.05.2013 46 °C
As of yesterday we have been in Asia five months. It has gone extremely quickly and looking back and reading this blog we have done alot but there is still so much we want to do. Here at the safari park several volunteers are stil away so we are continuing to look after the big cats and cubs.
Wednesday and Thursday we were both on cub duty. The days started with the clean and Chelsea got to take one of our new volunteers to see the giraffes. No matter how many times she goes to the giraffes she still loves it. The leopard clean is so much easier than the monkey clean, and most mornings we are finish around 8.30. This gives us time to pay a quick visit to the leopard cat in the jungle to re supply food and water and then go to the night enclosures on safari. We have been doing this for a couple of weeks now just checking whether all the cats are getting equal turns on safari as they can not all be out at the same time due to fighting. It has soon become obvious thought that this is not happening. We have had a meeting with the boss and the keepers and they have provided solutions to give all the big cats enrichment and excerise time.
The cubs are continuing to improve, the training is coming along well and they are both getting calmer. The only problem we have now is just space. The leopard can jump out of her enclosure and the tiger is too big for hers, it is becoming dangerous to have two people and the tiger in there. Giving Tat the tiger a shower is always one of the highlights. She loves the water and she sits under the hose, playing with the water for ages. She lets you rub shampoo into her and wash it off and its so nice watching her enjoying herself. As she loves it so much we are classing it as a form of enrichment for her so we are not going to do it very often, just so she still enjoys it and it is still novelty for her.
On Thursday night we finally had the BBQ that had been postponed earlier in the week due to rain, The ckicken was the only thing that did not survive. We sat outside with the fire and cooked ribs and a huge catfish stuffed with lemon grass and spices. It was delcious severd up with the curry that was cooked for our dinner by the restaurant staff.
Friday we had a bit of a change. Chelsea took one of the new volunteers on cubs and Liam helped the rest of the guys building. Tat the tiger is so bored in her enclosure that she often just runs in circles. We sit in there all day with her but the only thing she has to play with is her wter bowlwhich she often smashes. Since the death of her brother the owners have been very reluctant to give her any toys or anything in her enclosure at all. We managaed to explain that she needs toys and natural materials in there so she is less bored. We have introduced enrichment and gave her a coconut in the morning to play with. She loved it and she chased it round for hours trying to bite it. When the novilty wore off and she became boisterous again we gave her a frozen ball of ice cubes. She had loads of fun smashing it all up and licking it.
We have decided to build a new enclosure in the jungle for our leopard cat and for any future possible releases we do. The current one was thrown up out of necessaity and is not really practical. We currently have a welder here so plan to get as much out of him as possible as he is the first welder to volunteer. We are planning to make the enclosure alot larger and fit a proper holding cage so we cat safely access it to clean. Liam realy enjoyed helping. it was very scrapheap challenge as we salvaged metal from old stock piles and rusted flat bed trucks. Liam just helped holding and carrying while all the metal cut up and grinded to size. Thailand is not a country for PPE so we had to make do with sunglasses for sparks and ear plugs made of tissue paper. Flip flops are also not really appropriate footwear...
The main incident we have had this week happened in the afternoon. We have a tour guide who often brings small groups of tourits just to have a photo with Blue on the table. These tourists do nothing else in the park, usually we just ignore the samll group but yesterday the tour guide brought a coach of 50 people. It is a massive step back for us if this tour guide can continually bring this number of people to have a photo with Blue. If Blue is making this money he would never come off the table. Tat tried to speak to the tour guide about alternative programs that the volunteers have set up in order to remove Blue from the table and the guy was not interested. He said he did not care, and things got heated quickly and Tat got upset. This has disheartened the whole team. It remains to be seen whether the guide can bring this number of customers consitently.
Last night was also a nightmare. One of our puppies George, got a prolapsed penis. Everything wsa out and inverted and twisted he was in a lot of pain. We made several attempts to push it back in while restraining George but the swelling some became too servere. We conntated a remote vet we have and he thankfully replied quickly. We had to give him anti inflamatory meds, wait for these to kick in then after a cold compress to further reduce the swelling force it back in while ignoring the screams of the puppy. It became drastic as the vet said the puppy could go into shock if it did not go back in and then die. It took us until 1 am but we managed to get it back in. We do not know however what the after care will be like and how long until the risk of it happening again has passed. We do not know how it occured this time.
Today we were all a little tired after last nights drama. The clean passed in a bit of a blur. Then we got more bad news, the flat bed truck we had taken apart yesterday for the leopard cat enclosure was not scrap and has to be put back together. This despite it being in terrible condition. We spent the morning welding back together all that we had cut up yesterday. Again Liam is no welder so he was on holding duty. Chelseas was on cubs again. The cubs are making real progress after working with us so closley. We are trying really hard with them and we think you can tell in their behaviour. Latte the leopard cub used to jump up to play and bite but now she is very calm and if she tries to jump you just show her your index finger as a telling off and she walks away. Wehave started to take customers back inside with no milk safely with her and she enjoys all the attention and affection. Someone is sat in her enclosure all day so she gets used to people ebing in there and does not react when we bring in a customer. She walks on a lead really easily and will even let you lay next to her and stroke her.
Tat, the tiger cub is more difficult than Latte but is doing really really well. In the mornngs she walks on the lead nice, even though she is quite strong. She just needs patience as she likes to have a sit down and a play. This is understandable as she has been in a metre by metre box all night so she is excited when she comes out but Toy does not have the patience and hts her bum with a stick until she moves. This causes her to be unpredictable and jump around as she is afraid and is really annoying when you are walking her. Her training is going excelent. We train her inside the cage now. We show her the clicker and say the command 'calm' and show her the palm of our and and she lays down. We then click and feed her while she is being calm. If she gets up we wait until she lays down again and then click her. This means she recognises getting a reward for being calm. Today Chelsea brought in a brand new volunteer into the enclosure half way through the training. Usually she would be up, trying to test them and dominate them but she stood up and went over to him and when Chelsea said calm she laid back down and stayed there. This is a massive step and it is obvious that she enjoys the training and wants to please us. During the day she had a mad half an hour where she wouldnt settle down and was bouncing off all the walls. Chelsea went in with some food and the clicker and she calmed straight down. She even eats meat from your hand. We are really pleased with the progress she is making and hopefully it will mean that she can learn several commands and we can safely take in customers when she is a really big cat. We dont hit her apart from an occational flick on the nose when she tries to bite as we are finding that having mutual respect between ourselves and the cats is working much more effectively. The only problem is Toy, Blues keeper. She regularly enters Tats enclosure to 'play' with her. This invloves revving her up so much that she is dangerous, hitting her and then leaving the cage becasu she is too 'crazy'. it is annoying as it is really detromental to our training as she is getting mixed signals. We always insist that any volunteers that go inside dont play with her as we are trying to encourage her to be calm, especially with our hands as when she is older this can be very dangerous. Also hitting her and dominating her is so different to the approach we are doing with her that it can cause her to be unsure how to act with humans. We called a meeting with the boss today to express our fears about Toy and her behavoiur with Tat as it really upset Chelsea. After all our hard work we dont want it to be jeperdised by someones urge to dominte and humiliate a tiger. We feel like if we dont get the training with Tat right we wont be given another chance to show the boss we can do it. Not only this but it is hard to watch someone really hit a cub that you have looked after for months.
In the afternoon we had a meeting with Joe the boss, we addressed what happened the day before and also that fact that Tat the tger is too big for her current enclosure. We proposed moving her temporarily to a empty cage by the monkeys until our big project of Big Cat World is complete. This would give Tat at least three times the space she has now. Joe said he would think about it but it sounded promising.
There has been a big step back with the tour group and the team is a bit shaken. The last thing we needed at this point when we are so close the getting Blue of the table 50 people turnng up to pose with him. We hope it is a one off, and we also hope it does not mean the Thai staff decide to leave him there. We need to come uo with a new strategy and try and bring more people in to do our ethical programs and making people think about what they are actually paying for when they take a photo with Blue.