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Polly Cheal - Thailand Zoo Assistant

Polly is studying Animal Welfare and Behaviour at University and wanted to gain experience caring for exotic and a variety of animals. She feels that her time in Thailand has educated her on animal welfare in Thailand and she just wishes she could stay longer to learn even more!


1. Why did you choose this particular project?

I chose this project as I have never been to Thailand before and thought it would be a great adventure, also it meant that i would be working with a variety of animals rather than just one species.

2. Which kind of work and activities did you do during your project?

At the project I helped clean enclosures and feed the animals, learning about their specific dietary requirements, I also helped with enrichment for the animals, building new things in enclosures and doing food enrichment such as banana leave parcels for the monkeys.

3. How did the culture and people differ to home, and what were the locals like?

The people at the zoo were lovely, helping with the language and how to do things, the culture was very different but I had researched it before I went so knew vaguely what to expect.

4. What was the accommodation like?

The accommodation was basic but you didn’t need a 5 star hotel whilst there. I had a bed, fan and ensuite toilet and cold shower (which was a godsend in the heat), a volunteer kitchen and two meals a day.

5. What were the staff and other volunteers like?

The staff and volunteers were all so lovely, helpful and welcoming answering any questions you had so I could get the most out of my visit.

6. What was your most amazing moment or your best memory?

Choosing the best memory is very hard as i did so much!!! Working with the cubs was definitely a highlight as for one they were just so cute (even if they did bite a scratch quite a bit!) and working with tourist customers meant I could teach people about the animals, giving them facts as I know quite a bit from my animal university degree.

7. Do you feel the work you were doing was worthwhile?

I did feel the work I was doing was worthwhile as I helped the other volunteers and staff with day to day work and duties but I think being there a lot longer would have been more beneficial if I wanted to do long term projects around the park, however I did coordinate building a shelter for the cassowary bird which was a massive improvement and will help with the bird's welfare.

8. What sort of wildlife did you encounter?

I encountered all sorts of wildlife out there from big cats to giraffes and zebras.

9. What were you hoping to learn while on project, and have you achieved those goals?

I wanted to learn how a typical thailand zoo worked and how people in the country perceived the animals and their welfare, I also wanted to work hands on with animals that needed welfare improvements and I feel I personally achieved this and learnt a lot.

10. Any tips and advice you might like to pass on to future volunteers?

Research how to get there from bangkok thoroughly as I struggled slightly with the journey, but there are a lot of friendly people to help. Be open minded to the conditions and way the animals are treated, its not that they are treated badly - they’re not, it’s the fact that it is primarily a zoo and there is a tricky line between the animals being left to perform natural behaviours and live their lives, and 'exploiting' the animals so visitors will pay to see them and therefore give money to the zoo to help the animals. This was one thing that took a few days for me to adjust to but once I was I concentrated on doing all I could to help and therefore learned a lot and felt accomplished.

11. What do you have planned next?

I have to finish my University degree but I would love to go out to Borneo to work with orangutans.


See Frontier's Thailand Zoo Assistant Project

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