A wise person once said, “Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” We, at Wildlife SOS, highly believe in this. The ones who choose to volunteer for a purpose, give all of their time to it with the sheer determination of helping those in need.
Volunteering refers to an individual or a group of people coming together willingly, so as to contribute their services towards a cause. In Britain, for instance, the concept of volunteering emerged in the 1800s as a measure to help the sick and poor. However, ‘volunteering’ has evolved to include a variety of selfless acts across the world. Since 1985, International Volunteer Day has been observed on December 5th every year to acknowledge and appreciate volunteers’ efforts in making a social change. In today’s time, the internet offers several windows that can connect us to grievous situations taking place worldwide. Sharing of information has generated global awareness, and many are coming forward to volunteer towards what they strongly stand by.
Being a rescue and rehabilitation organisation for animals in distress, we encourage people to visit our centres, become sensitised of the cruel circumstances animals were found in and lend a voice to the voiceless. We recognise how there have been a large number of people from India and across the world who wish to associate themselves with our mission by becoming volunteers at our centres. They are committed to make a difference for the animals who came from a life of brutality and trauma. To welcome their support towards animal care, Wildlife SOS has been successfully running its experiential volunteer programme since 2012!
Wildlife SOS has 12 centres across the country, and we currently invite volunteers at three of our centres: Elephant Conservation and Care Centre (ECCC) and the Agra Bear Rescue Facility (ABRF) in Uttar Pradesh, and the Bannerghatta Bear Rescue Centre (BBRC) in Karnataka. Our aim has been to give people an opportunity to get a closer view of the continuous care that is provided to animals under our care. Before volunteers step into the daily activities of assisting our staff at the centres, our teams initiate sessions to highlight how the animals arrived under long-term care. Building an understanding of animal behaviour and the challenges they were doomed to face has been an essential step that introduces passionate volunteers to our work.
Volunteering for the Elephants!
As a rescue organisation, Wildlife SOS is on the forefront to ensure that elephants are extricated from difficult and illegal scenarios. Elephants under our care have been rescued from neglected captivity. These elephants were forced to perform in circuses, were made to walk on harsh streets as begging elephants and were used as props for wedding processions. At ECCC, we ensure that all our rehabilitated pachyderms get medical attention and care to help them heal from the physical and mental scars they were found with. Additionally, they are provided with a comfortable and spacious environment that they require to lead a healthy life. Veterinarians at the centre tend to their medical treatment, while caregivers design numerous enrichments to keep the elephants active. In close correspondence with each other, caregivers and the medical team chart out a balanced and nutritious diet plan for the pachyderms.
Given the multidimensional aspects involved in elephant care, our volunteer programme at ECCC involves participation in a number of interesting daily activities. These include preparing daily meals for the elephants, cutting up fresh fruits to give them as treats, making food-based and structural enrichments that are customised for each elephant, cleaning their enclosures, and helping out with maintenance work that ranges from plumbing to painting. The routine for volunteers helps them to spend their time effectively at the centre, and also provides a deep insight into the hard work, patience, positivity and kindness that is needed to support the upkeep of gentle giants.
Playful Arrangements For The Bears!
ABRF and BBRC are two sloth bear centres where visitors are welcome to volunteer for resident sloth bears, most of whom were rescued as ‘dancing’ bears or from the vicious acts of poaching. We often see people coming with the intention to only visit, but offer to volunteer as soon as they see the sloth bears! One can volunteer at our bear centres by helping out in the food preparation for the sloth bears, which involves making their daily porridge for them. Other routine activities include making structural enrichments for bears such as hammocks or different hanging enrichments, cleaning the enclosures, and making their fields safe by removing the stones from the ground and regular weeding.
Many volunteers have mentioned that their favourite activity involves creating hammocks for the sloth bears. Every sloth bear requires a different hammock to comply with their physical condition. For instance, Odum, one of our resident sloth bears, has a stunted growth and requires his hammock to be attached at a lower height to make it easily accessible for him. The process of making hammocks and ball enrichments, and watching them being used effectively by the bears, have given our volunteers a high sense of fulfilment.
A Step Towards Change!
Wildlife SOS has hosted numerous volunteers from different corporations, such as HSBC, Northern Trust, Infosys, Atlassian, J.P. Morgan, Biocon and many more. Employees from HSBC recently visited BBRC to volunteer for the upkeep of our resident sloth bears, and took part in all the activities with enthusiasm.
Many corporates come forward to take part in such volunteer activities as it helps to build effective communication within their team as well as creates a sense of motivation to work together for an exceptional purpose.
Apart from corporate volunteers, our centres are often visited by students from different backgrounds to learn more about our conservation efforts, as well as to provide us with extra hands by volunteering. In this past year, BBRC has seen a large number of volunteers from different schools and colleges such as VIBGYOR Golden Bee School, Sarala Birla Academy, AMC Engineering College, BeMe school and many more. Wildlife SOS also takes the initiative to conduct various awareness programs across different schools with the aim of teaching young students about the importance of conservation of wild animals and related topics.
In the month of October, five students of master’s course in Wildlife Sciences from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) visited our centres as a part of their elective paper to learn about how our centres are managed and to understand the need of volunteering at such shelters.
When Stars Make An Appearance!
With an increase in awareness, many famous personalities also join our cause and volunteer at our centres. This helps to spread news about volunteering opportunities among their audiences with profound impact. Many celebrities such as Jennifer Winget, Disha Patani, Jim Sarbh, Sidharth Malhotra, Iti Acharya and Raghu Gowda have visited and volunteered at our centres over the last few years to show their support and concern for wildlife conservation!
Volunteering is a great step to take in order to make a difference that you desire to see. We at Wildlife SOS believe that one can achieve milestones if they put their mind to it. Volunteering does not have any specific age limit, and one of our supporters has proved that significantly. A 10-year-old student from the UK, Xavi Barugh, is a passionate advocate for the rights of abused elephants. Xavi recently visited ECCC in India, symbolising the impact of individual efforts on wildlife conservation.
We have warmly greeted volunteers from across the globe all year round. If you wish to take part in the care of bears and elephants under our care, do get in touch with us. For details on volunteering at the centres, reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.