8 In Animals + Wildlife/ Thailand/ Travel

Thailand: Safari Park Volunteer – Cubs & Cats

Stacey and I had the amazing experience of volunteering for 10 days at Safari Park Zoo – one of my favorite experiences in our 101 days in SE Asia. As such, this calls for multiple posts! I started off with an introduction telling you a little bit about the Safari Park Volunteer program (which you can read here) and then there will be four posts giving a little bit more detail about different teams and animals you work with – today’s is the third and it’s all about working with leopards, lions & tigers.

⋙ Cubs

I had one full day working on cubs, but multiple opportunities to go down and play with these little cuties. While I was there, they had lots of little leopard cubs and at the very end they brought up the cute little lion cub, Lelia. When you work with the cubs you’re front and center and working with customers for a lot of the day. Before the zoo opened we cleaned the cages to prepare for the cubs to be brought up for the day. Customers can pay to bottle feed the cubs, but they only give 1 ounce in those instances because they don’t want to over-feed the cubs. There’s a section of the younger cubs (I had six to work with at once) and then there are the next age up- only leopards. The larger lions and tigers get brought up to their own separate section.


How precious is this little face?


Prepping the formula for bottle feeding. collagebottlefeed

Bottle-feeding the adorable Myrtle. They grab your hand to brace themselves and it is so stinking’ sweet. 

Feeding Leila was a whole different game. She is a lot bigger and harder to hold up, but she was such a doll! I have never been a cat person, so I didn’t know how to act with the cubs, but I quickly found myself becoming a cat-lady in training. 



As adorable as these little cubs are, they’re not always all cute and cuddly. They still have their claws, of course and are quite the little nibblers! They love to jump and climb all over you and sink their teeth into your hair and flowy pants. Plus, if they pee or poo, you have to be quick to clean is up! collagecub collagestaceycubs IMG_1542

But I can’t pretend that it isn’t great regardless. Look at these cuties!

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⋙ Big Cats in Safari

After cats leave the cubs area they go to the Big Cat Garden, and after that they go out to Safari. Below is one of the tigers in his enclosure ready for a meal, but the cats spend their days out roaming the Safari Area, which you can see as the safari bus goes through.

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Here’s an example of us throwing the toys into the water so the lions can play! The toys are made from coconuts, twine and more. It’s really fun to watch them splash around and play.

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This sweetheart sweetly sprayed me on my very first day… what a gem!


Petting Fluke! 

⋙ Big Cat Garden

The big cat garden is the next step up from cubs. In this area the cats continue their clicker training, get loads and loads of exercise from the volunteers and customers can also pay to walk a big cat. Playing with the cats started with me going in for about 10 minutes, then the next day I was able to go in for almost an hour. To really work with the big cats you have to volunteer for at least 4 weeks, but luckily you can always go down and help give exercise by playing with them.

IMG_1531 IMG_1534 IMG_7629 IMG_7823 Working with the cats is a really unique and special experience. This is something I would never be able to do in the states, so I really treasured these opportunities. Although, keeping animals in captivity isn’t the ideal situation for any animal, zoos are a part of our world and the volunteers & staff here are working very hard to make changes for the better. These animals are born in captivity and won’t be released, but through the various forms of enrichment, exercise and lots of love given to all the animals they’re making amazing strides towards making the lives of, not only the cats, but all the animals as full and good as possible. Tomorrow is my last post on the Safari Park Volunteer program and it’s all about one of my very favorite animals: elephants! Check back tomorrow!

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  • Reply
    wild life photos
    August 10, 2015 at 10:21 am

    these tiny leopards really look super-cute and I would love to pet them, too!! 😀 But I have one question… where do the animals come from and if they breed so many leopards, tigers, and lions – where are they kept once they are adults? If they have 3-5 young leopards each year, they must have a cage with dozens of leopards by now… alternatively, they could give them contraception? but then the visitors could not pet young baby-tigers?! I don’t want to sound too critical, I just wonder! all the best!!

    • Reply
      August 10, 2015 at 1:53 pm

      The questions are very valid. These are definite concerns. You have to remember that this is a Thai zoo and is therefore ran by Thai standards. That’s where the volunteers come in (and how this program started). The conditions for these animals weren’t always as good as they are today, but the reality is that this zoo is going to continue to be in business and the people who started & are continuing this program are doing a lot to try to better the animals lives and are doing away with things. After the cubs come to a certain age, they’re brought to the big cat garden where they’re exercised daily, instead of just laying in an enclosure. Then after they reach “adulthood” they’re put out into safari where they have a lot of land to roam. I’m honestly not positive how many of each species cat they get per year or if they keep all of them, but these are good questions to ask and I appreciate opening the conversation. I’m a believer in asking questions , even if they sound critical. Thank you for reading and asking these questions.

  • Reply
    Mani (A New Life Wandering)
    August 10, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    How awesome is that?!

    • Reply
      August 10, 2015 at 1:54 pm

      It was a really incredible experience and I look forward to going back in a few years! I’m excited to see their hard work make changes in the zoo!

  • Reply
    Thinking of Volunteering Abroad? Travel Bloggers Share Stories from Around the World - Simply + Fiercely
    February 1, 2016 at 7:08 am

    […] like to volunteer with animals in Southeast Asia. You can read all the details here, here, here, here and […]

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    Xoxo, Southeast Asia - For the Love of Wanderlust
    July 18, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    […] Safari Park, there are so many amazing things I could say about you. Cuddles (and bites) from leopard cubs, feeding monkeys, bathing elephants, getting drooled on by giraffes and even more than these […]

  • Reply
    Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad
    February 2, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    This sounds so amazing! I have a lot of concerns for animal experiences in Thailand, but this looks pretty genuine! I’ll have to do some more research into it, but it may well be going on my list! 😀

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