When I renewed my passport, I made a promise to myself that my first passport stamp would be to a meaningful and memorable destination which turns out to be Noah’s Ark Natural Animal Sanctuary (NANAS).
Since then, I always find a chance to return to Noah's Ark whenever the opportunity arises, to relive the good old memories and to seek new ones. The ark has been my respite away from the hectic city life, a soul invigorator and I look forward to these volunteer visits where I can spend an entire day just being free and contributing to the ark. Noah’s Ark is a rare place as it is where the animals outnumber humans.
I did not know what to expect during my first visit to the ark. I stepped out gingerly, in awe of the many plantations surrounding the ark. Before I knew it, many canine residents came up happily to greet me. I was slightly overwhelmed by this reception of that many dogs in one place. I had to navigate my way through the many furry bodies to ascend the stairs to the main area for visitors. Do dress very casually during the visit to the ark. I would discover later on that human speech is not all that necessary within the sprawling grounds of the sanctuary given that majority of its residents are dogs, cats, rabbits, horses and monkeys. The main house, reminds me of being in a villa, somewhere in Bali perhaps due to its rustic feel.
Raymund the founder and official ‘pack leader’ is chirpy and wise, the person that you know can easily swing from light-hearted chatter to serious talk. He peppers his conversations with tales about animals with plenty of humorous quips. He is very actively dedicated and emotionally connected to his cause that I envisioned him to be, having spread awareness on animal rescue and welfare for years. His belief that every animal has a right to a happy and healthy life has helped save thousands from euthanasia, though it has been no easy feat.
He employs a hands-on approach towards the care and maintenance of the animals at the Ark. The last we spoke while gazing at the horses grazing, he told me that how he spends time treating rain scalds on some of the horses. The horses are allowed to roam freely on the grounds at certain times of the day. They make quite the impression tottering amidst the tall trees that Raymund takes charge of maintaining and trimming off the excess or overgrown bits. A total of 10 horses call the Ark home, with a new member, DJ joining them 5 months ago.
On my first volunteer trip, I signed up to help groom and bathe the horses. I remember the walk there was accompanied by the ‘free-ranging’ dogs. I met a couple of three-legged ones, eager for affection and attention, which I gladly reciprocated. Being three legged does not diminished a dog’s eagerness to connect with visitors. On arrival at the stables, I was told by one of the regular volunteers that to get acquainted to a horse, it is essential to let it know you in depth.
Hold out your hand to signal that you pose no threat. Alternatively, do it the Native American Indian way – blow your breath in a calm and casual stream right into a horse’s face. I can safely say that none of those methods have landed me in trouble. The horses are of friendly temperament, save for the occasional ‘love bites’ they plant on each other, and on the odd human or two. I wonder if any of the dogs has been love-bitten, considering some eagerly drink from their horses’ share of water and some even confidently enter the stables to nibble on poop. Yes, to my amusement and wonder, I learnt that horse poop is good for canine digestive health.
I am not the best groomer around so I was grateful for the horses’ patience. With several of my newfound volunteer friends, we managed to bathe a few even. It can be disarming at first to get so close to a gigantic beast, which could easily paralyse me with a swift kick.
Yet, as I went on, I realised how delicate these creatures are. It amazes me that something so elegant and majestic, several hundreds of kilos heavier than I am, can be more of a flight than a fight animal.
I am not horse person to begin with, having never kept a horse for a pet and being brought up in a country which does not allow you easy access to one, so upfront contact was a whole new experience for me.
I guess you could say that my interest in horses stemmed from the curiosity of wanting to understand their sensitivity to human emotions and feelings better. Hearing about the atrocities that racehorses are subject to once their ‘prime time’ is up further moved me to pay a visit to the horses at the Ark, where most of them are former racing champions.
That being said, I was just as besotted with the other animals. The cats at the Wisma Kuching gave me an oddly calming sensation of euphoria –it is the feeling of being surrounded by so many contented felines that it sends you into a peaceful Zen-like state. Of course, you can imagine that when you see so many around you stretching their lithe frames with smiles etched across their faces, you would feel inclined to do the same. Upon entry, you will be greeted by the few dogs who consider themselves cats deep down inside as they stay with the cats at the Wisma Kuching.
At the sanctuary, no ailment appears to diminish or compromise the quality of the lives of the animal residents because of Raymund’s determination. I cannot reiterate enough how often I thought I have caught the dogs actually smiling. I brought my partner here for the first time on my third visit. He was evidently charmed and observed that each animal there seemed to have its own unique personality.
|Starbuck the one-armed macaque.|
|My partner getting his dose of animal loving.|
Before you embark on a trip to the Ark, please do note that the Ark is not like a farm commercialised for tourism, or a generic piece of land to showcase the generosity of some humans. It is not just all fun and play. A huge amount of energy, resilience and finances are needed to ensure its smooth operation on a daily basis. Every animal has their previous histories and plights, but remember that they underwent trauma and abandonment before finding their second chance through the ark.
The animals at the sanctuary, though seemingly numerous, are just a handful of the many more out there who lead lives curtailed by cruelty and harsh treatment. Do visit the ark with an open mind and think of an idea of how you can contribute to a more widespread campaign of animal welfare. Make sure you talk to Raymund and the regular volunteers, who are some of the warmest people I have ever met on how you can consciously help.
Get involved by being a volunteer and stay updated through their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/noahsarkcares
by Nadia AR