Wildlife reserves that host big game—tigers, elephants, rhinos, or cheetahs—draw the most attention from tourists. Bird sanctuaries such as Bharatpur in Rajasthan or Vedanthangal in Tamil Nadu come slightly lower in the pecking order. But across the world, there are small sanctuaries that provide a home to animals not glamorous enough to get their own shows on Discovery Channel, and they do an important job protecting endangered or abused animals. They rely on visitors to help them survive, so feel free to drop in. Lounge takes a look at some of the oddest sanctuaries.
• Home for Helpless Donkeys, Leh (Donkeysanctuary.in)
Donkeys are used as pack animals in Ladakh, but many old donkeys which aren’t capable of working any longer are abandoned on the streets, to face the dangers of traffic and stray dogs. Moved by their plight, Joanne Lefson and Stany Wangchuk started the Home for Helpless Donkeys in Leh. A 10-minute walk from Leh’s main market, the donkey sanctuary welcomes visitors and encourages them to bring carrots for the residents.
Tête-à-tête: An orangutan with its baby in Kalimantan. By Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
Screech Owl Sanctuary, Cornwall (www. screechowlsanctuary.co.uk)
It’s surprising to think of owls as a threatened species, but as forest cover shrinks, owls face the same troubles as mammalian predators: fewer habitat areas, and less to prey on. The expansion of power transmission lines and mobile networks also means that owls get injured more often.
The privately operated Screech Owl Sanctuary in the UK started in 1990 in the founders’ home to take care of Cornwall’s injured owls. Since then, it has expanded to a dedicated preserve, with an owl hospital and conservation programmes for more than 20 owl species from all over the world.
• Orangutan orphanage, Kalimantan (www.orangutan.org)
With palm oil plantations swallowing up Malaysian and Indonesian rainforests, the orangutan’s habitat is under severe threat. As rainforests get logged, orangutans living there are frequently killed or injured, leaving behind orphans. To take care of baby orangutans, and help them adapt to living in the wild without a mother to guide them, the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) started an orphanage in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). Here, young orangutans learn to climb trees, forage for food and build nests. The orphanage is a quarantine area, and not open to the public, but the OFI does organize orangutan eco-tours elsewhere in Borneo.
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