Willemijn - founder of Wanicare
Wow, we were impressed by the beautiful nature, the park with many special and beautiful animals and the motivation of the people here to ensure that these animals get the best care they can have. At approximately 8 hours drive from Jakarta, on the edge of the jungle, the Wanicare foundation is located. Wanicare is a Dutch foundation which is supporting the Cikananga wildlife rescue center. After a long trip from Jakarta we were welcomed by founder Willemijn and her partner Roel.
Willemijn did an internship in the Cikananga park in 2008. Because she saw the rescue center was going through a rough time and had more potential, she started the Wanicare foundation in 2009. Willemijn's dream came true when she decided to leave the Netherlands to live in Indonesia to take care of the animals. In 2016, Roel also decided to exchange the Netherlands for Indonesia. Together they are a perfect team in running the park and the foundation with their love for the animals. We really admire the way they live, what they have achieved and their passion for animals.
Cikananga wildlife rescue center
We visit the Cikananga wildlife rescue center for almost a week and filmed the beautiful animals we have seen. The park is largely run by Wanicare. They run operations like fundraising, animal care, research, a volunteer program and many more. Cikananga is divided in one part, where 350 animals are living and one part with dorms and houses for volunteers and employees. We also stayed in a dorm here.. and we were not the only ones staying and sleeping in this dorm. Let's just say, our dorm was a cozy animal shelter. This week we went back to basics, showering with a bucket, a toilet in the ground, no wifi and a supermarket walking half an hour from here. Fortunately, we were used to the basics quite easily and realized that the things we have back home should not taken for granted.
Roel and Willemijn guided us through the park with all the animals. Wanicare takes care of lots of different bird species, orangutans, Javan leopards, bears, crocodiles and many more. A large number of animals in the park are endangered species. The animals here receive medical treatment, daily care and if possible they will be prepared for a release into their natural habitat. For example, they learn the baby orangutans to climb in a tree, learn them what to eat and try to avoid interaction with humans as much as possible. In some cases it is not possible to release animals because people kept them as pets for a long time or they have physical disabilities. In this case Wanicare will give them a lifetime care.
We were very curious about how and why these animals ended up here. They took all the time to tell us how the animals have been found. Each animal had its own, often depressing story. There are two main reasons which explain why so many animals ended up in the Cikananga wildlife rescue center.
Illegal trade in wildlife
Most of the animals in wildlife center ended up here because of illegal trade in wildlife. The demand for wild and often endangered animals is huge worldwide. They are often kept as pets, used as a tourist attraction or in some cases as a medicine. Big and powerful criminal organizations are behind the wildlife trade which makes it extremely difficult for small organizations to do something about this problem. In case of primates, they are poaching the young primates because they are not dangerous and easy to sell. The mother is shot in most of these cases and the young ones are taken to be sold.
After we’ve got the tour in the park, where we saw these magnificent animals, it is incomprehensible that the illegal trade in wildlife is so enormous. The idea that these animals maybe extinct in the coming years is frustrating and a shame. Fortunately, there are organizations like Wanicare that regularly confiscate the animals from illegal trade. And hopefully they can prepare these animals again for a release in their natural habitat.
The other cause is deforestation. The natural habitat of many species has become too small. Consequently, populations are getting smaller and some animals will search for food in villages. An special example in this case is the Javan leopard. There are about 150 left in the wild, which means that the Javan leopard is seriously threatened with extinction. Wanicare is taking care of six Javan leopards. Some leopards ended up here because they were looking for food in villages. This is called human and animal conflict and becomes more common. Wanicare is setting up a program now to release the Javan leopards back to their natural habitat.
What you can do to help Wanicare?
Wanicare has a great need for donations. The foundation runs entirely on donations to confiscate, take care of as many animals as possible and to eventually release them again. Besides, they need donations to feed the animals, to set up programs, pay employees, build and renovate cages, purchase (medical) supplies and much more. You can donate as an individual, a school or as a business. Donations can consist of small single or monthly donations. Next to that, they have a need for volunteers because there is a lot of work to do, that can not be done by the local animal keepers only.