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Love Animal Sanctuary & Club
Mae Rim District
Chiang Mai, Thailand

Buddy the fruit batLove Animal Sanctuary houses over 100 domestic animals, as well as monkeys, civit cats and a one winged fruit bat named Buddy. Thailand does not have an animal welfare system and most unwanted animals are left to roam the streets or dumped at temples. The temples are burdened by this practice and in most cases the animals are neglected and forced to fend for themselves.

Marianne Willemse arrived in Chiang Mai in 1990 to work as Animal Welfare Volunteer at the zoo. There she discovered that unwanted pets, mainly monkeys and gibbons, but also snakes, jungle cats, bears and birds, were dumped at the zoo almost daily. The zoo had no budget for these "surplus" animals, which usually arrived in pathetic condition, needing urgent medical attention. In many cases they died. The ones who survived were sent to the forestry department , which in those days also had no budget or place for them. So they ended up in small cages with no personal care and very little to eat but sticky rice. Waiting to be sent to somewhere else, which didn't exist then, most died in their cages from malnutrition and depression.

Knowing this, Marianne started taking younger animals to her own home for better care. After five years at the zoo, there were 56 animals, including an Asian Black Bear staying at her house. That was how the sanctuary started. Since then, the forestry department has built proper facilities to house the victims of illegal wildlife trade and many animals have been moved to Om Goi Captive Breeding Center. They call it this although it is presently impossible to breed wildlife as there is no where safe to rehabilitate them back into the wild. Since 1993 there has been a major crackdown on people who keep wild animals as pets. The last few years there has been very little wildlife handed in. Another reason is that they have all been poached. There are only a small number of wild animals left in some National Parks now.

A young calf at the animal sanctuarySince people discovered that there was someone in Chiang Mai who cared about animals, Marianne received 'donated' cows and buffalo's, and other domestic animals rescued from the slaughter house by devout Buddhists. Also many cats and dogs were dumped in boxes at night. Because of budget restraint it was not possible to act as a rescue center.

Marianne was forced to move out of the city and start a sanctuary with limited residents. The important issue was animal welfare awareness, to get people to accept responsibility for their own animals. The sanctuary now functions as a 'hands on' education facility for schools and groups.

In 1997 the Bear Hugs Club was established to help support the animals food and maintenance. Today the club has over 150 members.

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