Animal welfare activists in Malaysia first heard about the Lotus Life Liberation Park (now renamed Bentong Farm Sanctuary) during the Pulau Ketam abandoned dog crisis of 2009. Many of the rescued dogs who could not find new homes were resettled in the Liberation Park, which was set up by Hai Tao Foundation, a Buddhist organisation. Located in the backwoods of Bentong, Pahang, the Park was intended as a no-kill sanctuary for animals saved from slaughter. Although the Park initially appeared to be well-run, in the later part of 2009, there were complaints of dogs going missing or barely surviving in poor living conditions.
Approximately 4-5 weeks ago, however, upon the retirement of the previous caretaker of the Park, my friends Shahrul and Jorg (who had been volunteers with the SPCA -- Shahrul was later employed by the SPCA as an Education Officer) were offered the position of caretakers of the Liberation Park. The move not only benefitted Shahrul and Jorg’s many companion animals who would now have more space to roam in, but also the Park’s dogs and cats, as my friends have many years of experience of caring for cats and dogs and treating various canine and feline ailments.
Shahrul and Jorg with their dogs.
When That Special Someone arrived in Malaysia, he was keen to visit the no-kill Sanctuary, not merely because Shahrul is a mutual friend, but also because he and I have plans to operate our own animal rescue centre and no-kill shelter one day (Our proposed shelter has no name as yet, but I have taken to jocularly calling it “Our Animal Illam”).
It would also be a good opportunity for me to explore the possibility of resettling Rocky, the little dog rescued by Vegan Eugene in April 2010 in the Sanctuary, in the event Rocky is not adopted. Judging by Vegan Eugene’s inability to make a decision, however, Rocky would probably die of old age before Vegan Eugene could make up his mind over which solution is best for Rocky. If all animal rescuers were as indecisive as Vegan Eugene, the dogs and cats would all end up back on the streets.
Shahrul had requested commercial pet food for the dogs and cats and medical supplies such as wound spray, ear cleaning solution and tick shampoo, which That Special Someone and I were happy to provide. Adik – Shahrul and Jorg’s dog – jumped up onto the backseat of the Battletank as soon as I opened the door. Perhaps she could smell the food and knew that it was meant for her!
Vaccinated and neutered cats rest in a large cage to prevent them from running away and going missing in an unfamiliar new place.
Guess who’s on top of your cage, kitties! Getting clucky over kittens, are we?
When Shahrul and Jorg first arrived, many of the dogs were emaciated, sickly, full of ticks and absolutely terrified of people. Within weeks, the dogs are now healthier, cleaner and visibly happier and friendlier.
That Special Someone was enchanted by the 104-acre farm. “Only a month ago I was looking at the pictures you posted of this farm on Facebook,” he said to Shahrul as we feasted on the organic mangosteens and rambutans. “And now here I am”. It’s funny how Providence works, sometimes.
Cows grazing in the open fields is a sight to set anyone’s chakras in balance.
Ducks and geese strut and swagger around their pond, secure in the knowledge that they would never be eaten.
I’m not really sure why I was so excited to see chickens.
The hens are happy to have space to roam in and the opportunity to engage in natural behaviour such as scratching and dust-bathing.
It’s time to visit the goats in their clean and well-ventilated goat pen!
“I kid ewe not”, avers this youngster, “I really am happee-ee-eeh here!”
I’m not really sure why I was so excited to feed the billy goat either.
I was keen to help the farmhands with the care and feeding of the cows. That Special Someone taught me how to approach and handle cows. We both smelt really interesting by the time we were done. The cows did not use to receive tick baths and dietary supplements before Shahrul and Jorg took over. Now the cows have gained weight and look healthier and happier too.
This little dog, Puteh, was debilitated by illness and at death’s door when Shahrul and Jorg first arrived. You couldn’t even tell that he was a white dog. With proper care, Puteh has since recovered and now enjoys following visitors around.
It was time to go to the stream for a swim. We clambered into Jorg’s pickup truck and headed past the durian and gaharu plantations to the cleaner, cooler part of the stream.
“Come on in”, we urged That Special Someone. “The water is fine!”
One of the dogs, Sri Devi, decided to join me for a soak in the stream.
Shahrul tries to bathe a reluctant and grumpy Dolly.
That Special Someone and I stayed for a scrumptious dinner prepared by the farmhands and chatted with Jorg and Shahrul late into the night. We finally left around 2200 hours after making plans to come again in a few weeks to bring more food and supplies for the animals. I reminded Shahrul and Jorg that there would always be naysayers who are critical or dismissive of their efforts to rescue needy animals and operate a no-kill sanctuary, but sometimes the recovery, good health, trust and love of the animals is all the reward we need. Rescuers like us should never lose sight of our original objectives of alleviating animal suffering and helping human communities help animal communities.
That Special Someone may have returned to his home country (with a promise to be reunited with me soon), but my plans to visit Bentong Farm Sanctuary again with other volunteers in tow are already underway. We are currently making plans to drop by for a weekend in late August.
Would you like to support the good work carried out by this no-kill natural animal sanctuary? Here’s how you can help:
Through Contributions In Kind: We need: rice, commercial dry/canned cat and dog food, pet vitamins and supplements, jaggery / brown sugar (for the cows), palm kernel cakes (for the goats and cows), biodegradable soaps and detergents, tick shampoo, medicated shampoo such as Malaseb and Triseb, skin treatment oils such as Pinetarsol, old newspapers, and garlic, pumpkin and carrots to be cooked in the animals’ food.
To Visit And Volunteer: Please contact me privately for Shahrul and Jorg’s contact information, for inquiries and to fix appointments if you plan to come in a group.
Directions to the Sanctuary: From KL - Karak Highway (toll RM5.00 & RM3.00 each way), take the exit to Bentong on your left. At the junction of the Bentong exit, you will see a sign saying ‘Kolam Air Panas” (Hot Springs) on your left. Take the left turn and follow the signs. (If you take the right turn, you will end up in Bentong Town where you can enjoy homemade ice cream at Kow Po Coffeeshop, but that’s another story altogether). You will drive past forests and plantations and a retreat named “Serenity”. The milestones will indicate that Kuala Lumpur is 93 – 96 km away. Around 9km from the junction at which you took a left turn, you will see a dirt path on your right with signs that say “Perting Valley” and “Lotus Life Liberation Park”. Turn into the dirt path and drive through it for approximately one minute. You should arrive at the gates of the Sanctuary shortly.
Visit us on Facebook here: Bentong Farm Sanctuary