Green Living Zoo Volunteer Programme & Enrichment Workshop

This programme is limited to a maximum of 40 participants (ideally, 10 – 20 adults and 20 – 30 children). If you are interested in participating in this workshop, please email your details (name, age, MNS membership number and contact number) to wongeelynn@yahoo.com or send a text message to Ee Lynn at 013 228 6812 by 15 July 2013. Priority will be given to MNS members and registration of participants will be on a first come, first serve basis. Payment is to be in cash on the day itself, and to be given directly to the Zoo staff. Official receipts will be issued by Zoo Negara.

What is environmental enrichment for animals?

Malayan Elephant - Elephas maximus hirsutus

Malayan Elephant – Elephas maximus hirsutus

“Environmental Enrichment” is the process of providing stimulating environments for Zoo animals in order for them to demonstrate species-typical behaviour. This means that monkeys should be able to climb and swing, birds should be able to build nests, fly, look for food and elephants should be able to pluck fruits and play with water, just as they do in the wild. This enhances their well-being and stops them from being too bored or frustrated. It also allows animals to exercise choice and control over their environment. For example, animals should not be sitting in bare cages, but in enclosures with caves, holes, trees and rocks, so that they could sit in the shade or hide from humans if they choose to.

Enrichment includes the design of stimulating and naturalistic enclosures, the housing of appropriate social groups of animals (e.g. zebras, giraffes and ostriches together) and the introduction of objects, sounds, smells and other stimuli in the animal’s environment. At Zoo Negara, enrichment is an important part of the daily care of animals.
This is done partly through novel objects such as special toys for the animals, and food-related enrichment, where food is presented to the animals in a variety of ways, such as in puzzle feeders, or hidden throughout the enclosure. In order to get the food, the animal must use natural foraging behaviours and/or mentally solve the puzzle.

This keeps the animals mentally and physically fit. Novel objects and toys will also make the animals curious and stimulate their sense of touch, sight, smell, hearing and taste. he objective of enrichment activities is to keep the animals lively, happy, curious and active, and to encourage them to exhibit the same behaviour and instincts as they would in the wild.

Why Volunteer at the Zoo?

Malayan Tiger - Panthera tigris jacksoni

Malayan Tiger – Panthera tigris jacksoni

Nobody likes to see wild animals in captivity. But sometimes there just isn’t a better alternative or permanent solution in the event of wild animals confiscated from or surrendered by private owners, private zoos, circuses and petting zoos, where they are likely to have been born and raised in captivity. A good way of helping wildlife and understanding the challenges involved in operating, managing and funding wildlife facilities would be to volunteer at Zoo Negara, where you will be able to do hands-on work to create a safe, clean and healthy environment for the animals and be involved in enrichment programmes to stimulate the animals and encourage them to engage in natural behaviour such as foraging and hunting.

Zoo Negara now complies with the latest guidelines set by the World Association of Zoos and Aquarium (Waza)and South-East Asian Zoo Association (Seaza) and has increased its conservation awareness efforts. It no longer does elephant shows and there is a lot more emphasis on enrichment programmes for the animals. All the recently acquired animals are legally sourced and there is a great deal more transparency in the way the Zoo operates. The Zoo Volunteer Programme is not only a good opportunity for volunteers to get hands-on about helping wildlife, it is also an exercise in transparency. Volunteers can see for themselves that animals are not being denied the food and medical care they need, and volunteers can provide feedback to the Zoo management. Zoo Negara has also implemented a ban on styrofoam products and packaging within its premises, and the noisy diesel trams have been replaced with silent electric trams. All these efforts indicate Zoo Negara’s willingness to improve, and we should support and applaud these efforts and lend a helping hand

What do I have to bring or do?

  1. Please wear comfortable old clothes that cover the knees, chest and shoulders, and shoes such as trainers and sneakers that cover your toes. That means no shorts, slippers, dangly jewellery or sleeveless tops.
  2. Please bring your own drinking water, sunblock, snacks and a camera.
  3. You will have to pay a fee of RM30, which goes towards the purchase of food for the animals to be used in the Enrichment Workshop.
  4. Please bring cardboard toilet paper rolls, brown paper bags, clean coconut shells (collect these from outside sundry shops) and brown cardboard boxes to be repurposed into toys and puzzles for the animals.
  5. Please try to take public transport or carpool if possible. If you are driving, please try to park in the staff parking area or housing area next to the Zoo to avoid hefty parking charges.
  6. When you arrive, please enter the Zoo from Gate 3 and ask the security personnel to direct you to the Education Office/Library. We will all meet in front of the Education Office at 8.30 a.m. You will be asked to fill in forms and pay the agreed fee of RM30. The Zoo staff and education officers will then guide and coach us for the rest of the day. Please bring your used toilet paper rolls, boxes and other discarded materials with you so that we can hand them over at the Enrichment Centre.
  7. At the Enrichment Centre, you will be required to cut and join leaves, paper and other materials to make food puzzles and toys for the animals. The Zookeepers will then present the toys or food to the animals and you will get to watch the animals enjoy the fruits of your labour.
  8. Outside of the Enrichment Centre, you will be required to help the keepers clean up animal enclosures, wash food and water bowls, prepare food and feed the animals. Volunteers who are fasting and young children may be exempted from these duties.
  9. Upon completing your duties, you will be given plenty of free time to walk around the Zoo and observe the animals.

Featured image provided by Wikimedia Commons

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