Monday, 21 December 2009

zoo negara volunteer

participated in a volunteer program at our national zoo yesterday, organized by one of the facebook groups, M.O.B (my outdoor buddy). here's a copy of a letter i wrote to the organizer... enough said.

Dear xxx,

Thanks for organising the Volunteer Program with Zoo Negara yesterday. I feel that this is a good initiative on the part of Zoo Negara to come up with this program. But there are some issues that I'd like to highlight.

As per my understanding, and correct me if I'm wrong, the objective of this program is:
1) For the participants to gain some awareness and hands-on experience in the workings of our national zoo.
2) For the participants to get up close and personal to some of the animals and expose and enhance our understanding and knowledge to the characteristics of wild animals.
3) To offer assistance to the zoo keepers in carrying out their day-to-day zoo keeping activities.

In view of these objectives, my friend and I were not under the delusion that this will be a fun field trip to the zoo. We know it will involve a lot of dirty work, such as cleaning of animal excrement, sweeping up the animal compound, preparing animals' food etc. and we were fully prepared to get our hands dirty. We are also aware that we were not to be picky with the sections that we were posted to, because we are here to give our services to the animals. But think the program has failed miserably yesterday, at least in the Aviary Section that my friend and I were posted to.

Everything was fine in the morning, where we were sent to sweep the emus' compound. After the break, the few of us were asked to sweep the compound of a large kangaroo. But soon everyone in our group began to go into the compound to sweep the ground. It was then that one of the keepers standing outside the compound began pointing at us randomly and shouting rather rudely, "you, you, you, and the one in the yellow shirt! OUT!" At first I thought maybe there were too many of us in the compound and it will provoke the kangaroo to come after us, because the one of the keepers did caution us not to go too close to it. But when the 4 of us went out of the compound, we were brought to a small strip of land behind the birds' holding area that has a few trees and were told to sweep up the leaves there. We were puzzled, as that area was not for animals' use nor a walkway or anything.

We all felt that it was a pointless job, something like being told to take a broom into the jungle to sweep up the leaves there, or to sweep up the sand on the beach. We began to get the impression that we were being used to do all the 'dirty work' that is not related to zoo keeping, as well as just simply being given any work to do, just to get us out of the way! But we still went ahead to do it, despite feeling used for free labour on something totally pointless.

After lunch, we went back to the aviary, only to be told to sweep up the leaves of another part of the back area. Another totally pointless work!

At the final part of the program, after all of us were done sweeping, we were just sitting around waiting for further instructions from the keepers when we noticed 2 or 3 members of our group inside the kitchen with a keeper. It turned out one of the keepers were preparing the food for the birds. He did not call the rest of us into the kitchen, just left us sitting outside, and only entertained the questions from the 2 or 3 members who were in there. When we all went in to see what's going on, the keeper just kept on dishing out the various 'ingredients' onto the birds' food dish, ordering the volunteers standing nearest the shelf to hand him this container or that container. He did not bother to explain anything to us. It was only when a volunteer asked a question that he gave his answer, but his answers were all very vague and not very informative.

Overall, the impression my friend and I got from yesterday's program are:
1) The keepers themselves do not understand the objectives of the program, and take the volunteers as free labour
2) The keepers do not have a proper guidelines on what to do with the volunteers, so they just create whatever task they can think of to get us out of their hair
3) The keepers were very rude to the volunteers, as if we're a bunch of nuisance that they have to babysit for a whole day
4) Apart from sweeping the emu and kangaroo compound, all the other work we did were totally pointless. Even though we were dead tired by the end of the day, we feel that we have not really contributed anything to the welfare of the animals, which were our main objective in joining this program in the first place!
5) This program is more like "Program Menyapu Daun Di Zoo Negara", and we did not gain any knowledge about the animals, nor any hands on experience in terms of zoo keeping. Not educational AT ALL!

I'm sure these does not apply to the whole program, as I've heard of some good experiences from participants in other sections, as well as from your own accounts about the previous batch of participants in the Aviary Section. But after yesterday's experience, I'm still of two hearts as to whether I would join the next round of the program. And it would be very difficult for me to encourage any of my friends to take part. It seems like the experiences are not consistent and it all would have to depend on the moods and temperaments of the keepers in charge that day.

In closing, I sincerely hope that what we experienced yesterday was an isolated case. As I've mentioned, this is a really great initiative and I really hope to see this program reaching out to more members of the public for a very long time to come.

Once again, thanks for your effort!

1 comment:

Biow said...

wah.. u'r brave.. should provide feedback.. i support you..