The Youth At The Zoo program, or YATZ, is comprised of almost 600 enthusiastic Australian kids, passionate about educating the public about wildlife conservation. Boral YATZ has been running for 10 years, passionately promoting awareness about conservation concerns by running different environmental activities throughout the year that the teenagers get involved in and the annual Eco Fair which is held by the kids at the Zoo. Today is the day before the fair kicks off its three day course and the YATZ volunteers are clearly excited. This is actually the first year that the fair has been held for multiple days rather than a one day event, and as I ask them questions about YATZ and the impending Eco Fair, it is clear that these guys are thrilled to be a part of this educational program.
What exactly is the YATZ program?
Jess: We’re a volunteer group of 13 to 19-year-olds who come to the Zoo, mostly during school holidays. We’re all about learning how to sustain the future of the environment of the country where we live.
So what role does YATZ play in the Eco Fair that’s launching tomorrow?
Jess: We basically run it.
Ryan: We’ll be there all day helping to set up stalls and handing out fliers. We also try to talk to people about the campaigns that are running, like the ‘Gorilla Campaign’. It’s a pretty fun day.
Jess: The Gorilla Campaign pushes for the recycling of mobile phones.
What are some of the other campaigns that you run?
Ryan: The ‘Don’t Palm Us Off’ campaign was really successful. We raised a lot of awareness about how the natural habitats of a lot of different animals are being jeopardised through palm oil plantations.
Jess: Some food companies changed their recipes so that they didn’t include palm oil anymore.
Ryan: The ‘Sustainable Seafood’ one is really important as well. Most people don’t know about the problem of overfishing. The (fishing) methods that get used today will actually wipe out a lot of fish by 2050 and that needs to stop.
You guys seem to be really successful in raising awareness about these issues. So who comes to the Eco Fair?
Jess: It’s not just the community who come down. A lot of our sponsors come down to hear what we have to say, and to talk to us about anything that they want done too.
Josh: Boral is our major sponsor. We have the logo sewn onto our shirts!
Jess: Sydney Water are also usually there. Then there’s NRMA and other youth organisations that are passionate about conservation like the AYCC (Australian Youth Climate Coalition) and SYCAN (Sydney Youth Climate Action Network) are pretty big.
Great! Lastly, can you tell us about what activities will be happening at the fair?
Ryan: Face painting is always really popular. There’s also a big raffle and we hand out fliers about the campaigns being run.
Jess: We also do science-based activities like collecting Tassie Devil genes, and learning about what specific genes do.
Josh: The Aboriginal Education Officers are also doing singing and weaving demonstrations…
Jess: I wish we could do a singing demonstration.
Josh: You could do a one-man show, Jess?
The YATZ Eco Fair runs from Tuesday the 19th of April to Thursday the 21st at Taronga Zoo's Backyard to Bush environmental exhibit.
YATZ also recently took part in 'Clean Up Australia Day'. See their video below.