Taronga and Taronga Western Plains Zoos have over 545 volunteers dedicating their time across a diverse range of programs to support the work of Taronga Conservation Society Australia. National Volunteer Week is a time when we can reflect and say thanks for the great work undertaken which the organisation is so grateful for.
Below is an insight from two keeper volunteers at Taronga Zoo about their experiences.
Keeper Volunteer, Brooke
I have been volunteering for three years at Taronga Zoo and it has been such a great experience being able to work in such an interesting place.
I decided I wanted to start volunteering at Taronga after I finished school. At the time I wasn't 100% sure on what I wanted to do in my life, and volunteering definitely steered me in the right direction. After I completed my Certificate III in Captive Animals at TAFE, I started to use all the skills I had learnt at TAFE, at the zoo.
It was always so interesting going to the zoo. I got excited to go because even if it was a freezing cold rainy winter day, it was still interesting. I work in the Australia’s Nightlife exhibit now, but for my first year, I was working with the koalas and in the Australian Walkthrough exhibit, which was awesome.
All the keepers I have previously worked with and work with at the moment have been so awesome. They have always been so generous with their time, teaching and showing me what to do. I know they repeat it over and over and over again- they have such a great attitude.
I have learnt things like how to feed the animals and how to clean and maintain exhibits. I also learnt how to ensure the lives of the animals that live in the zoo are both physically and mentally healthy. I always love making environmental enrichment items for the animals, and watch them try to figure out what to do with it, as it’s great to see them thinking and challenging themselves.
I also do a little bit of volunteer work in animal sanctuaries overseas. Volunteering is such a gift you can give to these places that really need your help. Sometimes people can underestimate the gift of giving up one’s time, energy and resources to help another person, volunteering is something I love to do, to give to another person or place that is in need. I have enjoyed this so much and have learnt valuable things whilst being at Taronga Zoo, thank you to the keepers, and all the staff that look after the volunteers, you do an amazing job.
Keeper Volunteer, Delvina Leong
Two years ago, I travelled abroad with a group to volunteer at a wildlife rescue centre. Not only did we work with exotic animals (most were displaced due to black market trade), we also had the opportunity and honour to work with the local village on various community projects. It was an amazing experience, and it opened my eyes to what WE can do to ensure our future generations will be able to enjoy this beautiful world for years to come. Though the program was short, it cemented my passion and determination in working with animals - through conservation, enrichment, and education.
Needless to say, by the time I came back, I was bitten by the volunteering bug. I wanted to give back to the local community, and help make a difference – and what better way to do it than to volunteer at Taronga Zoo.
Volunteering at Taronga an experience in itself – no two days are ever the same. While the majority of people are stuck working the 9-5 behind their desks, I’m out in the sunshine counting Australian wildlife, assisting with weighing koalas, supervising echidna feeds, and witnessing the observational pouch checks of Tasmanian devils (from a safe distance, of course). Sure, there’s also a lot of cleaning involved, but let me tell you, it’s much better (and more fun) than cleaning my own room!
I learn so much from the amazing keepers that I work with, whilst gaining valuable experience that will hopefully help in my dreams of working with animals someday. Its worlds apart from my actual job (I work in the fashion industry) but I feel a sense of pride, a thrill of excitement, and pure happiness just walking into the zoo. For anyone thinking of volunteering, I’d say stop thinking and start acting. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and it’s definitely changed my life.