Have you always secretly wished that you could work in a zoo? Well, you now have an opportunity to do just that!
ZooPartners at the NZG are volunteers who do a purposeful job of their own free will, without pay or other remuneration.
Volunteers are divided into two broad groups - generalists and professionals. Generalists are those participants who want to broaden their horizons by gaining work experience at the zoo, where opportunities are available for them to improve their skills and knowledge by means of various activities. Professionals are those who wish to be involved in various projects at the zoo by providing their already gained skills, experiences and time where it is needed.
ZooClub members volunteering at the Zoo's animal kitchen prepare a tasty meal for the animals assigned to them.
Volunteers work on their assignments at the NZG, which will ensure that they have a broad general knowledge of nature and of the Zoo environment.
Ulrich Oberprieler (left), manager and coordinator of the NZG's ZooPartner project, assists two volunteers on the project.
These two groups can be further divided into four categories: Friends of the National Zoological Gardens, specialists with scarce skills, foreign volunteers or higher education students, and lastly the general volunteers around the zoo.
A few weeks ago, the volunteer programme was advertised on the NZG website for people interested in applying to become a part of the NZG family. Once the deadline for applications closed, the task of sorting through the numerous applications began and the appropriate people were invited to join the Orientation Training Day held at the Zoo on 29 September 2012. Applicants were selected according to their skills and suitability for the category and job they selected on the volunteering options list.
The different categories advertised to volunteer for were youth programmes, school lessons, animal kitchen, animal husbandry, guest relations, animal enrichment and visitor experience. For those who had the appropriate qualifications and experience, there were also the following sections to choose from to volunteer for: veterinary pathology, bio-molecular genetics and commercial diving. Those who had other professional skills that they wanted to offer to the Zoo in other various sections were also accepted for consideration.
For the under 18s
The NZG also has a volunteer category for the under eighteens. Many schools have a career guidance and/or a community service programme where learners visit the NZG to gain their working hours. This is a predetermined programme arranged with the NZG's Department of Conservation Education and Public Engagement in Science to decide on the days on which they are allowed to work at the Zoo and the coordinated activities which they are allowed to be involved in.
Then there is the NZG's ZooClub, which consists of learners from Grades 7 to 11 who volunteer at the Zoo, but first need to complete the five-day Junior Nature Conservator course which is offered during school holidays.
Benefits of being a ZooPartner
Benefits include gaining career and general life experience, an opportunity to offer your skills and services for the benefit of the NZG, an opportunity to be involved in a variety of NZG activities and projects, and volunteers receive a letter of reference after at least three months of volunteering at the NZG.
Orientation Training Day
Over 60 people attended the Orientation Training Day for volunteers, over and above existing ZooPartners and international volunteers. Ulrich Oberprieler, manager and coordinator of the ZooPartner project started the day with a welcoming speech and a broad overview of the NZG and the ZooPartner Project.
It was explained that for the well-being of the animals as well as the volunteers one would not be able to come into direct contact with the animals but would be working indirectly with them, benefiting the animals in various alternative ways. This includes helping out with individual animals' diet in the Zoo animal kitchen, or with the enrichment programmes.
The Orientation Training Day ended with a discussion of the assignments that each volunteer needs to complete before becoming a ZooPartner and being allocated to a section to volunteer at. These assignments ensure that the volunteers have a broad general knowledge of nature and of the Zoo environment. In completing their assignments, aspiring volunteers also need to interview two staff members in the sections they would like to volunteer at. Assignments are soon to be handed in and the public will soon be seeing volunteers providing a helping hand around the Zoo.
The NZG's ZooPartner Volunteer Project is run by its Department of Conservation Education and Public Engagement in Science. The project is in line with the National Research Foundation's core mission of developing high quality human resources; along with the NZG's objective of playing a role in career development among the volunteers.
If you missed this opportunity of becoming a volunteer, keep an eye on the NZG website for future opportunities to volunteer at the Zoo.
Claire Fordred, NZG Intern
The National Zoological Gardens of
South Africa is a proud facility of
the National Research Foundation