Zoo vol­un­teer cel­e­brates 20 years of ser­vice

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - FELICITY REID

Jean Wil­son has had many a sleep­less night won­der­ing how to keep an orang­utan en­ter­tained.

For 20 years, Wil­son has been vol­un­teer­ing for Auck­land Zoo’s Pri­mate Be­havioural En­rich­ment Pro­gramme.

The pro­gramme en­cour­ages and stim­u­lates nat­u­ral be­hav­iours in the an­i­mals.

In the wild, orang­utans of­ten use tools, like sticks, to get food. To repli­cate this in the zoo en­vi­ron­ment, en­rich­ments like pine cones, fab­ric pack­ages, tub­ing and boxes con­tain­ing small amounts of food are used.

Wil­son helped to pi­o­neer the pro­gramme, which launched in 1997, and be­lieves Auck­land Zoo is still a world leader on the be­havioural en­rich­ment front.

‘‘Re­ally, I would like to go into all the zoos and change the way they do things,’’ Wil­son said.

The 75-year-old is at the zoo twice a week cre­at­ing en­rich­ments, and, over her time in­volved, she has seen the pri­mates change and the zoo’s prac­tices evolve.

The pro­gramme started with chim­panzees - be­fore the chimps moved to Hamil­ton Zoo in 2004 - and has grown to en­com­pass orang­utans, sia­mang gib­bons, spi­der mon­keys, lemurs, tamarins and ba­boons.

‘‘Lots of pri­mates are quite in­tel­li­gent. But I don’t think the orang­utans want us to know how smart they are,’’ Wil­son said.

Wil­son takes sat­is­fac­tion from the pri­mates in­ter­act­ing with her lat­est cre­ations, know­ing she is help­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in their lives.

‘‘They never do what you think they will do,’’ she said.

Wil­son, who lives in Unsworth Heights on Auck­land’s North Shore, is one of 45 Auck­land Zoo vol­un­teers who have spent more than a decade help­ing out.

Vol­un­teers are the zoo’s big­gest work­force, Wil­son said.

Over the past fi­nan­cial year, across the zoo, ap­prox­i­mately 230 vol­un­teers con­tributed 36,000 hours - which is equiv­a­lent to 16 full-time staff.

The Be­havioural En­rich­ment Pro­gramme needs more vol­un­teers who are de­tai­lo­ri­en­tated an­i­mal lovers who un­der­stand the im­por­tance of fol­low­ing in­struc­tions.

To vol­un­teer ei­ther fill out an on­line ap­pli­ca­tion form or call 09 353 2090 or email Vol­un­teer.Co­or­di­na­tor@auck­land­zoo.co.nz.


Jean Wil­son, 75, has been vol­un­teer­ing for Auck­land Zoo for 20 years, help­ing to cre­ate en­rich­ments for the pri­mates, like this pine cone stuffed with fruit.

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