Archive for the ‘Volunteering’ Category

Forty Candles Burning Bright for the Docents’ Big Party

by | April 24th, 2014

 

 

Back in the Day

Back in the Day. Oakland Zoo now maintains a “protected contact” system in animal management.

Do you know who’s turning 40 at Oakland Zoo this year? No, it’s not Osh the elephant or Benghazi the giraffe. (Those guys are mere babies by comparison.) I’ll give you a clue. This creature has more than 160 legs and can be found roaming wild on nearly every pathway in the Zoo. Give up? It’s the Oakland Zoo Docent Council. And on April 27th, they’ll be celebrating a whopping forty years of serving the public here at the Zoo.

It was back in 1973 when Zoological Society Executive Director Flora Aasen suggested that the Zoo recruit volunteers to serve as docents to help educate and assist zoo visitors. From that idea, the first docent training class was established and held at the Zoo (which consisted of a mere ten people!) In the forty years since, as the Zoo has undergone tremendous growth, we’ve trained and graduated hundreds of passionate individuals into the program. During that same period, there’s been a wealth of noteworthy docent accomplishments, including the introduction of the Zoomobile, ZooSchool, and Wildlife Theater programs; the leading of untold thousands of guided cart tours, walking tours, and Animal Encounters; the creation of talking storybook boxes and docent bio-fact stations; the initiation of numerous events such as the public lecture series, Animal Fund Boutique, Animal Amore tours, Celebrating Elephants Day, and many others as well as the hosting of Jane Goodall’s National ChimpanZoo Conference . In addition, the docents have sold thousands of Oakland Zoo memberships, increasing the number from 600 to an impressive 26,000; supported and fundraised for causes like Quarters for Conservation, Budongo Snare Removal and Uganda lion conservation, and personally donated an astounding $200,000 to help in the construction of the Education Center, the Children’s Zoo and the new veterinary hospital. Through their tireless efforts, the docents have advocated for animal conservation by helping to improve animal care here, and helped elevate Oakland Zoo to compete with the best zoos in the world. Not bad for a bunch of volunteers. And in 2012, the Association of Zoo and Aquarium Docents listed the Oakland Zoo Docent Council in the top ten of the longest running programs of its kind in the US.

Doing What They Do Best

Doing What They Do Best

On Sunday April 27th, the docents will gather at the Zoo to celebrate these and many other accomplishments– and just as important, to look ahead to what is sure to be an even brighter future. Honored guests include a distinguished array of heavyweights including docent co-founders JoAnne Harley and Pam Raven Brett, former education directors Arlyn Christopherson and Anne Warner , as well as video participation by Oakland Zoo President and CEO Dr. Joel Parrott. This celebration comes at a time when Oakland Zoo stands poised to embark on its ambitious California Trail project, heralding a new era of wildlife education and conservation in the Bay Area. With forty years of momentum, the Oakland Zoo Docents are certainly ready to be a part of it. This anniversary celebrates a great future as well as a proud past, and promises to be a most momentous occasion!

Life on the Hacienda: Oakland Zoo Teens Get Gardening

by | March 3rd, 2014

In case you hadn’t heard, the Oakland Zoo Teen Wild Guides (or Twigs as we call them) recently participated in a new community program here in Oakland. Trained primarily as weekend interpreters in the Children’s Zoo, this dedicated group of local teen volunteers can also be seen at the tiger, chimp and sun bear exhibits, where they answer questions and provide information about the animals. In their first long-term partnership effort, the TWGs gathered at Hacienda Peralta Historical Park in December to volunteer their services in the park’s native plants garden. This newly-established 6-acre park, located in the Fruitvale District along the banks of Peralta Creek, is one of the most significant historical sites in the East Bay, being one of the earliest European settlements in the area.
On December 8, during one of four national community service days of the year, the TWGs brought their tools, gloves, and tarps to the park for a morning of pulling invasive weeds. During several scheduled days in the spring and summer, the TWGs will be returning to Hacienda Peralta to continue their work, allowing them to witness the development of the garden over time. This program represents a hopeful new direction for the Zoo, involving the TWGs with community institutions that work to promote wildlife conservation.
But this doesn’t end with the tossing out of a bunch of weeds. As it turns out, a great deal of this invasive plant material is edible. So the TWGs transport it back to the Zoo where (after being identified and approved by the staff horticulturists) is fed out to a wide variety of herbivorous animals. (Our giraffes especially like the thorny blackberry vines.) It’s a definite win-win situation.
The other day I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the TWGs who had participated in the gardening at Hacienda Peralta in December. As a 1st year TWG, Tano was proud to be a part of the project: “It was really cool to do habitat restoration. It was fun, with lots of wildlife, but the (blackberry) thorns hurt you.” Tano told me he was excited to have discovered a new type of plant at the park that he hadn’t seen before. “It was wrapped around another plant and appeared to be stealing nutrients from it.” As a passionate devotee of science, Tano impressed me by saying that the person he’d most like to be was Charles Darwin. He even recited one of the famous scientist’s quotes about evolution.
It was gratifying to witness this young man’s passion for science and discovery. It made me realize how important these science education programs are for channeling the energies of today’s youth. As a member of the Oakland Zoo TWGs, Tano definitely seems to be heading in the right direction. So the next time you visit the Zoo, take a moment to say “Hi” to some of the TWGs. You just might be chatting with the next Charles Darwin!

 

 

Zoo Docents: Developing the next generation of inspiration

by | October 11th, 2013
Docent with Animal Skull

Docent with Animal Skull

These days, forty years is a long time for something to last—unless it’s made out of cast iron or granite. But that’s almost how long we’ve had our docent program here at Oakland Zoo. I was still in high school back in 1974 when the first docents headed out into the Zoo, ready to greet the public. Since then, the Zoo has grown tremendously and we’ve seen more than 400 enthusiastic men and women join our team of volunteer educators over the years. Right now, we’ve got almost 90 on board. And I can’t imagine this place running without them.

Inspiring a Young Zoo Visitor

Inspiring a Young Zoo Visitor

But what exactly does a docent do, you might ask. Docents, in the same way that ambassadors represent foreign nations, are the vital link between the public and various educational and scientific institutions. Often operating with limited funding, many of these organizations couldn’t function properly without a team of these volunteers. You see them at museums, science centers, historical sites and, of course, zoos. They handle a variety of tasks, including leading tours, answering questions, and assisting people in need of help. But some of their contributions are a bit more ethereal. They inspire. They enlighten. They connect people with things they may not have been exposed to before. You might say docents help create the next generation of supporters and in some cases, future employees.

So what does it take to be a part of such a team? How do you become a docent here at Oakland Zoo? If you’re outgoing, enjoy working with the public and have a love of animals, you might be just what Oakland Zoo is looking for. But like anything else worth doing, it takes commitment and a bit of work.

Docent Training Class

Docent Training Class

It all starts with the application process, which can be initiated through Oakland Zoo’s website. Once your application has been accepted and a background check is complete, you attend an orientation before you begin the training. Our comprehensive 15-week docent training class provides prospective docents with a solid background that includes an overview of the Zoo’s animal collection, conservation efforts, zoology and taxonomy, customer service and interpretive training. The training is a collaborative effort between education department staff, zookeepers and veteran docents. In those 15 weeks, you’ll get classroom instruction, special lectures, as well as homework assignments, quizzes, and presentations. There’s even a mentoring program to provide one-on-one assistance.

 

Once you’ve passed the final exam and graduated, you’ll officially be an Oakland Zoo docent. After that, you need to fulfill a minimum requirement of 70 public hours of service per year as well as earning 4 credits of continuing education by attending lectures, classes, etc. But since our docents find the work so rewarding, most of them enjoy contributing even more time to the Zoo.

Marching for Elephants . . . Join Us!

by | September 27th, 2013
M'Dundamella, 45 years old, with long beautiful tusks. Will her wild-counterparts survive if they keep being poached for their tusks?

M’Dundamella, 45 years old, with long beautiful tusks. Will her wild-counterparts survive if they keep being poached for their tusks?

If you haven’t seen a flyer around town, or a kind face at a table in front of the elephant exhibit at Oakland Zoo to spread the word, I am here to tell you about a very important event that is coming soon. The International Elephant March, created by the iWorry campaign at the Daphne Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, is going to be held on October 4th worldwide! The Daphne Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, or DSWT, is a non-profit who takes in all of the orphaned elephants that lose their mothers and families to the devastating poaching that is currently taking place. There are over one dozen official DSWT sponsored cities that are taking place in the march, and because there are so many people that care, there are now an additional twenty cities worldwide that are hosting a march as well, including San Francisco. Ivory poaching is nothing new, in fact in 1979 there were still 1.3 million African Elephants living, but by 1989 well over half of that population was wiped out due to a demand for their ivory, or tusks, which left a remaining 600,000. In that same year, a ban on selling ivory in Africa was created, which significantly helped to halt the trade. Elephants were left to be in peace . . . mostly. What remained were stockpiles of tusks in many countries in Africa, and with the unfortunate decision to allow a few countries to conduct a one-off sale of these stockpiles, opened up the floodgates.

In China, a sign of wealth is to own ivory, and due to a growing middle class, there is a high demand.

A photo of an ivory and rhino horn confiscation in Hong Kong in August 2013. Ivory is now worth 1,000 dollars per pound.

A photo of an ivory and rhino horn confiscation in Hong Kong in August 2013. Ivory is now worth 1,000 dollars per pound.

With gangs of poachers who are getting more and more sophisticated with their artillery, corrupt African governments, and the high demand from China,  elephants don’t stand a chance . . . unless we come together and make a change. Slowly, the issue is receiving more press and getting attention from politicians and movie stars. Prince William, David Beckham, Yao Ming, and Leonardo DiCaprio are just a few. The Clinton Foundation are strong supporters of the issue, and President Obama recently has put aside a task force, along with a ten million dollar fund to help stop wildlife trafficking. These are steps, but we need MORE! The more awareness we can create the better, especially amongst youth. When tabling at the zoo, I found that there are a lot of people who think that elephant tusks are just cut off without any harm and that they grow back or that they just fall out like our teeth. This is a huge misconception and according to a study by the International Animal Welfare Foundation that was conducted in China, 70% of Chinese people did not realize that ivory comes from dead elephants. If we can create awareness through social media and campaigning we may have a chance at turning things around for elephants. If we stop the demand, we stop elephants lives from being taken. Currently there are an estimated 400,000 African Elephants left, and conservationists are predicting if we continue at 30,000 plus being killed every year then the species will be extinct in another ten years.

A group of very dedicated and passionate local citizens have joined together to create the San Francisco Elephant March. These people have worked day in and day out, campaigning, writing letters, signing petitions, educating, posting flyers, tabling, and some right here at the zoo! I would like to invite you to join us at the March For Elephants in San Francisco on October 4th at 11am. We will be gathering in Portsmouth Square, marching a peaceful protest, and ending in Union Square to listen to keynote speakers Patrick Freeman, Elephant Field Biologist, Patricia Simms, creator of World Elephant Day, and our neighbor and friend Mr. Ed Stewart, co-founder of Performing Animal Welfare Society. Please visit www.marchforelephantsSF.org for more detailed information. You can register for the march, purchase a t-shirt, and check out the map of the march. Please, I encourage everyone to attend this special event and spread the word about what’s going on with elephants.

Please Join us for the March in San Francisco!

Please Join us for the March in San Francisco!

Ask yourself this, can you imagine a world with no elephants?

Supporting Elephants . . . Worldwide!

by | August 9th, 2013

WEDLOGODid you know that this Monday, August 12th is the second annual World Elephant Day? Here at Oakland Zoo we have been officially celebrating elephants for seventeen years with our annual ‘Celebrating Elephants Day’. This event gives the zoo the opportunity to increase awareness about elephant issues both in captivity and the wild, as well as raise money for the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. On a larger scale, increasing elephant issue awareness is exactly what World Elephant Day is intended to do, and elephants need your help more than ever. World Elephant Day is supported by the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation, located in Bangkok, Thailand. The day’s mission is “ to help conserve and protect elephants from the numerous threats they face; poaching, habitat loss, human-elephant conflict, and mistreatment in captivity.” The Foundation asks us to “experience elephants in non-exploitive and sustainable environments where elephants can thrive under care and protection.”

African Elephants are under increasing threat of extinction in ten years if we don’t act now and stop the ivory trade. In 1979 there were 1.3 million African elephants, now less than 400,000 remain, due to increasing greed of Asian markets. 35,000 were killed last year alone! The endangered Asian Elephant has been suffering from severe habitat loss and fragmented migration routes due to highways and industrial mono-crops (like palm oil). Less than 40,000 remain today.

elephantinpool

Our Osh, taking a bath in his pool

Captivity paints a much different picture. Asian elephants have been captured for centuries, being forced by their handlers to beg in the streets, give ride after ride to tourists, and be used as laborers to help haul logs to clear forests. Don’t let anyone fool you; Asian elephants are not domesticated animals! You’ll also see lots of Asian elephants in circuses, as well as some African elephants, being forced to perform painful tricks, and wear silly, degrading costumes for entertainment. An elephant wearing a tutu is not cute, nor does it create a connection with the general public. It is insulting to this majestic, magnificent, and intelligent species.  By the way, the circus is in town, so please, if you respect elephants as well as other species, do NOT attend the circus.

Hopefully by now, you’re asking what you can do to help!!

There are ways everyone can help, so please help TAKE ACTION! Here are just a few things to get you started:

Study elephants in their “keystone” role in the environment and inter-relationships with plants and animals from which it originates.

Support organizations that are working to protect elephants both in the wild and captivity . . . Amboseli Trust for Elephants, Save the Elephants, Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee . . . are just a few.

Do not support organizations that exploit or abuse elephants for entertainment and profit, such as the circus and the movie industry.

Do not ride an elephant . . . whether at the circus, at a park, or in another country. Elephants are not domesticated and were not meant to be ridden, they are wild animals. Saving these species, does not mean riding them. Watching them in their natural habitat participating in natural behaviors in the wild, such as a nice zoo, or PAWS, is being able to truly respect and appreciate them.

Sign online petitions that you come across that will help support elephant causes.

Be an elephant-aware consumer. Do not buy ivory products. Do not buy coffee that is not shade-grown or fair-trade, or products which contain palm oil.

Talk to a neighbor . . . all it takes is one conversation to possibly change someone’s mind if they are unaware of what is going on regarding the plight elephants.

Spread the word by blogging, and sharing links on Facebook and twitter.

Oakland Zoo is proud to be a part of this documentary that showcases the plight of elephants.

Oakland Zoo is proud to be a part of this documentary that showcases the plight of elephants.

Pick one of these actions above and help us TAKE ACTION on World Elephant Day. Try choosing a new action item each week and partake in the battle for

elephants worldwide!

Please join the March for Elephants taking place in San Francisco, on October 4, 2013 from 11am to 2pm beginning in Portsmouth Square. 25 cities worldwide will be participating in this march, all on October 4, to help take a stand for elephants and say NO to ivory. Please visit www.marchforelephantssf.org for more information on the upcoming march, how to be involved, and how you can help.

The Grand Finale

by | April 19th, 2013

Eight months ago, I contacted Oakland Zoo with interest in learning more about the organization and inquired about a possible internship for the spring semester. Through much consideration and work on both ends, I was officially offered and accepted an internship opportunity with the Marketing Department at Oakland Zoo. I was absolutely thrilled to leave the Arizona desert and excited to head out to the Bay Area for this internship.

My internship began in January and lasted fifteen weeks. Coming into this position, I was absolutely terrified. I had no idea what 75% of my tasks were, how I was going to complete them, or what it would be like out of my comfort zone in a new place and new position. To my surprise, and thanks to many great mentors, I succeeded in all my tasks and learned so much about the professional world, and many lessons on a personal level as well.

 food Melinda Emily and Sarah C DSC02060

In the past fifteen weeks, I have learned so much about the organization including: marketing, branding, public relations, events, development, education, and the overall daily operations of what it takes to create an award-winning destination in the Bay Area. The main goal of this internship was to prepare me for my career in Nonprofit Management and Special Events and it has definitely catered to that purpose, but this opportunity has allowed me to grow in many ways and experience so much.

I wish I had better words to sum things up, but I am so grateful for this opportunity and feel so blessed to have been a part of this organization for the past fifteen weeks. I have met some great people, done some really amazing things, and developed so much as a young professional and individual.

Thank you to everyone who has played a role in this experience, including those of you reading this blog. My time at Oakland Zoo may be coming to an end (for now), but no one will be able to take away the lessons, memories, and friendships I have made while here. I will greatly miss Oakland Zoo and the Zoo family (including the humans), but plan on supporting the Zoo from afar for many years to come.