Archive for the ‘Volunteering’ Category

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.

Week Fourteen and Going Green

by | April 16th, 2013

This was an exciting and packed week. I started the week off by shadowing more of the Education Department; this time for ZooSchool. I caught a ride from a colleague so that I could attend the morning meeting in the Education Department. Even though it wasn’t my department and I didn’t know much of what was being discussed, it was still a learning experience to sit in on their staff meeting. Everyone was super nice and Chantal, the Assistant Manager of Volunteer Services, (who approved this shadow opportunity) is an absolute sweetheart and made sure everyone knew who I was and vice versa. It was a great atmosphere right out of the gate and I really appreciate the hospitality and kindness everyone has shown me in my time here.

Once the morning staff meeting concluded, I waited with Jen, a part-time Education Specialist for the Zoo, and shadowed2013-04-10 11.07.29 her as she taught and led a local school class in ZooSchool. This was a step up from the ZooCamp I attended a week prior. The main difference was the age group. ZooCamp was kindergarten age and the ZooSchool I was a part of was made up of third graders.

How it worked: Once the class arrived, Jen and I met them and then led them to one of the classrooms in the Education Foyer, where Jen then taught the class about biomes, habitats, animals, and adaptations. Next, the kids were given clipboards with two different habitat scenes, in which their task was to write down five animals from those specified habitats in the Zoo and note a few of their unique adaptations. Even though I am not a third grader, I still learned so much from Jen and greatly enjoyed how ZooSchool was operated.

After ZooSchool concluded, I headed back up to Marketing and went with my supervisor, Nicky, to assist with an on-site film shoot. At the end of the day, I was invited to attend a Conservation ZooMobile happening the next day, so I received approval and joined in on the fun again. This education event was taking place off-site at the Castro Valley Library. This was yet another fantastic program that Oakland Zoo puts on. The Docents were fabulous with the kids/audience and they had great presentations and information prepared for the hour session. Again, I learned so much and was so impressed with this outreach education program that the Zoo does.

EarthDay13Next up on the list was Earth Day Earth Day Earth Day! I attended the final planning meeting for Earth Day with my cohorts, took care of last minute prep items, and then came ready for the event on Saturday. It was a great turnout of Zoo visitors, volunteers, and outside conservation and animal related organizations. There was so much to do while walking through the Zoo, with heaps of hands-on learning activities for people of all ages. It was very rewarding for me to see the amount of people and activities around the Zoo for our Earth Day event, especially after playing a role in planning the past three months. Interacting with all of the different people and organizations, and being of assistance to others was also a highlight of working Earth Day. In addition, I have to admit, being dressed in head-to-toe khaki, with a radio on my hip, made me feel like quite the official Zoo employee. It’s the little things, folks. That sums up week fourteen and going green. Stay tuned for my final week as the Marketing Intern at Oakland Zoo.

Three Months at Oakland Zoo

by | April 11th, 2013

This week, I worked on social media, posted my week twelve blog post, and launched Oakland Zoo’s Pinterest account. Researching, creating, launching, and managing a Zoo Pinterest account was one of my original internship duties and objectives. This was a great idea because it will be something I can use on my resume, in my career portfolio, and it is a pinterest2really great asset to leave behind at the Zoo. Managing the sun bear cam came in handy this week as well, when a customer called to inform us how much he loves our sun bear cam and that the camera was pointing away from the bears. As one of my pre-determined responsibilities, I was able to go in and re-position the web cam. That was a really neat thing to be able to do and I am so glad to hear people are enjoying our sun bear cam.

A big highlight of my week was attending an hour long webinar about Pinterest that my supervisor brought to my attention. This webinar is something that I would not have the chance to participate in if it weren’t for being a part of the Zoo. Continuing on, I also had the opportunity to sit in on a Development meeting regarding the California Project. I learned so much watching a virtual piece that was designed to promote the project to potential donors. I also received great insight about the duties of the Development Department and what a day in their position is like. I love how many opportunities I have been given to expand my professional development while here, both internally and externally.

Besides social media and public relations, I was able to mingle with colleagues as we celebrated major milestones such as an employee anniversary and a celebration for a bride-to-be. This of course included delicious food that I chose to enjoy once again. Having these gatherings once in a while has been nice and has really reinforced the sense of everyone being my Zoo family.

I was able to take advantage of downtime in the office at the beginning of the week to take a walk through the Zoo and reallyfox remember and enjoy the amazing place that I work at every day. As an added plus, I saw a wild grey fox and a few wild deer roaming the property. Walking into the Zoo in the morning and seeing Nikko, our white-handed gibbon, literally just hanging out or swinging, brought a big smile to my face too. Not too shabby of a place to intern, right?

Another week is in the books. I’ve passed the three month mark and am nearing the end of my time here at Oakland Zoo as the Marketing Intern. Time sure has flown. I have two exciting weeks left. Let’s see what else I can learn and do in that time.