Auckland Zoo Eco Adventures
We've partnered with the award winning Raw Wildlife Encounters to bring you a Sumatran adventure …
This #WildWork Wednesday we’re taking you to Sumatra, to introduce you to three amazing women from the zoo whānau who have recently volunteered their time, helping orangutans in the wild.
Let us introduce you to Jill – our incredible Volunteer Programme Manager, Fiona – our fabulous Senior Volunteer Coordinator, and Beth who is one of Auckland Zoo’s dedicated volunteers that we are so fortunate to have helping us build a future for wildlife.
These three women were first introduced to the Leuser Ecosystem through Auckland Zoo’s eco adventures in Sumatra. Guided by Auckland Zoo’s primate team leader Amy Robbins, this 9-day adventure has been made in conjunction with the award-winning Raw Wildlife Encounters where guests are taken off the beaten track and into the heart of Sumatra to journey inside the habitat of wild orangutans, tigers, macaques, elephants and more.
While they were in Sumatra, they decided to volunteer with one of Auckland Zoo’s partners, Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP). SOCP is a collaborative initiative between the Sustainable Ecosystem Foundation, the PanEco Foundation, and the Indonesian Government’s Directorate General of Natural Resource and Ecosystem Conservation. Auckland Zoo supports this programme, which is imperative to conserve the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan and Tapanuli orangutan, and has three main responsibilities: confiscating orangutans kept illegally as pets; rehabilitating confiscated orangutans in a purpose-built centre where they get medical attention and are socialised in ‘forest schools’, and lastly, reintroducing those that are fit for the wild, to form new, genetically viable populations in extensive, protected forest blocks.
At Auckland Zoo, we couldn’t do the work we do, or contribute as much to conservation without the work of our dedicated volunteers, many of which have worked here for over 10+ years! In total our volunteer programme is made up of 200 amazing volunteers who contribute more than 35,000 hours every year which equates to the equivalent of about 17 full time staff members!
Unfortunately there are some orangutans that are unable to be reintroduced to the wild as they would not survive due to reasons of ill health, mistreatment or injury caused by humans, these orangutans deserve a chance at a better life too. Orangutan Haven is located roughly an hour from Medan, Indonesia’s fourth largest city, that is being developed as a home for these deserving orangutans, to give them a second chance at life. Picture extensive, protected island-like spaces, dense with bush, that offer the safety and security these vulnerable primates need.
That’s where Jill, Fiona, and Beth recently volunteered their time and did all kinds of work to help this programme to function; planting over 400 seedlings, weeding and planting hundreds of seedlings in their organic gardens, harvesting water spinach for the orangutans at the SOCP Quarantine Centre, picking flowers that were then made into tea to fundraise for SOCP’s conservation work, building nesting boxes for birds and bats, planting over 250 trees through the walking tracks and around the orangutan islands, caring for the trees already planted on the island by adding nourishing compost - and they even gave a bathroom wall a new lick of paint!
It was really physical work – long days in the extreme humidity, but knowing they were directly helping a critically endangered species gave them all the motivation they needed. Whilst volunteering at Orangutan Haven, they got to visit the orangutans currently being cared for at the SOCP, which Jill said was hard to see, but feels privileged to contribute to the solution. “It was a real privilege to contribute to the project and to witness first-hand the vision and work being done to create a home for orangutans who sadly cannot be released back into the wild due to sickness, injury or their past, for example, being kept as pets. We talk to our volunteers every day about the challenges being faced by wildlife, the amazing work being done by our partners to conserve wildlife. Having first-hand experience including seeing orangutans in their natural habitat and at the quarantine centre now makes me even more passionate to share what I know with volunteers and our visitors” says Jill.
With a history of volunteering in New Zealand and abroad, and choosing careers which have always been of an empathetic, helping nature – for both humans and animals – it’s no surprise that Jill is now our Volunteer Programme Manager. As Jill says of her desire to join Auckland Zoo and its mission, “My father worked in conservation and I was lucky to have amazing experiences as a child exploring remote parts of NZ and this gave me a lifelong passion for wildlife conservation. I believe passionately in the value of volunteers and what they can offer and have had many volunteer roles myself over the years. I also have a background in community development including running a volunteer programme. Coming to the zoo has enabled me to merge all these passions, all in one place which is what makes it really special”.
Here at Auckland Zoo, we couldn’t do the work we do, or contribute as much to conservation without the work of our dedicated volunteers, many of which have worked here for over 10+ years! In total our volunteer programme is made up of 200 amazing volunteers who contribute more than 35,000 hours every year which equates to the equivalent of about 17 full time staff members!
We also have the younger generation learning volunteering skills through our Tuatara Club, teens aged 15 to 17 who get the chance to learn about conservation whilst building their skills interacting with public, and educating them on what we do.
Jill says of this, “I am constantly inspired by the dedication and commitment of our volunteers here at the zoo which makes coming to work very easy and definitely puts a smile on my face every day. We have a community of volunteers and paid volunteer coordinators here at the zoo who share the vision of Auckland Zoo but also enjoy what they do and this shows on their faces when they are out and about around the zoo. This was put really nicely by a visitor in a recent Trip Advisor review: "We absolutely loved our trip to Auckland Zoo. We met so many genuinely enthusiastic, friendly and knowledgeable volunteers during our visit".
To acknowledge the amazing mahi of our volunteers, we’re offering 2-for-1 admission for ALL volunteers in Aotearoa from 15-23 June. Volunteers can simply bring in their proof of ID to the zoo during these dates.
If you would like to visit Sumatra with Auckland Zoo, check out our Eco Adventures to secure your limited place on an inspiring, bucket-list adventure that’s gentle on the environment.