Donating Time and Talent
The reasons why people choose to volunteer for a nonprofit are as diverse as the people who volunteer. They give freely of their time and talent to support the cause of their choice.
Volunteers provide over 35,000 hours of time annually at the Sacramento Zoo. Many of their services are essential to the successful operation of the Zoo. Whether it is working with animal care staff, scooping ice cream at an annual fundraiser, or leading a group of elementary school children on a Zoo tour, everyone – the Zoo, the public, and the volunteers themselves – benefits.
Behind the Scenes: An AmeriCorps NCCC Team Member's Perspective
“How many of us can say that we have fed grapes to red pandas? Or have been "kissed" by a giraffe? Or been in a cage with lemur tails dangling in our faces? For two wonderfully exhausting weeks in January 2010, a team of ten AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) members shadowed zookeepers and maintenance staff in various animal care and grounds keeping areas. We performed tasks ranging from preparing animal diets, hosing down animal dens, pulling out cattails around Lake Victoria, laying down sod in a new tortoise exhibit, moving dirt into the chimpanzee exhibit, raking, and planting trees.
Sure, the work was not always glamorous, but it afforded us an intimate look at zoo operations that few get to experience. We had fun commiserating over the worst animal poop to scoop (FYI it was a tie between the giraffe's and snow leopard's) and the grossest duty (scooping up dead crickets). Being able to offset some of the tedious cleaning labor zookeepers had to do daily allowed them extra time to focus on animal enrichment and training. For example, with the extra manpower in accomplishing routine tasks, hoofstock keepers were able to work on coaxing a shy giraffe to the viewing platform to prepare her for upcoming feedings from the public.
Working at the Sacramento Zoo posed challenges to each of us not only physically, but mentally. One Corps Member who shall remain unnamed, was deathly afraid of snakes, even as they were safely in their cages. For him, working in Reptiles forced him to confront his fears, even if it was only for a few seconds at a time as he was cleaning the glass windows.
We quickly came to the conclusion that zookeepers have the strongest (or the worst, as one zookeeper quipped) backs of any profession, from all the time they spend bent over and shoveling. We were impressed by the labor of love which they carry out, 365 days a year.
For one Corps Member in particular, Finley Janes, her time at the zoo solidified her interest in pursuing animal science as a course of study in college. She rattles off the different animals she learned about each day. "I love the zoo so much!" Finley's infectious enthusiasm carries over us all.
We were privileged to be working alongside staff so dedicated to the comfort and well-being of the animals and zoo visitors, and who were so willing to share their knowledge and humor with us. It was an adventure through and through. Although our team was assigned to the Sacramento Zoo for only two weeks, we certainly look forward to coming back and volunteering when our team is stationed in the Sacramento area. Thanks for a wonderful time!”
By Christina Vuong
AmeriCorps NCCC is part of AmeriCorps, a network of national service programs created to improve the environment, enhance education, increase public safety, and assist with disaster relief and other unmet human needs.
More than 1,500 dedicated individuals volunteer at the Zoo each year. They develop new friendships within the organization while they gain experience in an area that interests them (such as animal care or customer service). But most of all, they make a meaningful contribution to their community and their favorite nonprofit.
“I have been volunteering for just over a year and have no plans to ever stop! I volunteer at the Zoo because I have a tremendous love of animals. I wanted to spend my time supporting an organization that gives the people in our area a chance to learn about animals that we would otherwise only see in a picture or read about in a book.”
-Ryan Kelly, Special Events Volunteer
“I volunteer because I love the Zoo; the animals and the people! Getting people excited about the environment, animals, and their community is such a rewarding experience. Since I have been a volunteer, I have gained invaluable knowledge. My volunteer experience has greatly influenced my decision to pursue a career in zoological medicine. The Sacramento Zoo is truly inspiring for guests and volunteers!”
-Monica Nordstrom, Zoo Teen since 2008
Volunteer opportunities include assisting at special events, working with Zoo keepers, or helping to make our gardens grow. Teen volunteers help teach children and families about the animals, the environment and conservation. Docent volunteer educators provide tours, station talks and wildlife wagons for Zoo visitors. The Sacramento Zoological Society Board of Directors gives of their time and expertise to set policy, govern and raise funds for the Sacramento Zoo in support of the Zoo’s mission.
To volunteer, you must be at least 15 years of age. For more information, call the Volunteer Coordinator at (916) 808-7444.
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by Mary Healy
Volunteer: Someone who offers his or her services freely.
Volunteering touches everyone. Individuals who give their time and skills take satisfaction knowing they are helping their neighbors, community or country. Many even assist in global efforts; all participate in a wide variety of worthy causes. Nonprofits benefit greatly from these good works, and the Sacramento Zoo is no exception.
Over the past 18 months, we have read about and experienced cutbacks, furloughs and foreclosures. With disposable income shrinking, charitable giving declined between 2007 and 2008 for the first time in over 20 years. In contrast, the adult volunteer rate in the United States increased from 26.2 percent to 26.4 percent, representing an addition of almost one million volunteers serving in our country. According to findings from the Corporation for National and Community Service, 61.8 million Americans contributed 8 billion hours of volunteer service worth $162 billion in 2008 alone!
The Sacramento Zoo is proud to have 1,500 active volunteers who donate close to 35,000 hours each year in so many ways. We dedicate this issue of Maagizo to all our valued volunteers from board members, docents and teen counselors to keeper-aides and special event assistants. Thank you for all you do to make the Zoo a true community treasure.
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From the Field
Some humans are afraid of flying, heights, confined places and even spiders. Animals are no different in that they may also be frightened. We all like our comfort zones.
At the Zoo, we work with animals to help them overcome any fears or apprehensions. One of the Zoo’s most common behavior training involves teaching animals to go into carry kennels or crates. Almost all of the animals are comfortable going into dens or holding pens, but entering much smaller spaces can be challenging. We use crates to weigh animals, transport them to the hospital or another exhibit, or to ship them to another Zoo. You can bribe animals, but that generally only works once. You want the animal to feel comfortable with the crate and overcome their apprehension. We start slowly with getting them used to the presence of the crate in their exhibit, then used to being in it (part or whole) until they are at ease with the door being closed. This process takes as long as the animal needs – we can be very patient!
The fear of the unknown is not limited to small spaces. What do you do when an animal is afraid of doorways or entering a new larger habitat? Have plans A, B and C at the ready! Case in point: the new Tall Wonders giraffe habitat. The giraffes walked into the new barn in September and by mid-December they had access to their expanded exhibit for the first time. One of our three giraffes is slow to accept change. The keepers have worked attentively just to get her comfortable with shifting between a few stalls. Now our challenge is to get her used to the new exhibit – pick a door, any door, we have 3 leading to the exhibit! You are limited in how you can work with a 2,000 pound giraffe; add to that the rainy weather and the cold. But with patience and the ever-continuing planning/adapting for the next step … you will indeed see all three giraffes on exhibit (eventually!) enjoying their new backyard.
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Zoo keepers Christine Bui and Amanda Mayberry drove down to San Diego Zoo to bring back five female and five male flamingos. After a 30-day quarantine period they will move out onto Lake Victoria with flock. Six Fulvous whistling ducks, two female Hooded mergansers and a second pair of Northern pintails will also add to our growing waterfowl collection on the lake.
The new female Coquerel’s sifaka is together with the male and both are doing great. She is just three years old and her young demeanor adds a new excitement to the lemur house.
J.D. and Daisy, the Red river hogs, are checking out their new digs, literally, as they move over to share the exhibit with the bongos. The introduction process started by letting the hogs into the exhibit to roam around on their own, and then they were introduced the each bongo individually.
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The number and variety of programs presented yearly by the Zoo’s Education Department would not be possible without the amazing volunteer corps of docents. You can spot these docents at the Zoo in their bright yellow jackets and shirts, sharing fascinating animal facts with enthralled children and adults.
The Docent Council has been in existence since 1970, and there are currently 93 active docents who give their time and energy to the Zoo on a weekly basis. Over 40 of them are veteran docents who have been volunteering for more than 10 years. We wanted to know why this program inspires such loyalty, so we interviewed Linda MacFarland, docent president for the last 2 years:
What is your favorite part about being a docent?
I love interacting with the Zoo visitors, especially children, as they stand at an exhibit watching the animals. I like to question the children about the animal so they can observe first-hand at an exhibit and think about the animal they are seeing. I try to make a connection between the visitors and the animals so they will remember their visit long after leaving the Zoo, and they will want to come back to see the animals again.
How does being in the docent program benefit you?
It’s great learning about and knowing these wonderful animals, then sharing our knowledge with Zoo visitors, enhancing their experience. Docents also benefit from their relationship with Zoo staff. We have a mutual respect for each other as we carry out our various duties to care for and teach others about the animals living at the Zoo. This ultimately translates into a greater experience for Zoo visitors.
Why do you think so many docents have volunteered at the Zoo for over a decade?
It is such a rewarding volunteer experience. There are so many different facets of our docent program from which to choose that the work is never routine or boring, and we learn about our favorite topic—animals!
On your next visit to the Zoo, feel free to talk with a docent at an edzoocation station, they’re easy to spot in their yellow uniforms and are happy to share their insights with you.
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Ask the Vet
Question: Dr. Wack, Tell us about the new audio-visual system in the hostpital that gives visitors and opportunity to interact witht eh veterinary staff.
Answer: Visitors to the Zoo who walk by the veterinary hospital will see some improvements we’ve made to the guest viewing windows. Our plan is to offer Zoo visitors the opportunity to see how we provide the best possible care to the resident animals. Through a generous grant from AT&T, we have been able to upgrade the audio-visual system at the hospital.
We have added a larger monitor in the laboratory window allowing you to see what the animal health technician is viewing under the microscope (usually fecal samples or blood smears). In the treatment room, we now have a camera mounted on a surgery light. It projects a live image of the procedure in progress on the large screen of the viewing window. A speaker system has been added so that you can hear comments from the veterinary staff. When possible, we will have a staff person present to assist visitors in asking questions directed to the veterinary staff during procedures.
When the treatment room is not in use, the AV system will be used to display information about conservation programs the Zoo is involved with, as well as other science-based programming.
When you enter the Zoo, ask at the ticket booth if there are any scheduled activities in the veterinary hospital for the day. It’s a real treat to see a tiger or anteater examination!
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Calling all members!
Saturday, August 8th
5:30 to 8:30 pm
The Sacramento Zoological Society will hold a meeting for members on Wednesday, April 14 at 5:30 pm in the Kampala conference room.
The SZS Board will discuss topics of interest and give a
preview of new activities for 2010.
Please RSVP to 916-808-5888 by Friday, April 9 if you would like to join us.
Not a member yet? Sign up Now!
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Green Ideas You Can Digest
Question: How do I “green” my grocery list?
Answer: Take a few moments to read food labels.
Reading the ingredients seems so simple but we sometimes forget to check what is in the food we eat. Do you recognize the ingredients? Are there more than a handful? You’ll be surprised to see what is in some of your favorite foods. Here are a few guidelines to remember:
- Shop the outer edges of the grocery store. Produce, dairy, meat and bakery areas tend have to more whole foods and less processed foods.
- Avoid products that contribute to habitat destruction. (Trees used in the manufacture of palm oil lead to the gutting of forests where orangutans live.)
- Use paper bags for produce instead of plastic. Better yet, purchase recycled shopping bags that can be used over and over!
- Buy organic to avoid chemical pesticides and additives.
- Check out your local farmer’s market for foods produced in your area.
Bonus Tip: Read the sticker on your fruits and veggies. Those little stickers are coded with information:
- 4-digit number = grown conventionally
- 5-digit number, starting with 9 = grown organically
- 5-digit number, starting with 8 = genetically modified
Quick Bite: Buy in bulk or large packages when possible and repackage into smaller reusable containers for lunches and snacks. You’ll save additional waste in packaging and reduce your food budget as well!
- Sacramento Zoo Green Team
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Estate Planning Seminar
Financial Planning in Troubled Times
Join us for an informative session on financial planning in uncertain times on Tuesday, April 27 from 5:30 to 7:00 pm.
Hear from the experts as they help guide you in strategies to secure your family’s future, decrease your taxes and provide for your favorite charity. A special investment professional will give a market update and focus on the challenges we are currently facing.
Seating is limited; there is no charge for this seminar. Please RSVP by Friday, April 23 at 916-808-3713 to reserve your seat or for more information.
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Social Media - We are all a Twitter
If you’ve just begun social networking we invite you to join the Sacramento Zoo! Most of you have probably spent time on our website but you also have other web-based options that help the Zoo keep in touch with our supporters and visitors while giving you “insider” information!
Blog – www.saczooblog.com
Featuring stories, videos and updates from all over the Zoo, the blog gives a more informal look into how the Zoo works with personal stories and insights updated throughout the week.
Facebook – www.facebook.com
While you are finding your family and friends on Facebook, find us too! Become a fan and we will send you invites to our upcoming events and keep you posted on news about the Zoo. Search for Sacramento Zoo and become a fan or a friend.
Twitter – http://twitter.com/SacramentoZoo
Updates of just 140 characters makes sure we are getting to the point! Follow us on Twitter and get daily updates of what’s happening! We “tweet” about vet procedures, special events, breaking news, discounts and, of course, animals! You can even have updates sent straight to your phone!
YouTube – www.youtube.com/TheSacramentoZoo
Our own YouTube channel showcases videos of Zoo events, animals and people. See a kookaburra calling, flamingos doing courtship behavior or lemurs getting an afternoon treat.
Jump in, start sharing and stay informed wherever you are!
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