Yesterday I spent the day volunteering at Hanwell Zoo in West London. It was so wonderful! It was so interesting to learn about the animals and how they are cared for and their varying needs and personalities.
I had interaction with a wide range of animals including; goats, pigs, capybara, lemurs, meerkats, porcupines, hornbills and flamingoes – so I feel like I had a really good range of experience!
The differing personalitites of animals is something that I am really interested in at the moment. I am reading a book currently about animal intelligence and emotions (“Why dogs hump and bees get depressed” by Marc Bekoff) so I feel particularly engaged with this subject at the moment. This was only the first time I have volunteered with the zoo, and hopefully I will be able to do it more, but from this one day – this is what I learnt.
Goats – are curious and always looking for food. They enjoy coming over to see what you are up to and enjoy a good scratch, some particularly under the chin!
Pigs – love to lay in the sun, don’t mind the mud and may try to drink directly from your hose when you are refilling their water.
Capybara – are shy and will approach you slowly to see what’s going on but probably won’t come close enough to touch you. If they are annoyed by you being there then their hair stands on end!
Lemurs – are cheeky and will try to get out the door or take food from you when you go in the enclosure.
Meerkats – are curious but easily spooked. They will happily come over and sniff you if you sit very still or if you have food.
Porcupines – are adorable. They shuffle around and shed their quills like humans shed hair. They will let you stroke them if they can sniff you first, if they get spooked their quills stand up and they shuffle away!
Hornbills – are good parents! The female stays in the nest with the chicks until they are big and strong enough to fledge and the male will provide food for the whole family until they can provide for themselves.
Flamingoes – are noisy when they are pairing up to build nests, I would love to know what they are talking about!
I was also told that the animals that would naturally eat fruit in the wild, are fed on vegetables (normally sweeter veg, like peppers or carrots) as these are closer to the nutrition value of wild fruits. Commercially grown fruits have different nutritional value to their wild counterparts because they are higher in sugar – which is really interesting!
Hopefully I will get to know more about the work of the zoo over my time volunteering there, and although I don’t agree with everything that zoos do – I do think it will be a valuable learning experience and will stand me in good stead for the future and to continue my journey towards being able to make some difference in the world of conservation.
I urge you all to get out and connect with nature, whether it be animal based or a walk in the park or learning about somewhere you’d like to go, take the time to enrich your day with the benefits of the world around us.
Happy Saturday y’all!
Peace out, SWBC x
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