Stacey and I had the amazing experience of volunteering for 10 days at Safari Park Zoo – one of my favorite experiences in our 101 days in SE Asia. As such, this calls for multiple posts! I started off with an introduction telling you a little bit about the Safari Park Volunteer program (which you can read here) and then there will be four posts giving a little bit more detail about different teams and animals you work with – today is the Rescue Team!
One of the days that we were on Rescue Team we also took care of the birds! I am an extreme lover of watching small songbirds in nature, but hadn’t had much exposure to these beauties. I was not expecting to be intimidated by them, but hearing a little over a dozen birds shrieking at me all at once! Stacey and I both were apprehensive about cleaning their cages. I made it into one had one of the blue guys (pictured below) fly straight at my face… twice. Thankfully, Tamer, a fellow-volunteer, took on cleaning the enclosures while Stacey and I cleaned their bowls and prepared their food!
Rescue was the other of my two favorite teams to work on. Working with all the different animals was amazing because the longer I volunteered the more I connected with these animals and grew to learn and enjoy their different personalities.
⋙ Enrichment: Building Toys & Feeders for the Monkeys
One of the greatest parts of working on the Rescue Team was getting to put so much work into it. I had never really used a saw or anything, so it felt rewarding to not only learn how to use these tools, but to then watch the animals enjoy the enrichment we made for them.
Of course, the amazing Mr. Tipp gave us lots of tips and even got us a new saw blade to make the feeder-making go so much quicker.
⋙ Hand-Feeding Junior
It’s no secret that Junior was my baby. He has a really bad anxiety problem and when he gets especially anxious he self harms by biting himself. He can be territorial and he doesn’t like a lot of change – even when cleaning his enclosure, we usually kept parts of his older hay so it would smell familiar. Anyway, I just loved him, but apparently he wasn’t a huge favorite among volunteers so wasn’t always hand-fed. Despite his anxiety, he was incredibly gentle, using his tiny little fingers to gently grasp the food, seeds, enrichment and more from my hands.
⋙ Giving Chutney Backrubs
Chutney can be a little bit grabby at times, but when he’s sweet he’s really sweet. He loved to have his back scratched and a week in I finally was invited by him to scratch his back.
⋙ Enrichment: Ice-Lollies for the Monkeys
One of the other forms of enrichment was making popsicles for the monkeys! We chopped up fruits and veggies and put them into water bottles and then cut the bottles away after they had frozen and gave the monkeys their treats.
These icy treats helped to keep the monkeys cool on those scorching hot days! Plus, it was a treat for us to get to watch them smash the ice and pull the fruits out.
⋙ Binturongs a.k.a Bearcats
I had never, ever heard of a binturong before working on the rescue team here at Safari Park. If you’re like me, you might need a little background knowledge on these little cuties courtesy of wikipedia:
* Binturongs are active both day and night and feed and live in the treetops of forests in India, Thailand, Indonesia, Nepal, China and other South and Southeast Asian countries.
* They have a prehensile tail which helps them climb slowly, but extremely well through the trees.
* They can live up to 25 years in captivity.
Now, how about some fun facts about these two Binturongs particularly. Sydney, the female, had an insatiable appetite and Wendy was missing an eye and almost deaf. They smell like sweaty popcorn and make noises like little ninjas! They’re so cute!
Cassowaries are flightless birds from Northern Australia and New Guinea (and they look a lot like the bird from the pixar movie ‘Up’). This is another animal that I had never heard of before the trip, but found them very interesting. Here are a few wikipedia facts about these guys:
* There are three species of cassowaries, the largest of which (the Southern Cassowary) is the third largest bird in the world.
* That piece of bone on top of his head is extremely hard and sharp claws that, if provoked, can be fatal!
* They’re categorized as an endangered species.
⋙ The Monkeys Loved Their Feeders
Back to the feeders that we made, I said that the monkeys enjoyed them, so now let me explain how they work and show you how much they loved them. We took bamboo and cut them at the blocked off ridges (creating a whole on each end with a wall at the back). Then cut holes in the hollow part. Then we put fruits and veggies in all the holes and stuffed grass and hay around them to make it harder for them to get to the treats inside.
⋙ Cleaning Enclosures & More
Not everything is fun and exciting like giving monkeys toys and feeders, but there’s work involved too. Everyday we had to clean the enclosures which on easy days meant that we switched out water, swept up the poo & rinsed that area, redistributed the hay and hid food for them to forage. On deep clean days we swept out all of the hay and poo, scrubbed the floors of the enclosure, scrubbed the water bowls, brought in brand new hay and then hide the food again.
⋙ Enrichment: Making Porridge Parcels for the Monkeys
These were my favorite forms of enrichment because they went crazy over these! Making porridge parcels is a really easy process, but incredibly rewarding. You simply cut a banana leaf, spread porridge on, place seeds into the porridge, then place fruits inside and fold the leaf over. Lastly, we took vines and wrapped and tied them around the little parcels! I loved watching their reactions to them. Some tore them open going right for the fruit, but Junior opened his carefully, ate the fruit and then licked every bit of the porridge off. So cute!
⋙ Junior is My Baby
I know that I keep talking about him, but I just can’t help it. Look at that cute little hand and that sweet face. I cannot wait to go back and visit this sweet baby again!
I loved the rescue team and being able to see the work I was doing and difference I was making for all these beautiful animals! I think that selfishly this was my favorite because I felt like I was achieving things and it’s amazing to see all the things that have happened in the last few months that the new volunteers and staff have been doing to make huge changes in the rescue retreat! Great job, guys and I can’t wait to see the changes that continue to come!
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