As a Zoo Ranger Jersey Zoo and Durrell, we are here to ensure that the animals and visitors have a safe and enjoyable experience. We rotate through the butterfly house, the lemur pontoon, the gorilla enclosure and the Gerald Durrell Story. We interact with the public, answer questions and make sure that the animals are not at risk from being fed by the public or being handled. We do not feed the animals and part of our role is to ensure that the public do not either. Also we make sure that visitors respect the animals and their environment. The safety and the wellbeing of the animals is our priority alongside the wellbeing of our visitors.
I have always loved visiting the zoo and feel passionate about the animal conservation that goes on here and around the world under the auspices of Durrell. It was in the back of my mind that I would like to volunteer but i had no idea how though doing what. I saw a piece on Channel ITV at the end of last year talking about a role that was being introduced for volunteer zoo rangers. I heard the word lemurs and the venture with new pontoon and thought I need to find out more. I found everything I needed on their website and applied. Dan Craven who organises us held an induction programme for new volunteers and that was it, very easy.
Our normal shifts are morning or afternoon and we are expected to try to do a minimum of one a fortnight. The shifts are three and a half hours long and as long as there enough of us we rotate through the four areas.
Otherwise we just divide our time up. We are lucky to be allowed flexibility and to make our own plans between us. We don’t go into enclosures or feed the animals although with the new Lemur pontoon on the lake the lemurs are now crossing when their walkway is pulled across to the pontoon.
I have learnt a lot more about the animals, their needs and how endangered they are. As a spin off we have opportunities to volunteer for other events that go on here e.g. special days put on by the education department for children during holiday time. The recent Durrell challenge and then various events around the zoo. These opportunities are there for the taking and there is no pressure on you to take on extra roles but they are fun and interesting to be involved with. I have learnt and done things that I would never have expected to do.
I have experienced many memorable moments in such a short time. One memorable moment was seeing the reaction of the gorillas the day after Indigo was moved to another zoo (Belgium). The gorillas were very sad , subdued and looking for Indigo. For them it was the same as a bereavement and no one could tell them that he would be fine. It was so moving and so sad and I shed tears just watching them.
Another was the first time I was on the pontoon and the lemurs came across I was so excited and my whoops of joy didn’t phase them but it attracted lots of members of the public.
There have been no big surprises, but I am so pleased at how much I enjoy it and look forward to my shifts. I wasn’t sure what the zoo keepers would reaction to us would be but they have been friendly and helpful and all the staff here are willing to answer our questions about the animals in their care. They really seem to like having us around and I hope we are seen as an asset.
The biggest myth I held was that you need to know lots of facts about the animals and to be able to answer all questions. Not true and we have helpful volunteer handbooks to refer to. Also, staff and fellow rangers are a great resource. We learn from each other. Most important thing is not to bluff and make up answers. I find the public appreciate honesty especially when you explain that you are a volunteer. Every shift I learn something new.
If anyone is thinking about volunteering, I would say “DO IT NOW. You will not regret it.”