Thursday, 23 October 2014

Zoo Outing Weekend and other news

"Orangutans are skeptical/
Of changes in their cages/
And the zookeeper is very fond of rum/"
~ 'At the Zoo', Simon & Garfunkel

I haven't been able to volunteer at the Zoo this year due to my hectic schedule and part-time studies in the earlier half of the year, but have been in contact with the Zoo Education Unit and volunteers, and they informed me of changes and improvements in the Zoo.

When Aravind asked me if I would like to attend his office Family Day event at the Zoo a few weeks ago, I was quite happy to say yes. I saw it as an opportunity to see the improvements for myself, and perhaps decide on a weekend when I would be available to volunteer my services again.

The office Family Day event was very well-organised and all the noisy games took place in an area away from the animal enclosures. There was a vegan buffet line to cater for the needs of the vegetarian and vegan participants, some educational activities and a whole lot of gratuitiously noisy and fun teambuilding-type games with dubious educational value. Just the right balance of everything.

We arrived early so that I could go around visiting all my animal friends whose enclosures I had helped to clean in the past. The sunbears ignored us, as they should, and looked quite contented in their enclosure with all their hiding spaces and enrichment tools.

I was delighted to see that the capybaras have been busy reproducing and there are now 2 baby capybaras that must have been born merely months ago. Their enclosure is of a good size and their surroundings quite naturalistic, with lots of growing plants, but there will always be room for improvement.

The Seladang, or Indian Gaur, stood around in a placid group waiting for the zoo staff to bring them breakfast. 
"I cleaned the poop off their enclosure before", I reminded Aravind proudly. "They are tame and did not feel threatened by my presence". 
 Aravind rolled his eyes. "I'm sure that was one of the proudest moments of your life." 
Yes", I replied enthusiastically, without a hint of irony.

A Malayan Tapir lay sleeping in the shade.

I found it nice that the Malayan Tapir and Barking Deer could enter and exit each other's enclosures as they wish. This made for some charming inter-species friendships.

The office telematch games started around 10 a.m. We had been assigned to different teams ahead of time and given t-shirts in our team colours to wear on the day of the event. It was fun cheering on people I did not know. I think I was a lot more enthusiastic than some of the staff members. I made a lot of new friends that day. Oh, the joys of being an extrovert!

Then it was time for the adults to participate in the games, while the children played carnival sideshow-type games such as Coconut Bowling, Hoopla and knocking down things using balls and pop-guns. Concession stands offered popcorn, candy floss, cold desserts, face painting and other family-friendly activities. I managed to capture an action shot of a race in which the participants have to transfer table tennis balls in metal buckets strapped to their backs. The buckets have holes at the bottom, so one has to prevent the balls from falling out of the bucket, and then deposit the balls in the baskets at the finish line. I was invited to participate in the games for adults and I assented readily, winning a couple of prizes in the process.

The Zoo brought some of their friendlier animals from the Children's World area to the event for photo opportunities. I am glad to see that the animals' handlers were good at showing the guests the proper way to approach and stroke animals, and the animals were taken out to meet people for only about 20 - 30 minutes to minimise stress. I was beside myself with joy to see my old friend Hobbit, the miniature horse. I had cleaned his paddock and taken him out for a walk in the past. I asked his handler about Hobbit's companion, Wizard, and was informed that Wizard would not be taken out today as he has a farrier's appointment. Hobbit is very calm, friendly and used to human company (he has acted in television programmes in the past and is not unduly alarmed or stressed around people). This was the highlight of my day. I don't think Hobbit remembers me but I do remember and love him and that is all that matters to me. (I wasn't grabbing him in this photo, by the way. I was stroking the side of his head and under his jaw, and he actually leaned in towards me)

Aravind and I signed up for a natural history themed Treasure Hunt with 3 of his colleagues. Our team came in 4th out of 20 teams. I wish we could have done better and I guess I have myself to blame for our less-than-stellar performance. I knew the answers to the questions and proceeded to write them down, but the team was not as confident and there was some bickering over who was to go check the answers against those on the signboards at the animals' enclosures. We lost precious minutes this way and other teams came in before us. Still, it was good that we won something. I only managed to get a photo of 4 out of 5 team members, as another member, Vijay, was still walking back from checking an answer at the Ape Centre when we decided to take this photo. We received shopping vouchers for our efforts, so now Aravind and I will have to go get ourselves new work clothes.

As with the previous year, there was a Lucky Draw for the staff after the Family Day lunch. Aravind has never been able to win anything and he wasn't particularly hopeful this year, so we were both thrilled when his name was called. He won an Ikea voucher. The picture is blurry because I had to run up to the stage in the rain to snap this and there wasn't enough time to take a second one.

The event was officially over around 3 p.m. and we got to spend the rest of the day exploring the Zoo on our own. The sky was overcast but it made the walk very pleasant because it wasn't hot. I wanted to see the Savannah Walk because the volunteers mentioned that the Zoo was in the process of expanding the area to give the animals more space. The giraffes, zebras and ostriches seemed healthy and contented enough.

There is a new hippo enclosure that seemed a bit too small, too 'concrete-y' and too close to the neighbouring residential area to me. I wonder if they will plant more trees and shrubbery as buffer and to make it look more naturalistic.

The free-roaming Painted Storks have always been one of my favourite things about the Zoo. I love the way they are free to fly out of the Zoo premises but always choose to return to the trees and lake where they are safe and fed and loved.

One of the Zoo staff cycled past, and all the storks started running after him like a pack of loyal dogs. I guess they associate this particular person with food and feeding time.

A gentle giraffe decided to lean in closer to look at us looking at her.

The ladybug-shaped Insect House that had been part of the Zoo for decades has been replaced with a shiny new Insect House in another part of the Zoo. Walking Stick insects try to pass themselves off as twigs in this enclosure.

Part of the Zoo's education efforts include teaching visitors about creating Butterfly Feeding Stations to attract bees and butterflies to keep their populations healthy.

This Week's Photodump:

My obligatory weekly volunteer session at the SPCA animal shelter. I cleaned out cat cages and used Frontline to treat all the cats and kittens for fleas and ticks. This little ginger thought it was an extra nice massage and fell asleep in my hands.

There is a festive feel in the air and all the shopping malls are decorated with colourful 'kolams' (rangoli) to usher in Deepavali.

Reita sent me this picture of the children in the indigenous communities queueing up for the toys, books and school supplies from the Happy Bag I packed for them. Those novelty erasers are from my own collection. Now they will be used and loved and played with.

One of our friends, Navindran, who volunteers for many causes, got his family members to make cookies and murukku to sell for Deepavali to raise funds for Rumah Jaireh, a home for children living with HIV / AIDS. They needed to raise RM12k in order to renovate and repair the home's bathrooms and purchase and set up playground equipment for the children. It was a tremendous effort from this kind and generous family. I bet their house will smell of cookies and murukku for months, long after they stopped baking. My friends placed their orders through me and I spent the next few days delivering goodies to my friends. So much love and generosity went into this initiative. This is what the Festival of Lights really is about.

Aravind and I went to deliver cookies to our friend Renuka and we were overjoyed to see Moglet (now renamed Charlie) again. He was just a tiny thing when we first rescued him in Feb 2013, but look what a huge, handsome mancat he is now! He seemed to remember me as his first human mother and was very affectionate to me.

Coffee and a lemon slice for tea at Artisan Coffee, Bangsar Village II, with my friend Habsah.

A saxophonist serenaded us with jazz music from a nearby retail outlet as we sipped our coffee.

I swung by the KL Craft Complex to deliver murukku and cookies to Reita at Gerai OA in the evening.

An assortment of handmade clay beads for sale at Gerai OA.

What a fulfilling (although often stressful) week it has been!


Bookface said...

What a great post! Thanks for your photo-tour of the zoo, and it was lovely to see Reita in the Gerai OA booth again, too. :-)

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Thanks for stopping by, Amanda! I must make the time to volunteer with Gerai OA and Zoo Negara again soon.