Exclusive Backstage Passes into Zoo Negara with KYSERS
By Muiz Zafri
It is normal to meet a bunch of restless teenagers after finishing a major public examination. Especially when all of them come from a boarding school with a hectic daily routine. This case was no different for 16 members of Exiveros, Class of 2019, in which they open heartedly signed up for a full day of volunteering at the zoo.
The arrangements for the 8-hour long volunteering session was handled by Muhaimin Afif, a fellow batchmate. Not to forget that the number of hours recorded brings them one step closer to reach their target of 60 hours of community service to obtain the Gold Award for the Anugerah Remaja Perdana.
The procedures to participate in the activity required a couple of inquiries and phone calls to the Education Department of the National Zoo of Malaysia. Without any complications, the group managed to get a slot on the 19th of January 2019 with a small entrance fee of RM 30. Yes, volunteering is not free guys!
A Warm Welcome to the Community
Upon arrival the 16 of them were split in smaller sub groups of 4 people, each entrusted to a specific animal section namely, Carnivores, Birds, Bears and the Children’s World. The bunch were enthusiastic on their given roles after a short briefing by a staff member.
Shortly after, they adjourned to their respective areas and immediately met with their on-duty zookeepers. The zookeepers gave them a warm welcome as they really appreciated young teenagers who were passionate in giving back to the animals. Despite the differences of animals amongst their sections, all of them had one task in common which was to assist in maintaining the zoo’s cleanliness.
Sanitation, Zoo Negara’s Primary Concern
Muhd Nabhan conceded that cleaning was not as easy as it sounded at first. “I experienced a challenge when I had to rake up the leaves and transfer it to the rubbish bin without dustpans. I had to endure the pain of continuing my tasks although blisters formed on my palms not so long into the day. Of course, that made me realise that the job of a zookeeper is not only to feed and spend time with the animals but also doing everyday chores.”
Cleaning a zoo is not as straightforward as doing it in your everyday household. “While we removed the waste in the wallabies’ and porcupines’ living space – the difficult part was dodging the animals as they often hopped about and constantly fought among each other. Terrified, my team swiftly carried out the task to avoid any injuries” said Naylee Izzati. Naylee also highlighted that sanitation was important to the zoo’s management as it ensures that the exhibits are visually appealing to the visitors apart from the beautiful animals.
Exclusive Hands-on Experience
Enough spring cleaning, let’s get to the fun stuff shall we. After having lunch at the Wild Café, it was time for the animals to get a taste of their own scrumptious meal. In the bear section, the volunteers had a fantastic time feeding the grizzly creatures. “Honey was smothered onto our hands as the bears licked it off through the gaps between the grills, truly a finger-licking experience for them!”
On the other side of the zoo, the boys, Yusuf, Muiz, Irsyad and Azhar’s hearts were beating out of control as they carefully placed pieces of frozen chicken in the lions and tigers’ cages. Having been meters away from a ferocious meat loving animal with only a thin metal grill was not something you would want to face on a peaceful Sunday afternoon. “Hearing the slightest growl from them made us weak at the knees, thank God I’m only here for a day!” explained Yusuf.
The volunteers at the Bird section area however went through a rather educational experience at the zoo. We managed to get Faris Hazreen to share a little bit of his knowledge on mockingbirds. “I learnt that mockingbirds can imitate many sounds. From a squeaking door to a meowing cat. From now on, if I hear “meows” from any corner of the street, I’ll be sure to check if it’s a cat or a mockingbird!” Amazing how one day of volunteering at the zoo meant more than what meets the eye.
If you do good, good will come to you
By the end of their volunteering session, all of them were exhausted and soaked in sweat. Imran Azhar mentioned that the experience was more than just about throwing fruits into the mouths of hippos and having fun. It was about understanding the difficult tasks that the zookeepers had to endure every day. Not to forget to raise awareness within themselves regarding the threats that exist towards these animals and their habitats.
Looking back at the millions of animals who died in the Australian bushfires, why don’t we start making a change by helping their cousins and uncles here in Malaysia. Do not wait for change to happen, make a difference and lend them a helping hand!