Short-staffed zoos to get by with volunteers' help

Central Zoo Authority is all set to frame a policy that will allow the poorly funded zoos to rope in the help of volunteers to work in different levels, from 'receptionist to caretaker'

Even as the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) is mulling plans to garner financial aid from the corporate sector in order to meet the burgeoning financial needs of the zoo, fresh plans are also being made to rope in animal lovers who will be ready to render their services as zoo volunteers.

This means that the tide may yet turn for the abject Byculla Zoo. Taking note of the shortage of adequately skilled and trained zoo staff, CZA officials are all set to frame the final policy on this matter. Once the provision falls in place, the zoo will also be training the volunteers.

The volunteer will then be vested with important responsibilities like visitor management, zoo education, maintenance as well as animal care and health management.

Confirming the plan, a senior CZA official said, "After witnessing that most zoos lack manpower especially trained staff the demand was made at a conference that enthusiasts who are interested in animal welfare should be allowed to help out.

Hence, the proposal has been made. Zoos which don't have their own websites have been asked to create advertisements asking for volunteers." CZA has already asked zoos to carry out a SWOT analysis and develop a financial business model based on their core strengths.

"Requirements in conservation breeding, education and research are immense, and we need to work on them. The zoos are facing criticism on animal ethics and welfare.

Zoos therefore have to reorient themselves and bring in significant changes, especially in the outlook of the management, which needs to stay abreast of new technologies, concepts and ideas emerging in management of animals.

We need the help of volunteers too, who can help us in their management work. From receptionist to the caretaker - we need volunteers at each level of zoo mana-gement," said the official.

Anil Anjnakar, director, Byculla Zoo, echoed the sentiments, saying, "Funds were a serious issue. Soon, we might be able to rope in corporate parties who will offer financial assistance to the zoo. Many animal lovers are also keen on contributing, but the law prevents us from accepting their help.

The planned amendments will definitely prove helpful to us. We need skilled and educated volunteers who can help us uplift the image of the zoo and render their valuable services. We are waiting for final nod from CZA," he said.

The deplorable condition of the Byculla zoo is known well, and the CZA has already put a hold on transfer of more animals into its premises.

A senior official from the Byculla zoo added that the funds released for each zoo are not sufficient to meet with day-to-day requirements. "These projects will definitely change the image of the zoo the world over," he said.

The volunteer must have passed his secondary school examination. Those opting for specialised voluntary work should hold a minimum qualification in that field. Prospective volunteers will be required to complete an orientation process and fill in an application form.

Work to be done
Volunteers can work in these areas
Manning the visitor information desk
Zoo education and awareness programme
Gift shop
Zoo maintenance
Special events
Tour guide
Volunteer management teams
Animal feed stores
Animal health care

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