Thanks a million to Australia Zoo Volunteers
This week celebrates National Volunteer Week, Australia's largest celebration of volunteering. Today there are over 6 million people volunteering annually in Australia, representing 36% of the adult population. National Volunteer Week aims to recognise the invaluable contribution each individual provides by offering their time, skills and passion, continuing to demonstrate Australia's proud culture of giving.
At Australia Zoo we welcome volunteers from all walks of life who help out with both our animal and customer relations sections, and we'd like to say "Thanks A Million" to all of them, past and present, whose enthusiastic, dependable, friendly and professional qualities make them such an integral part of our organisation. Although they may not be jumping crocs or lounging with tigers, they still get to hang out with heaps of our other amazing animals; it's a fun and rewarding way to spend your free time in the best office in town!
People volunteer for many different reasons, from work experience for school or uni to learn what it's like to be a zoo keeper, to gain experience to further their careers or just for the personal satisfaction of their efforts; there are many benefits to volunteer work. It's a great way to show potential employers that you are hard-working and dedicated to giving back to the community. Specifically here at Australia Zoo you'll also be making a contribution to conservation and you'll learn heaps more about the animals themselves.
Meet two of our awesome Volunteers
Started volunteering: November 2004 in Customer Relations
I was born and grew up in the Herbert River Valley at the small sugar milling town of Macknade. I spent most of my working life in various sections of the sugar industry, with the last 32 years at Lucinda Bulk Sugar Terminal. The last 16 years of this I operated the offshore gantry ship loader, loading overseas ships with raw sugar.
My favourite animal at the Zoo is Acco, the largest crocodile. I feel proud of Acco as we both are past residents of the Herbert River district. I grew up with an older generation who advocated shooting these creatures, and after volunteering here now I realize how unique they are and how important it is for them to be protected. I decided to join the volunteer program after hearing a guest speaker from the Zoo talk at our Probus Club meeting.
Started volunteering: January 2010
At a young age I became interested in horses and after many years of annoying my parents, at age 9 they finally gave in and bought me my first horse. I consider myself lucky to have grown up with horses, I especially loved spending my weekends training and showing them.
Volunteering at Australia zoo has been the best experience for me and I would encourage anyone to get involved. I appreciate being around all of the beautiful animals at the zoo, but I do have a favourite; the six gorgeous Echidnas! The Zoo staff are great to work with and very helpful, I've learnt so much already from their knowledge and dedication to the animals. At the moment I volunteer at the Zoo one day a week, but one day I hope to be employed and work fulltime with the Native Mammals Department.
Never smile at a crocodile!
As the saying goes, never smile at a crocodile, especially when you're about to take on a whole team of them!
The Wide Bay Crocs dropped in to Australia Zoo to see how tough they were when faced with our resident 8.23 metre croc, Cameron (a replica, but huge nonetheless), kicking off the annual Queensland Police Service Rugby League State Championship from 6 to 10 May in Townsville.
Australia Zoo is proud to be associated with the mighty Wide Bay Crocs, having sponsored them since 2001. Players represent the North Coast Police Region which includes the Sunshine Coast, Bundaberg, Maryborough, Gympie, and Redcliffe Police Districts.
We wish the Wide Bay Crocs the best of luck at the State Championships!
Steve inspires counter poachers
Former Australia Zoo volunteers Zach and Morgan Cooney make a dynamic duo as they fight rhino poaching in Africa. Morgan reports from the field on their journey to become Wildlife Warriors.
Spreading the message
For all our lives, my brother Zach and I have loved wildlife and wild places. Since before either of us can remember we were surrounded by everything relating to wildlife including many books, wall posters, and videos on animals. Once we were old enough to understand what conservation was, we became passionate about spreading the message to everyone we met about the importance of preserving our planet's amazing animals. Our goal became making the world a better place for wildlife.
Hurrah for a hero
We were six when we first saw Steve Irwin on television in the United States. Within the first five minutes, he became our absolute hero. Everything that he was about, we loved. He was Australian, he surfed, he rescued wildlife in distress, and he caught the world's most venomous snakes and biggest crocs. How could you get any better than this? From then on, we were positive that working with crocodiles and snakes was exactly what we were meant to do.
Since then, Zach and I have worked with wildlife all over the world. We rehabilitated injured monkeys in Guatemala, rescued crocodiles in Costa Rica, helped with stranded turtles in Uruguay, caught snakes in Swaziland, cared for lions in South Africa, and volunteered at the Australia Zoo! While our goal is still to work with crocodiles and snakes primarily, if Steve has taught us anything, it is that becoming a Wildlife Warrior means being there for wildlife when it needs you the most.
While the original plan was to work with crocodiles and snakes in Costa Rica... every single day, Zach and I would hear about another rhino being killed. Eventually, we decided to take action; we had to do something. To us, this meant combating the poaching crisis that was driving these amazing animals to extinction.
The Cooney twins have trained to become part of the counter-poaching program at SanWild, owned and founded by Louise Joubert. Set on 14,826 acres, SanWild offers injured wildlife a safe haven because it is also home to one of Africa's most formidable counter-poaching teams. Morgan says Louise, one of Africa's most dedicated wildlife conservationists "is by every definition, a Wildlife Warrior". The anti-poaching teams put everything on the line to help the animals they love. "We wanted to do the same," says Morgan.
Rhino deaths in South Africa as a direct result of poaching:
- 2007 - 13
- 2008 - 83
- 2009 - 122
- 2010 - 333
- 2011 - 448 (19 were critically endangered black rhino)
- 2012 - to 1 October 455 animals; estimated loss by year end in excess of 1200 animals inclusive of natural mortalities and those hunted legally by trophy hunters.
Sources: African Conservation Foundation, TRAFFIC
Australia Zoo's efforts
Australia Zoo is part of a regional co-operative programme, working with other zoos in Australasia to maximise breeding potential and genetic diversity of the southern white rhino. We've had success with the birth of rhino Savannah in 2011 and there's another baby rhino due in April 2013!
Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors is working closely with a select group of conservation programs across Africa to protect endangered species. Funds donated by Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors currently go towards direct protection and security operations of Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which is the largest black rhino sanctuary in east Africa. For more information check out our conservation projects.
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This article featured in issue #24 (Summer 2012) of our very own Crikey! Magazine. To receive the latest Crikey! Mag in your mail you can subscribe now, or you can buy individual Crikey! Mags or back issues. Check out our preview of the latest issue.
Join the Irwins for an evening with the wildlife
This Thursday 25 April, ANZAC day, 175 lucky guests get chance to be part of our exclusive night time extravaganza, Dine With The Wildlife! But hurry, tickets for the opportunity to dine in the dark with the Irwin family and our amazing wildlife are selling like hot cakes!
Terri, Bindi and Robert Irwin, as well as many special roving animal guests, will join diners on the night.
"Here at Australia Zoo we're all about getting up close and personal with wildlife, and our Dine with the Wildlife event offers visitors the chance to meet our awesome alligators, cuddly koalas and cheeky Tasmanian devils (don't worry - our Tassie Devils don't eat too much!), and many more of our other fantastic wildlife," said Australia Zoo spokeswoman Lauren Stuart.
"Guests also have the exclusive opportunity to sit at a table with Terri, Bindi and Robert Irwin by bidding on a silent auction held throughout the day. The auction closes at 4.30pm, and all proceeds will help patients at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital."
Tickets are $89 for adults and $65 for children ($65 and $45 for Annual Members respectively), which includes admission to Australia Zoo from 3:45pm - 8:30pm. Not only that, we're putting on a special screening of Steve's documentary Ghosts of War, an epic 2-part series visiting the notorious and legendary battle grounds of the Pacific conflict between the Allied forces and Japan. The film is a unique tribute to the lives of a generation lost in battle, and the historical events that changed our world forever and shaped the Australian nation.
For more information and to book your seats for this one-of-a-kind exclusive event, check out www.australiazoo.com.au.
An Awesome New Entrance for Australia Zoo
Check this out! After a decade of stirling service the Australia Zoo entrance has recently undergone total reconstruction. With tonnes of rusty steel, 450 metres of sustainably sourced timber and a 3 metre high cut-out of Steve, the new entrance comes with epic proportions! The project took 13 weeks to complete and also features seven enormous 3 metre billboards.
The old entrance took us from the humble beginnings of the Beerwah Reptile Park, via the growing Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park to today's Australia Zoo, and we're stoked that each of the elements help to create a massive impact for our visitors, getting them excited about the awesome wildlife experiences they can expect throughout their day.
The timber and rusted effects were designed to reflect Steve Irwin's down-to-earth personality, and the 4 tonne steel cylinder centrepiece is a testament to the fact that he remains at the very centre of everything we strive for at Australia Zoo.
Don't forget to get your photo taken there next time you visit us!