London Zoo is in trouble after three months of forced closure, and to help keep the gates open, it’s hoping to recruit ‘an army’ (its words) of volunteers. At first glance, it sounds like a dream – a chance to walk with the animals, talk with the animals, maybe cuddle the odd sloth? You can just picture yourself in that ZSL fleece, strolling around with your meerkat sidekick perched on one shoulder, throwing cold fish into the beaks of happy penguins. But, the thing about volunteering is that you have to do it for free, and the duties of the ZSL army are more likely to involve paperwork and manure scooping than quiet afternoons of sloth cuddling.
The zoo is focusing its appeal on furloughed workers and students who had their gap year travel dreams dashed by lockdown (who needs to hike on Inca Trail when you can follow a zookeeper around with a feed bucket?). While it’s a bit much asking people to work for free, the commitment can be fairly minimal (from half a day each fortnight). Many Londoners pay good money (£170 in fact) to do the work of a zookeeper for a day and get some face time with the animals, so it’s likely volunteer recruits won’t be hard to find.
Volunteer manager at ZSL Rhiannon Green explained that the zoo needs ‘cheery, flexible people who can help visitors enjoy their day while respecting the measures that keep everyone safe. […] In return they will gain experience working in a team, hone their customer service skills, learn about wildlife and have the chance to experience first hand the leisure and tourism sector in a post-lockdown world. That could be especially useful to anyone furloughed from the hospitality industry’.
Interested in joining the volunteer army? You can register your interest for London and Whipsnade zoos here. If you want to help keep the zoo open, but would prefer to donate your money instead of your time, you can find out more about its Sir David Attenborough-endorsed fundraising campaign here. Not up for either? Fair enough, here’s a video of a sloth called Edward.
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Up for volunteering, but not in the zoo? Here’s how to help, and get help, in London right now.