All 72 of us , eager to start our new adventures with the animals
Saturday morning saw me up bright and early waiting for my transport to Zoo Negara. I donned the tee shirt given. Soon we were all dressed in muted grey. Stickers with the words ' Zoo Negara Volunteer' were distributed to all the 72 volunteers. That was our 'passport'to carry out the assigned duties for the day at our zoo.
Texcycle had initiated a group volunteer community service among its staff. The boss, Mr Ho invited me as he thought I'd been keen to chip in as an outsider. I did.
After a brief introduction by the Zoo staff, we were split into groups of 10. It was bears for us. That got us excited and we quickened our steps following a member of the staff. Our first hint of animal presence as we walked up the path to their dens - poo! Inhaling those whiffs, I thought of all the organic manure I could lavish on my plants!
Quickly it was down to work. We took off our trainers, chose the right size rubber boots to wear. Next we picked the lidi brooms and rakes. Our supervisor had to lure the bear into the safe confines of his den for us to be out of harm's way. Then we followed his assistant to the public viewing enclosure. Ouch! I forgot to get low enough and hit my head, not once but twice against the low beam as I entered.
Looking for the right fit, then to work
Bears need creative play too
Several hands made the work speedier and lighter. In the quiet of the morning, with no visitors yet in sight, we swished and swept the fallen leaves and odd lumps of poo that littered the public viewing enclosure. All done, we left the place and it was time to open the barricade and release the bears.
Fancy a lie-in?
Public viewing enclosure
Out for a morning stroll - the sun bear is the smallest of the world's eight bear species. Common nicknames are 'dogbear', 'honey bear', 'malay bear'. Habitat: dense tropical and subtropical forest
Volunteers tidying the 'divide' between bear and public (note the bear out of his den in the background)
Texcycle staff helping out
I half expected to hear the bears growl but they didnt. With the constant care of their keepers, they have got accustomed to their voices and human touch. The carekeepers called their names which have a very local flavour in a manja voice. We got to know Mango, Ramat, Ah Moy, Boy, Girl!! Luckily when I was born my parents had the good sense to give me a proper name!
Mango is my name! My other buddies are Ramat, Rupert, Ah Moy.
I came face to face with Mango behind the iron bars of her den. I called her name. She responded by clinging the door. No growls nor whimpering - just sussing and sniffing me out, the stranger for the day. Did she want to be my friend? As she stood on her hind legs close to the door, her sharp extended claws looked really dangerous. What's food for 150 kg bears like Ah Moy, the brown bear? She's 18 plus years old, a lumbering mammal . Some student volunteers came in a van and delivered their food - meaty soup with carrots and potatoes, coconuts, papayas and other fruits.
Students arriving in a lorry delivering chow
The bears will prise the coconut and there's the juice to drink it all up when they get to it.
We had 2 breaks - coffee and lunch. Guess what, the nasi lemak bungkus made its appearance and that was hastily polished off by everyone! Come lunchtime, it was chicken merah, vegetable curry, cucumber and pineapple salad and papadum washed down with ice -cold rose syrup.
It was back to the roof tops of the enclosures to sweep heaps and heaps of fallen leaves. How the fallen leaves of a certain deciduous species have made a thick carpet on the roofs. I think I could have sunk my body in and be nicely cushioned! We swept like mad and bagged them. Luckily it was quite shady or else we would have been a few shades darker . I have to say in all honesty I have never swept and gathered this gigantic mountain of leaves in all my life.
So, no lazy Saturday after all. It was an insight of what the Friends of The Malaysian National Zoo ( FOMNZ) do. This volunteer body was founded towards the end of 1989 to bring together volunteers to help in the daily operations of the zoo.