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Volunteer Spotlight: Nicola Cox

To celebrate Volunteers’ Week, we are shining the spotlight on some of our incredible volunteers at Paignton Zoo, by finding out more about the important role they play in supporting our charity.

Today, we’ve spoken to Nicola Cox, who some of you may recognise as our Engagement Ranger Nicky. In addition to working as an educator for our visitors, Nicky sacrifices one of her days off to come back into the zoo and help out with food prep for our primates.

240507 PZ Ranger Nicky Lion Talk AS LR 1

Can you tell us about your role as a volunteer?

“I am quite new to volunteering as I started in March this year. I have always wanted to volunteer for the ape team as orangutans & gorillas are my favourite animals. This is the first time I’ve had a spare day in my work week to be available for them. I really enjoy preparing the food for the large apes, Gibbons, Howler monkeys, Lemurs, Tamarins & Sloths. I have volunteered at Paignton zoo before way back in 2004 where I was involved with the bird show we used to put on . I hadn’t worked with birds before but I really enjoyed that. Especially the cuddles from Fred the Scarlet Macaw & talking to Pablo the green Amazon Parrot who always wanted to know what you were doing!”

Can you share a memorable experience or story from your volunteering?

“I love being recognised by the apes as they can see you preparing their food in the kitchen from the indoor ape house windows. Natalia our 10 year old female orangutan often hangs at the window having a good old nosey at what’s being prepared hoping it’s one of her favourite things to eat. I’m sure her little brother Ranbi will be copying her when he’s big enough to climb up there on his own. 

I love getting to know the gorillas personalities & hearing them give me a big appreciation rumble noise when they see me especially from the dominant silverback N’Dowe.”

240605 PZ Nicola Cox Volunteer HR AS 2

What does a typical day look like for you as a volunteer?

“When I arrive in the ape kitchen I put on a facemask & gloves to protect the apes from any germs & start to get all the various containers for each species ready for the AM & PM feeds. Gather the different types of veg from the walk-in fridge & start chopping & weighing all their food. Some of the primates have the root veg cooked to soften it so that’s the first job to get that in the steamer. They all have specific dietary requirements that must be weighed up correctly to keep them healthy & happy.

There are also pellets, pulses & some bugs to weigh up. Once I have finished the smaller primates veg it’s time to go downstairs & weigh up the large crates of Orangutan & Gorilla veg.” 

What advice would you give to someone considering volunteering?

“Get in contact with our volunteer coordinator who will talk through everything you might need to know about volunteering at the zoo. The volunteer’s team are a great bunch & there’s plenty of varied roles you can sign up for on the volunteers app. You will get to know other staff within the zoo, everyone is really friendly. It is a very rewarding way to spend a spare day or two you may have knowing you’re helping contribute to conservation of some amazing species of animals. You will learn a lot & be able to pass that knowledge on to our guests around the zoo.”

Big Help Out

On Sunday 9 June 2024, Paignton Zoo will be hosting a volunteer recruitment fair on the lawn outside the Island Restaurant between 10am and 3pm.

You will be able to find out more about some of the amazing volunteering opportunities we offer from the current volunteers team.