Why I volunteer...
Published: Feb 8, 2018Why would anyone give up their spare time like this? When there are lemurs involved, why wouldn't you?
Hello. My name is James. Some of you – staff, guests, fellow volunteers – might know me (I’m not the quietest volunteer in the world). I want to tell you about my voluntary role at Paignton Zoo. I am fortunate enough to volunteer with a wonderful species, the lemurs, on a Saturday. I have done this for two years now.
My role includes watching them and monitoring their behaviour, helping with the talks and asking people to not bring coffee into Lemur Wood or run across the bridge (photographers can be pretty swift when there’s a picture in the offing).
Friends outside the Zoo ask me why I give up a day of my weekend for free. The answer is simple. Yes, I am giving something back to the local community – but, above all else, I am doing my bit for conservation. David Attenborough praised my efforts in a letter he wrote to me!
On top of all of this, I have met some wonderful people and made some lifelong friends. Socially (with all the events), lunchtimes and when on duty, you meet so many likeminded people in your voluntary role. Volunteers tend to smile a lot and have such passion for nature.
My love for nature started from the day I could walk and talk. I have read and watched every book / DVD you could think of numerous times and am looking to finally take a trip to Madagascar later this year. In the Zoo, I get entranced. Ask any of my colleagues. I could spend hours staring at our great apes, even when they sit there and do nothing much more than pick their nose and scratch their... ears…! Animals just take you away from everyday life. Their innocence and their ability to surprise you with their intelligence never fails to delight; my voluntary role offers me an opportunity to explore my passion for nature and see this each time I visit the Zoo.
Outside of my voluntary role I am a Room Leader in a nursery. They say never work with children or animals, yet I do both. Children answer back and some poo more than Duchess. Animals don’t answer back - unless you subconsciously whistle or beatbox, in which case the red ruffed lemurs DEFINITELY answer back!
I can never see myself giving up this role. Ever. I feel incredibly fortunate and many are envious of the opportunities this role brings me. Talking of which, I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you who has supported me, had coffee with me, shared a joke and worn that blue jumper (part of our volunteer uniform) with the pride I do. You probably all remember your name badges more often than I do, however. Which is actually lucky, as I would most definitely crash the servers on Tripadvisor with the public commenting about me being the loudest / most annoying volunteer in the Zoo!
Keep up the great work all you keepers, Neil and Frankie who look after us volunteers, the rest of the volunteering family and every member of staff. You have all helped to earn this wonderful Zoo an international reputation. I am looking forward to the many more years I have to come as part of this awesome team.
Lemur Wood Volunteer, Saturday