A local conservation charity has identified the perfect volunteer.

The results of a survey carried out by the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust to mark Volunteers’ Week (1st to 7th June) show that the typical volunteer has been with the charity for around a year, is aged 65 to 74 and travels by car.

The Trust runs Paignton Zoo, Living Coasts in Torquay and Newquay Zoo in Cornwall. There are 136 volunteers at Paignton Zoo and another 38 at Living Coasts. Volunteer Coordinator Stephanie Robey is responsible for them all:

“We get exactly the same number of men volunteering as women – but the survey shows that the typical volunteer has a professional background – they may have been in medicine, for example, although the results threw up a range of other professions, including parliamentary lobbying, computers, farming and retail.

“We found that 45% had been with us for up to a year, though 23.3% had clocked up more than 2 years, 18.3% more than 5 years – and an impressive 13.3% had been with us for 10 years!”

Stephanie is less surprised when it comes to age. “16.6% of our volunteers are between 14 and 24, then there is a big drop-off between 25 and 54. Then it starts to go up again. 20% are between 55 and 64 and 51% over 65. The majority are retired professional people, although interestingly a high percentage are just below retirement age.”

The two Devon zoos offer a wide range of opportunities for volunteers – in fact, Stephanie’s recruitment campaign is called Fifty Ways To Spend Your Retirement. “Six years ago we had 5 volunteers and 4 roles at Living Coasts – today we have 33 volunteers covering 13 roles. If volunteers are not trained, treated well and thanked they will go elsewhere. With over 400 charities in the Bay, we are up against stiff competition.”

Volunteers’ Week (1st to 7th June) is an annual event which celebrates the fantastic contribution that millions of volunteers make across the UK. For more information go to www.livingcoasts.org.uk.

Quotes It's got to be said, Paignton Zoo is hard to beat! Quotes