Auckland Zoo is a fascinating and humanly social place and after volunteering there for 10 years, I would like to share some of my experiences with you.  I would also like to thank the Service King team and my husband and director Vick Sharma, who have shared my working responsibilities to enable me to be involved in what I enjoy doing the most.

I am Carol Sharma, one of the directors in the Service King Group.

A passion for animals and their welfare

I have always been passionate about the place in the world of all animals and what is happening to their habitats. Because of this, in 2006, I began volunteering at Auckland Zoo. After filling out and submitting an application form, I had a successful interview and induction. Then it was time for me to begin.

Auckland Zoo is a great organisation owned by the general public and run by Auckland City Council. It’s managed by highly professional, caring people, and a very diverse, vibrant place.

The general public may not be aware that there is the whole hidden world at Auckland Zoo. A large team of people volunteer and work behind the scenes to help manage the welfare of the animals.

A rich volunteering experience

I was a general volunteer for the first two years. This role was varied. One task was collecting grass which is separated into bags and distributed to the different areas where it is needed. The keeper will often use it to camouflage insects, so when the grass is given to the animals, they are encouraged to use natural foraging behaviour.

Other jobs for volunteers are crowd control when visitors are lining up to feed the giraffes, cleaning windows, collecting leaves or manning conservation information tables. I enjoyed being at the zoo so much that I also began going for half a day on Wednesdays as well. I began working on the Primate Section doing what I would call being an assistant keeper. This involved lots of cleaning and food preparation but enabled me to feel I was more involved.

In 2008, I joined the primate behaviour enrichment team, in this role I stayed for the next 8 years. On a rotating monthly schedule, we prepared items for behaviour enrichment for the varied primates at Auckland Zoo.  A couple of these items were sacks filled with leaves and a very small amount of MOT (Monkey Occupational Therapy – small pieces of dried fruit and popcorn) and/or rolled and knotted sheets also sprinkled with MOT and a splash of the essence (peppermint, almond or vanilla).   There were many more interesting items thought of and prepared with the intention of keeping the animals stimulated and encouraging natural foraging behaviour.

I loved my time at the zoo, it felt great to be in my own way contributing to the animals. Much of the work that we did was outdoors and I looked forward to seeing my team each week.  After ten years it was time for a change and I, with reluctance left.

What is the role of the Zoo in our current world?

People have varied opinions of zoos. Some people might think that a zoo is all about caged animals. But this is not true, Auckland Zoo is an animal sanctuary with breeding programs for certain & endangered species. Some also believe there should be no zoos at all, in reality, that would be great. But that would only happen if all humans and animals could happily co-exist. Many animals are in zoos because in their natural habitat they are in danger from being killed by humans for their body parts. For others it is because humans are destroying their forest homes and they have nowhere else to go, in some cases, this is for palm oil plantations. It would be wonderful to think that all animals could live in a wild sanctuary where no humans can harm them but this is not the case.

For the staff who work in zoos, part of their role is to educate the public as to why these animals are there. It is not to ‘show them off’ but to educate people to what is happening to them in their natural habitat.

We all have a responsibility and every business should have the responsibility to support good causes wherever possible. At Service King in our cleaning division, we source products without Palm Oil.