Like a Bunny or a Kangaroo, Volunteers Hop to It This Spring
By Linda Denomme, Volunteer Services Manager
We’ve been planning all winter for this moment to arrive – the start of the 2012 Zoo season. This isn’t some floating date somewhere around when the weather starts to change. No way. This is a specific date we see coming year after year. When Bunnyville at the Detroit Zoo takes place on April 7, we will be off and running until November.
It takes 194 volunteers just to run the activities for this first big event and it would fall flat without them. Luckily we don’t have to start fresh each year to find these helpers, we have our dedicated corps of veteran volunteers from which to recruit. Zoo Ambassadors will be at the front gate handing out the required attire for the day, bunny ears of course.
Event volunteers will be all over the Zoo painting whiskers on faces both adult and child, helping with games and crafts and organizing the flow for Bunny Photos in the Ford Education Center. At their regular stations, Gallery Guides in the Wildlife Interpretive Gallery will share their spring fever with guests in the Butterfly Garden or Science on a Sphere and Docents will be on hand at various habitats to interpret animal behavior.
This event is also the date around which we plan our general recruiting activities. After a very successful first session on March 24 where we welcomed over 70 new volunteers (many of whom will take on Bunnyville as their first assignment), we will continue with additional orientations in April, May and June, so there is still time to get involved.
At these sessions, we explain the opportunities and expectations of being a Detroit Zoo volunteer, starting with the minimum age requirement of 18 and the understanding that our volunteers do not directly interact with our animal residents.
Many opportunities are available, both year-round and seasonal (April-October). No training is required for those who want to help with special events but most other volunteers will take additional specific training for the assignment they’ve chosen.
This year, we are especially looking for volunteers interested in spending time in the Australian Outback Adventure – the group we call the “Mob Squad.” This is a unique opportunity in the sense that these volunteers are interacting every day with guests inside an animal habitat. It is also one of the areas that can’t be open to the public unless volunteers are in place.
Training provides facts and figures to answer frequently asked questions about the very interesting biology and lifestyle of the animal residents. We have noticed, however, that something else is going on with this group of volunteers and it is clear that we have the kangaroos, wallabies and emus themselves to thank for it. After just a short time in the presence of these animals, Mob Squaders are hooked – to the extent that in almost six years the habitat has been open, we’ve never had to close it for the lack of a volunteer at the door to welcome guests.
These volunteers thrive on being there to observe the individual personalities and relationships that develop over time.