- Published 04/06/2021 Student Georgia loves volunteering at Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project
- Published 01/06/2021 Volunteers’ scheme at Bristol Zoo Gardens clocks up 30 years
People are being given the chance to sign up as volunteers at Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project.
The volunteers’ scheme, now in its 30th year, had to be suspended during lockdown but is now operating again.
Both Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project are looking for people who can engage with visitors through the week and especially on busy weekends.
These volunteers will be based across both sites, at our lemur walkthroughs, butterfly house, giraffe and gorilla houses.
Simon Garrett, Head of Public Engagement at Bristol Zoological Society, who helped launch the volunteers’ scheme in 1992, said: “We are looking for people from all backgrounds who share a love of animals, Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project, and our vital conservation work.”
Simon said volunteers come from all walks of life and from all over the Bristol area and beyond.
More than 2,500 people have given tens of thousands of hours of support to Bristol Zoo Gardens through the volunteers’ scheme. Hundreds more have volunteered at the Zoo’s sister site Wild Place Project which will become home to the new Bristol Zoo in 2024.
Simon said: “There are many reasons why people volunteer, they all love wildlife but many want to give something back, support our conservation work or meet new people and develop new skills.
“They love being part of a community, one of like-minded people. But it has to be a two-way relationship with volunteers benefiting as well as the Society.”
They also support the Society outside of Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project through the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project’s education work.
In November last year Bristol Zoological Society announced plans to close Bristol Zoo Gardens in late 2022 and create a new Bristol Zoo at the site of Wild Place Project.
Simon said that volunteers will continue to be a valued part of the Society over the coming years, during the creation of the New Bristol Zoo.
He said: “They are key to Bristol Zoological Society and are embedded in its future. We are looking forward to taking volunteers on the next stage of Bristol Zoo’s story.”
Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project are run by Bristol Zoological Society which is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work at both zoos, but also its vital education and community outreach programme.
In March last year the Society launched the BZS Appeal to ensure the future of its work ‘saving wildlife together’ following the temporary closure of both its sites in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As groups can now be welcomed back, donations from the appeal fund will support the Bursary Fund to ensure schools and community groups in disadvantaged areas are able to benefit from visiting Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project.
Case study: Student Georgia Merrell loves volunteering with Bristol Zoological Society
Student Georgia Merrell has volunteered at Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project and she loves every minute. In fact the 24-year-old is hoping it may help her land a job in conservation and wildlife.
Georgia, who is currently part-way through an MSc in wildlife conservation, said: “I would recommend volunteering 100 per cent. I have learnt so much doing it, met people and made connections.”
She is so dedicated that every week she cycles for 45 minutes from her home in Easton to spend time helping at Wild Place Project.
She said: “I really love being there, there’s so much open space and to be surrounded by such amazing animals is a real privilege.”
Georgia took a degree in wildlife conservation at the University of the West of England which included lectures by conservation experts from Bristol Zoological Society, and a 12-month placement in Ethiopia working in the Bale Mountains National Park.
Georgia said: “Until my degree I didn’t understand the real role of zoos but then I learnt about the amazing conservation work that Bristol Zoological Society does across the world and I realised this was an organisation I would love to be involved with.”
Her interest led to her volunteering at Bristol Zoo Gardens where she was a ranger spending time in the gorilla house and in the butterfly forest.
After graduating Georgia spent 18 months working in bars, cafés and doing admin for the NHS before signing up to take an MSc. That has involved her carrying out field studies on rewilding at a farm near Nailsea and looking into ways of restoring natural peatland to the Somerset Levels.
Georgia said: “I would love to go into rewilding, helping landowners understand it and project-plan their land.” But for now she is happy studying and lending a hand at Wild Place Project.
She said: “It’s been a life-saver for me. It’s such an amazing place. I would recommend volunteering to anyone but especially those with an interest in conservation and animals.”
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