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Volunteers' Stories




Care for Animals at Colombo Zoo in Sri Lanka, Volunteering

I’m so glad I decided to do the zoo project in the end; I really enjoyed it and got to do so many different things. At first I was quite worried about getting up so early but it’s really not that bad as it’s quite cool at that time and for once, you’re not sweating!

We cleaned out the big cats quite often. It’s quite surreal being so close to those huge jaguars with only a few bars to separate you from them. We also washed the elephants and the donkeys and cleaned out Pets Corner in the children’s area.

Some of the monkey’s cages in Pets Corner are very small and have no entertainment for them so Kez and I decided to make something for them. We went shopping in some markets in Colombo and bought some washing lines for each monkey. We then bought things like hair scrunches, bells, pegs and mirrors to hang onto the lines. They worked really well and they all seemed very interested especially in the mirrors, it’s quite funny watching them trying to figure out what’s going on! Unfortunately, one of them, destructo-monkey Paris, bit through his washing line so everything fell down and the mirror broke so the keepers took them away from all the monkeys, which is a shame. Hopefully in the future, someone could re-add the mirrors to these cages in a safer manner, as the monkeys loved them.

Also within Pets Corner, Kez and I set up a “rabbit salon” for the day as their fur was so matted. It was really difficult, as they haven’t been groomed in such a long time; the matted fur was close to the skin that it made it difficult to cut. It took a really long time but it was worth it.

We also spent a number of days helping in the aquarium. Mr. Perara is so dedicated to the animals there; you can really see he is passionate about his job. One day, Kez and I were waiting in the penguin’s cage for some fish to be brought along and the penguins were just edging closer and closer to us wanting some food. We were worried they were going to peck our feet it was so hilarious!

We did so many other things as well such as play with the leopard cub Benga, feed the ostriches (who constantly look angry!) and I even assisted in a post-mortem of a deer that died.

I really loved my time at the zoo and in Sri Lanka in general. We visited some amazing, beautiful places such as Sinharaja rainforest, got to go on safari and be a meter away from 3 wild elephants, and climbing Adam’s Peak was such an achievement!

I met some amazing people that I will always keep in touch with. Roshan (the Travellers Manager) has been quality and Niranjala (Travellers Assistant Manager) is definitely one in a million with her crazy dancing! The houseboys are amazing and so much fun on trips away at weekends. I really will miss Sri Lanka.

Can you describe a typical day?

 I’d usually get up around 6.30am (6.45 if I’m feeling lazy!) then go downstairs for breakfast and wait for the minibus to come, which was about 7.15. It was then about an hours drive into Colombo, depending on traffic. So I’d recommend a book or some music for the journey. Sometimes I would even have a little ‘disco nap’. We’d get to the zoo in between 8.30am and 9am and got to the curator’s office to see what jobs he had for us. He would give us a job, which was cleaning out a particular animal, mostly the big cats, the donkeys or sometimes washing the elephants. You can pre-arrange with the curator if you’d like to clean a particular animal the day before so we did this a couple of times.

It really depends on the size of the cage and how fast/slow you go as to when you’d be finished. But at about 11am, most of the cages are cleaned and there isn’t much else to do. You’d probably be quite sweaty by this point anyway so it was always nice to sit in the restaurant with an ice-cold Portello (be prepared to get addicted to these!!) or it was nice to just sit and watch the elephants.

You can go around the zoo and ask keepers if you can help them but as I said, it’s mostly done at this point. So, a lot of the time, we would have a wonder around the zoo and try to come up with enrichment ideas to spruce up some of the cages.Everyday also, we would try to visit the monkeys in Pets Corner to play and give them some attention.

We’d eat our packed lunch at about 12.30pm and then head home or stay to work on an enrichment project. Sometimes we’d get back to Ja-Ela about 1.30pm/2pm and have the rest of the day free (for swimming, sunbathing, shopping, exploring, reading). You can however, arrange to stay at the zoo late to see the shows or help with feeding. Often this is the time you would work on a current enrichment program.

I would say that if you were really eager to do things, really go on at the keepers and the curator and come up with as many ideas as possible to make your experience the best ever.

More Information about your Trip with Travellers

List of ALL PROJECTS in Sri Lanka
COLOMBO ZOO Project in Sri Lanka