A project with a difference
24th October 2012
This summer, the three of us decided to get involved with the zoological enrichment of animals with Nanjing Zoo, after fostering an interest in the enrichment and sustainability in UWC Atlantic College. We carried out the work in cooperation with the Golden Bird Foundation and the help of the Go Mad programme, also known as Go Make A Difference.
So how did we make a difference?
We travelled to Beijing on the Tuesday 5 June. Upon arriving we were instantly engulfed in the Chinese culture, the rush for a taxi, and eventually arriving at our hostel that evening. The next day we visited Beijing Zoo, we were introduced to Zhang Jinguo, which allowed us to see work of various people including Dr Carin Harrington, who we were going to be working with. During our visit we were able to find out and ask questions about enrichment and learn more about the key it plays in promoting natural behaviour.
By Thursday, we had arrived in the city of Nanjing, which translates to the 'south capital' of China; it was a vast city with grey skies and inquisitive people. We immediately got to work soon after arriving, and we toured the zoo and went to the primate section. We examined the enclosures and found the enclosure most suited to our design which was discussed when Mr Chen (Director of Nanjing Zoo) came to visit UWC Atlantic College for a preliminary meeting.
After the decision was made that our designs best suited the Golden Monkey enclosure, we soon got to work and held a meeting with the keepers to ensure they were also happy with the design and could incorporate anything they needed. The discussion was action packed and introduced both our team and the team from the zoo to new ideas.
At first the pace was slow, but by the second week the enclosure had massively been transformed and already showed signs of improvement. We added various leaf structures to the enclosure which allowed a shading system for the Golden Monkey and renewed the outside of the enclosure by placing bamboo around the top to discourage visitor feeding and engage the public more in watching the animals behave rather than behaviour promoted by them. We also worked with a local team of volunteers which allowed outside public interest to grow as we got the visitors involved in enrichment as well.
Our work caught the attention of local media and allowed further implications and discussions of enrichment to take place. We arrived in the morning, only expecting one or two reporters, yet a mass of people surrounded us. We promoted the idea of stimulation and use of 'enrichment devices' as well as talked about UWC Atlantic College and our aims and ideals.
By the end of the second week, we had finished drilling bamboo and fixing brackets to feed natural vegetation and the enclosure was transformed. We still remain in touch with the zoo and are looking forward to continuing working with them.
From the project we learnt that through change anything is possible, and the most rewarding part of the project was seeing the behaviour of the animals in the enclosure change as soon as they entered the new enriched enclosure.
- Improved knowledge of the general public on the topic of enrichment and its importance
- Gained local media and press attention
- Improved enclosure of Golden Monkey species
- Suggested further improvement for primate area
- Improved keepers confidence in trying new things and implementing them - seeing the impact of the enclosure change and what impact it had on the animals behaviour itself
- Improved public engagement in the zoo, by allowing them to get involved with the exhibits by making enrichment devices, and showing the keeper how they can further this public involvement.
Throughout our time at Nanjing zoo, we learnt very quickly that China is a rapidly changing place and needs just a push in improving certain aspects. We felt that the project improved the knowledge of enrichment in Nanjing and helped to improve the confidence of certain keepers also, as well as providing education for the general public.
We felt that although our work was truly beneficial, we would like to work at various other smaller zoos in China and possibly introduce and educate further in more rural parts. A future project could possibly be setting up a zoological group at UWC Atlantic College with Scott and/or Clara leading the initiative.
By Scott Dwyer (class of 2012), Clara Gurreso (class of 2012), Siobhan Weber (class of 2013)