1st MMCD Volunteer Day at the Oakland Zoo – Anne-Marie Hsieh

(Special thanks goes to Anne-Marie Hsieh for organizing and managing this whole process)

There was a small, but VERY MIGHTY group of us, blazing the trail for our 1st MMCD Volunteer Day at the Oakland Zoo on Saturday!!!!

A gigantic thank you to Danielle Danson (and her friend Amanda!), Brittany Christensen (who drove ONE HOUR to get there!) and Jim Black for putting on the red shirt and carving out some time to help out at the Zoo.

We met in the lower lot (free parking!), and divided up into groups based on the needs of the Zoo that day.

One group split off to rake leaves and general clean up around the Education Center – while we, the mighty MMCD Team hiked over to the Sun Bear habitat. We were provided with gloves, lopping shears – and started removing blackberry bushes!!! We learned that the Zoo uses no pesticides, therefore – all edible plants are fed to the animals. Apparently giraffes LOVE blackberries! Thorns and All. Whoa!

We had a break mid- morning and could go to the café for a free drink (2nd perk..lots to follow! ). We finished up around 1130 – and around 1145, the bear keeper led us “back stage” to see the bears up close in the enclosure where they sleep at night. The oldest of the 3 bears came from a sanctuary in Malaysia (where the bears are poached for their livers…or maybe it’s kidneys…) The younger girls were born at the San Diego Zoo to a mother who had also been rescued from Malaysia. They have caramel colored “bibs” on their chest which are unique to each bear, allowing them to be identified by people who can read bear spots!

After we saw the bears up close and personal, we walked up to the viewing area where we saw the bears run out and climb onto their perches where some tasty treats were set out for them – they started with corn on the cob!

They girls sleep in hammocks, get along fairly well, have a sense of smell at or better than a dog’s. They know their “routine”, and move easily into their enclosure when it’s bed time (I think the little biscuits they get helps!).  One of the challenges the Zoo keepers have is finding daily enrichment activities which doesn’t involve food.

Last month, the volunteer group was tasked with clearing stick from the elephant habitat. Nobody knows what next month will bring – it depends on the needs of the Zoo that day, and how many people show up.

We received discounts for our food – a free sky ride – AND when the ticket taker saw my Volunteer shirt – free train ride as well!

I couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend my Saturday morning…as you can see from the pics – Daddy and the kiddos DID join – and had a ton of fun.

There was a lot of people who had expressed interest, but had scheduling conflicts etc…If you think you’d like to volunteer at another Oakland Zoo day – please let me know. Hands On Bay Area (HOBA) couldn’t have made it any easier – and I believe they lead a group at the Oakland Zoo once a month.

Removing blackberry bushes has never been so fun!!!!

Thank you again to our small but might MMCD Volunteer Team.

That morning will stay in my heart as a great day.

– Anne-Marie

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