IXL employees ventured into the wild last Saturday to participate in the Renew the Zoo volunteer opportunity at the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens. We met bright and early at the zoo gates, with the salt smell of the Pacific Ocean in the air, ready to lend a hand to an organization that houses over 1,000 animals from more than 250 species.
We gathered at the Mothers Building, a historically significant building, filled with colorful murals, located on the Zoo grounds. After coffee and tea, we broke into groups to assist the Zoo’s horticulture department with various gardening tasks. This department only has 7 staff members and the Zoo covers more than 100 acres, so they rely heavily on the help of volunteers. In total, there were roughly 100 volunteers there, from IXL and other organizations.
Our group of IXLers was sent to weed an area by the Savanna exhibit. We were located right next to the enclosure and could watch the giraffes, zebras, kudus, ostriches, and cranes frolic in the morning sunshine. We managed to tear ourselves away from the view and donned our work gloves to pull weeds and remove branches and trash from a plot of land next to the visitor walkway.
The Zoo plans to use the area we cleared as a “browse garden.” Browse, or edible plants, provides homegrown food for the zoo animals. Plants like coprosma and acacia are given to gorillas, giraffes, and other animals as a way to enrich their diets and replicate how they eat in the wild. IXL operations assistant Stephanie Stillman said, “It was really great knowing that we cleaned up an area that will soon be used to grow specific varieties of plants that are essential to the animals’ happiness and well-being.”
After cleaning up, we returned to the Mothers Building for snacks and received free train and carousel passes as tokens of appreciation. We also took time to visit the zoo and see the other exhibits, including the brand new enclosure for the highly endangered Mexican gray wolf. And, of course, we had to pay a special visit to Ingrid, the baby giraffe, who was hanging out with her mother near where we worked. Because we were there so early, we got to see the animals at their most active and even saw a few feedings.
Reflecting on the day, IXL training specialist Kelly Oh said, “I appreciated the collaborative effort of volunteers from many backgrounds, not just from IXL. I especially liked knowing that our work contributed to the use of zoo grounds to help grow food for the gorillas.” All told, it was a successful day for animals and people alike.
To learn more about Renew the Zoo and other volunteer opportunities with the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens, please visit http://www.sfzoo.org/learn/volunteer.htm.
By Elizabeth Vather, Marketing Associate