We Helped A Zoo
On Friday 29th July, 10 Delt staff members travelled to Dartmoor Zoological Park in Sparkwell to assist the staff with whatever task they had planned for them.
“Delt supports local charities offering occasional no charge use of our manpower. On a paid leave basis, groups of Delt staff carry out work which supports the charity’s goals and acts a team-building exercise. All our staff are actively encouraged to take part allowing Delt to be recognised as a positive force in the community.”
We arrived at the Zoo at 8am and made our way to the café to meet Tim the maintenance manager. He gave us a brief of what the day entailed and also went through the relevant health and safety. We then went to the main store where we picked up our hi viz, wheel barrows, rakes, gloves and dumpy bags.
Our first destination was the African paddock where there were two beautiful zebras and two ostriches. Before entering the paddock, we had to go through biosecurity to clean our shoes to protect against the spread of infectious diseases.
It was a really hot day and the field, which was huge, had been freshly cut the day before and our task was to manually rake all the dead grass. Working as a team, some of us raked the grass whilst others collected it and placed it into the dumpy bags which then had to be wheeled to another area to be disposed of. We stopped for a break at 10, then got back to it half an hour later. We managed to get this all done quite quickly. We were then split into two groups and tasked with weeding and filling “holes made by moles”.
We got off to a good start and worked up quite an appetite. We headed back up to the café where our lunch was waiting for us. Benjamin Mee, the Chief Executive of Dartmoor Zoo, joined us for lunch, where he told us some stories about the previous owner and also spoke about parts of the film, “We bought a Zoo” starring Matt Damon, based on Benjamin’s true story book of the same name. When he was approached about making a film he was asked to think of an A lister that he’d like to play him, he went back with Ewan McGregor and was immediately told that he wasn’t a big enough star! It was great to chat with him, he had so much time to sit with us and even met up with us a few more times throughout the day.
After our long lunch we toured the zoo, looked at all the animals and watched the cheetahs being fed their dinner. Reluctantly we went back to the weeding. During our time there one of the other volunteers told us about a close encounters session that was about to take place so some of us slipped away to go and meet some more animals. We saw some fascinating and endangered creatures including a really odd-looking toad which just looked like a head, and we also saw a 3 day old gecko! We also had the opportunity to hold a corn snake and a few of us held a gorgeous chameleon. By the time we had come out of the close encounters session we had all but finished for the day and headed back to put all of the equipment away.
Giles Letheren, our CEO added: It wasn’t the smartest thinking in the world for this unfit CEO to join a day of manual labour at one of our sponsored charities, Dartmoor Zoo, on the hottest day of the year. However, the enthusiasm and sheer joy of working outside in beautiful surroundings managed to avert my overworked hearts inclination to quit. It’s amazing how even something as simple as clearing grass can turn into a competitive sport. I hope the Zebras were grateful. We met a load of lovely zoo staff and volunteers, got a bunch of jobs done, one of the emu’s – which were enormous – gave me a feather for my already embarrassing hat and (sadly) nobody was eaten by a lion. And at the office, if we get to the end of the day and nobody has been eaten by a lion, I call that a success.
Sarah Longcake – Senior IT Support Specialist