In August, I traveled to Zoologico Guadalajara, Mexico to complete my JEP. Although I had heard from others in my office about their JEP experience, I was not prepared for how much of an amazing experience was to follow. I was immediately made to feel welcome by a beautiful home stay with Mirka and her mother and set off to work the next day.
Throughout the 5 days I shadowed working with the summer camp programme involving children aged 5-15 years old, as well as learning all the different aspects of their zoo including marketing, events, conservation efforts and more. Over the week I experienced so many beautiful and unique animals up close that I had only dreamed about in a tranquil and beautiful environment but even more importantly I learnt so much from the inspirational staff, children and education techniques.
During the programme children got to learn transferable information about how to look after
their own animals including identifying and searching for ticks in dogs, rabbits and ferrits.
One thing that really stood out for me is how the zoo do not necessarily show animals to be uniquely special but instead make a comparison of similarities between humans and animals which really helps build empathy and a desire to learn and protect. The respect they show their animals is inspiring. For example when we went to visit the elephants, we were not there to ‘feed’ the elephants but more to give them a handshake showing our respect and gratitude for them allowing us into their home. Sitting simply on the ground listening to the trainer talk with such animation and expression in his words and body language about the wonders of these animals in comparison to us was utterly inspirational.
Even after 10 years in Australia and rearing my own joey, the interactive resources
meant me and the children were engrossed in the presentation on the Kangaroo.
I was also incredibly inspired by their sense of community. Many of the children attending the camps come each year and one even started camp when he was 5 and is now a
camp staff leader! It really showed me that when we run a programme it is not just about providing an experience but building a connection. It is also not just about big ticket items either but about being a part of something together. One afternoon that was very memorable was spent rolling down a hill covered in grass. Seeing everyone supporting and checking on each other, it was incredibly heartwarming and effective. A connection to nature, people and our world and the community that comes from this is, I feel what people remember and treasure most.
Throughout the park they constantly compare animals and humans
and this really works to help guests feel empathy and learn more.
After my JEP experience, I’ve noticed a change in my outlook and I am inspired to introduce my experience to Ocean Parks youngest learners and their families. I also aim to continue my learning journey in and around Hong Kong. I feel (and have been told!) that I now belong to a family of beautiful people in Guadalajara and feel increbily lucky and thankful to them all for inspiring, welcoming me, supporting me and really giving me the most amazing unique life changing connection that words can only begin to describe.