Known to be Asia’s oldest zoo, the Manila Zoo has delighted generations of children. Over the past few years, the zoo has shown its age, mainly in the deterioration of its facilities, and some have claimed that it no longer provides a satisfactory habitat for its resident animals. The government has sponsored various renovations, but the maintenance is still a challenge for the zoo.

But two groups—Zoo Crew Philippines and Keepers of Extreme Exotics Philippines—are volunteering to help out in the rehabilitation of the various habitats. Most recently, they worked on renovating the Manila Zoo’s reptile room. Commented one bystander, “You can really see their unity and the hardships of their group just for sake of the animals. They will do it for the animals and if you are there, you can feel their love for the animals.”

For KEEP, their “Adopt an Enclosure” project supports the fact that “as natural habitats decrease, zoos are doing an important role of ensuring the perpetuity of the species, especially native ones, through ex situ conservation.” The group’s commitment is “to preserve and perpetuate Mother Nature’s children,” and their cooperation with Zoo Crew saw them covering the care of Manila Zoo’s reptiles, particularly in the rehabilitation of their enclosures.

Together with Zoo Crew, their work encompassed a cleanup of the zoo, with found materials such as fallen trunks—which are ideal for sun basking—and various plants being used to help make animal enclosures as close to ideal as possible, simulating the natural habitat of their inhabitants. Among the animals that benefited most from the activity were Philippine Sailfin lizards (Hydrosaurus pustulatus), SCENEtortoises, the Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis), and iguanas.

KEEP stated on its Facebook page that it would be monitoring the progress of the Sailfin lizards until these could breed successfully. Zoo Crew Philippines began in 2013, and at first, getting support for their efforts was an uphill fight. Still, they continued, donating money for maintenance or food for the animals; they also kept a blog to interest new volunteers in their cause. Soon there were more volunteers, and these days, Zoo Crew divides its time helping both the Manila Zoo and Avilon Zoo.

Vice president Jerry Young invited people to join in by helping to spread the word about their activities. “But the best thing you can do is, by coming to the Manila Zoo, bring your friends and [join] as a volunteer for you to be truly aware what is happing inside. There is joy in being a volunteer, because you bring hope to the animals and you will be part of their family.” This was most evident in how a resident lion named Raffy came out to ‘greet’ Jerry upon catching sight of him.

Volunteers get to meet the animals, who are donated or rescued from people who tried keeping wild animals as pets but who did not have the knowhow to do so. The zoo’s rescued tigers were in a bad way due to a neglectful owner, but once rescued by the Manila Zoo, the tigers began to thrive and are now breeding.

 

This appeared as “Facility Cleanup and Rehabilitation” in Animal Scene’s October 2015 issue.