Zoo Volunteer Visits Madagascar


Katy Ly, Staff Writer

As part of her work as an Oakland Zoo “TWG,” or Teen Wild Guide, senior Ariel Song traveled to Madagascar. From July 7 to July 23, Song and other TWGs explored the Madagascan culture and ecosystems.

According to Song, Teen Wild Guide is a volunteer program for kids aged 13-18. “Basically what we do is that we sit at stations around the Oakland Zoo and talk about the animals at whatever station we’re at,” she said. “So say, if I were at the lemur station, I would be talking about lemurs and Madagascar and the conservation of it.”

In addition, every year, the Oakland Zoo takes some of the program’s volunteers on a summer trip to “somewhere really exotic.” 2 years ago it was Guatemala; this year it was Madagascar. I really wanted to go because of all the diverse animals over there,” Song said. “You also do a lot of cool stuff for the forest… and you learn about different cultures.”

The group traveled from Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital, all the way to Ranomafana’s rainforests. There, Song and her group paid a visit to Centre ValBio, “a lemur conservation lab” founded by Dr. Patricia Wright. The lab is also partners with the Oakland Zoo. According to Felicia Walker, one of the Oakland Zoo supervisors, the group toured a rain forest with one of Centre Val Bio’s biologists. ‘”We got to see really rare animals, like the golden bamboo lemur,” Song said. Walker added that they also were able to visit a village and interact with the locals.

Song also helped design the T-shirts that the group wore to help identify each other. “It was really special,” Walker said. “She’s creative and sweet; it was a great time getting to know her.”

“It was amazing,” Song said about her overall experience. “It was really great to get away from areas like [Moraga], which I’m used to. You go to Madagascar, and it’s completely different.”