Deputy Zoo Director in Malaysia to Help Save Orangutans July 2011
Henry Vilas Zoo Deputy Director, Ronda Schwetz, is in the midst of her tour through Malaysia in her quest as the Field Advisor of the Orangutan Species Survival Plan Steering Committee to help improve the lives of wild and captive orangutans.
As Field Advisor of this crucial program, Schwetz is leading a group of nine Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) professionals through Malaysia to teach workshops to staff at Zoo Negara, the National Zoo of Malaysia that can play a crucial role in saving the endangered species of its own area.
"This program is now in its fourth year and I want people to know that this project directly helps animals in orangutan rehabilitation centers," wrote Schwetz in an email to Henry Vilas Zoo. "We were able to bring thousands of dollars worth of donated tools, medical supplies and equipment over these last four years. This year is our biggest yet and not only are we working at Zoo Negara, but we will be visiting the Lower Kinabatangan to spend time in the forest working with the local community to save their habitat."
The workshops focus on animal husbandry, training, and enrichment techniques. The Orangutan SSP team will also teach Zoo Negara centers about zoonotic diseases, set up volunteer programs and help them reconstruct their animal enclosures to reflect the animals' natural, spacious habitat.
Schwetz, reflecting on her work with the Orangutan SSP, wrote to Henry Vilas Zoo; "This is one of those times where your zoo is the industry leader in helping save an iconic species from extinction."
Orangutans are quickly disappearing in the wild due to human activity and development. This endangered species is among one of the most intelligent and sophisticated primates, but they are being poached, their habitat is being destroyed, and they are becoming the victims of human cruelty. Orangutan rehabilitation centers and zoological institutions play a vital role in saving this species from becoming extinct, and Henry Vilas Zoo is proud to send Schwetz to Malaysia to support this crusade.
Since 2008, Schwetz has been organizing trips for zoo professionals to exchange knowledge and expertise at orangutan rehabilitation centers in Indonesia. The partnership she fostered between Orangutan SSP and zoo professionals expanded recently to include Zoo Negara in Malaysia.
"Things are going extremely well this year and Zoo Negara is dying to do it again next year," wrote Schwetz. "I truly appreciate all of your support and look forward to sharing our experiences in Malaysia when I return."
Schwetz has worked in the zoo field for almost 20 years. Before joining the Henry Vilas Zoo team, she worked at both Denver Zoo and Disney's Animal Kingdom.
View videos from the trip below.
The new Zoo Negara Orangutan Center, one that Ronda helped become successful