Approximately 13 years ago animal lover Melinda Janki asked several volunteers to help clean up the Manatee pond in the Botanical Gardens. It was a rewarding feeling to see something so filthy transformed into a cleaner and healthier environment for our manatees. Back then we enlisted the help of street kids and every Saturday morning, for several months, groups of volunteers cleaned the manatee ponds at the Botanical Garden and National Park.
In April 2014, Guyana International Academy Student, Samuel Chandool, became engaged in a community work study programme and chose to help animals. He called me and asked for ideas. I told him about the sad conditions the manatees lived in and he decided to help them. We got approval from the Protected Areas Commission and on April 13th, with three volunteers (Samuel, his cousin Ashley and me), two extra-large bags of garbage in and around the manatee pond were picked up.
The following week, Samuel’s initiative produced five volunteers and we picked up six large bags of garbage. Last Sunday (Mother’s day) Samuel’s initiative had grown to 11 volunteers and 10 large bags of garbage were picked up from and around the manatee pond.
It was inspiring to see how hard the volunteers worked; they did not miss a plastic bottle, twine, straws, and even bottle caps (all things that should never have been in the manatee pond or its environs in the 1st place).
The volunteers assembled around 2:30 pm and got a chance to educate visitors to the Botanical Gardens on the negative effects of littering and how everyone benefits from a clean environment. Visitors generally agreed and some even passed the message to others when they saw them littering. Editor, I was most impressed with a young boy, son of a vendor, named Andrew (could not be more than 7 years old). Andrew came to us saying he wanted to help. We gave him some gloves and he started working and did not want to stop.
When we finished he wanted to know when we would be returning.
We have learned several things from the above experiences:
1. A lot of waste material gets thrown on the ground and into the manatee pond every week by visitors to the Botanical Gardens and Zoo.
2. Picking up after visitors is an inefficient use of scarce resources.
3. There is an urgent need to educate visitors to deposit waste in appropriate bins.
4. Appropriate waste bins must be placed at key points.
5. Waste bins must be cleared and disposed of properly on a daily basis.
6. There are persons of all ages willing to volunteer their time for productive activities.
Thanks are given to the following students for helping to make a difference in the lives of our birds, manatees and other wildlife residing in the Zoo and Botanical Gardens: Students like Mel Rodrigues, Queenstown Secondary School; Samuel Chandool, GIA; Reynard Ramsaroop, Queen’s College; Ransell Ramsaroop, Marian’s Academy; Colin and Maria Wong (private schools).
Thanks are also due to the many adults who are doing their part to spread awareness and the Protected Areas Commission and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment for their efforts to improve conditions for our voiceless urban animals.
“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope”…Barack Obama.