Marwell Wildlife celebrates National Volunteers Week

May 15, 2019

We are celebrating National Volunteers Week (1-7 June) and have awarded our first ever ‘Volunteer of the Year’ accolade to local Winchester resident Hal Chenhall.

Hal has been volunteering at Marwell since 2014 and has dedicated 145 hours of his time to the zoo in 2019 so far. He helps our Public Engagement team to educate guests and answer any questions people have on a particular species, whether it be regarding the two-toed sloth or the numerous exotic birds in the Tropical House or helping to tell the story of evolution using props and animal artefacts in our Evolution Hub. 

James Cretney, Chief Executive, said: “We are incredibly lucky as we have so many wonderful volunteers and we value them all, whether they donate a few hours of their time each month, or an entire day each week. We simply couldn’t do what we do without them. 

James continued: “We chose Hal as our ‘Volunteer of the Year’ because he is a great ambassador for Marwell and clearly has a real passion for wildlife conservation. He is always warm and welcoming to our guests and his enthusiasm shines through when he’s sharing his knowledge with others. Guests love him and we think he’s brilliant! He truly deserves this award.” 

On receiving the award, Hal remarked: “I’m overwhelmed and honoured. I’ve wanted to be a zookeeper since I was nine years old, however I spent 40 years carving a career in engineering. Now that I’ve stepped out of work, I can indulge my childhood fantasies of wildlife and natural history. And what’s more, I get to share my passion with Marwell’s guests, which brings me huge amounts of satisfaction anyway. To be given this award is the icing on the cake.” 

We are also celebrating National Volunteers Week by hosting a coffee morning for our volunteers with a talk on ‘animal journeys’ from Ross Brown,our Animal Collection Manager. In addition, there will be prizes for volunteers to win throughout the morning such as tickets to other local attractions and Marwell’s once in a lifetime animal experiences which include hand feeding giraffes and getting up close to rhinos. 

We have 130 volunteers who help make up the Marwell family. Already this year, the volunteers have contributed over 4,000 hours of their time to support our mission of connecting people with nature and to achieve its charitable objectives. 

Volunteers at the zoo are of all ages (18 and over) and come from all walks of life with a diverse range of backgrounds from retired teachers and accountants to IT professionals and police officers. 

People travel from as far as Basingstoke, Portsmouth and Bournemouth, including David and Josie Stevens from Christchurch who have been volunteering at Marwell for nearly 20 years. The couple travel the 75-mile round trip once per week to help at the penguin station. 

Josie said: “We do it because it makes us happy. We meet lovely people visiting the zoo and to see the children’s faces light up as they learn more about the penguins is magical.” 

Benefits for all our volunteers include full training for their role, free entry to the zoo, discounts in the zoo cafes and retail outlet when on duty, plus access to talks and tours to gain behind the scenes news and information about the animals and charity initiatives.