The simplest acts of kindness will leave a lasting impression on the ever-changing world.
WILDERVERSE was an animal welfare initiative by the Environmental Service Avenue of RACFOSUOC that aspired to leave an everlasting impact on the wilderness. The project pursued the objectives of providing behavioural and habitat enrichment for the captive creatures that call the National Zoological Gardens in Dehiwala their home. Consisting of three major phases, the vision of WILDERVERSE would not have been brought to life if it weren’t for the many willing volunteers.
One aspect that is most synonymous with WILDERVERSE apart from the animal welfare and environmental service is the Spirit Animal Quiz! The fun and witty quiz gave most participants the deer as the spirit animal, but there were a rare few whose spirit resembled a butterfly.
Many memories were made along the adventure that was WILDERVERSE; from the photogenic camel generously passing the knowledge of posing for pictures and being naturally majestic on a daily basis to the very large cats proving that they are not all that different from the very small cats back at home, each phase had its own magic.
Behavioural enrichment is a process that enhances the physical and psychological well-being of domesticated or captive creatures. Enrichment activities are species-specific and create an environment that is stimulating, challenging, and diverse for the creatures whose everyday life is often limited to a few yards.
Beginning the first phase with the colourful tigers and tiger cubs, enrichment boxes where meat were hidden inside among bamboo leaves with the scent of the meat masked with vanilla essence were provided. The box enrichment was conducted for the lions, and the black jaguar as well. Introducing an enrichment box encourages the natural curiosity of cats, and exposure to various unfamiliar aromas amplifies the sense of smell.
All enrichment activities that were conducted were well-researched and aimed to improve the various senses of the captive creatures and promote their natural instincts. With enrichment conducted for over 25 animals at the National Zoological Gardens in Dehiwala, the first phase concluded in the most memorable way.
As the sun set on the first phase, reflecting upon the memories filled with joy, a new chapter was on the horizon. The second phase was dedicated to creating a safe haven for the birds; a warm escape.
Despite their vital role in the ecosystem, these feathered creatures are often taken for granted. Every bird deserves to live in an environment that is safe, healthy, and fascinating. The second phase strived to create such an environment for the vibrant Macaw birds that would resemble their natural habitats of rainforests.
After thorough planning and research, we planted trees such as Croton, Bamboo, and Rodeo and created a ground cover in the Exotic Bird Aviary, marking yet another significant milestone on our journey for a life beyond the cage. With each tree, we could plant the seeds of hope for a better future for these birds in captivity.
Over time, the trees will grow tall and strong, eventually forming a lush forest that provides beauty, peace, and joy for these birds. As the days fly by, they will sing their most beautiful tones as they flutter through their new home and the precious WILDERVERSE moments will forever echo.
Arriving to the WILDERVERSE adventure for the third and final phase with a new goal: to raise awareness about animal welfare and enrichment; the after-movie chronicles our project, from its inception to its completion. Having spent weeks interviewing the officials and zookeepers at the National Zoological Gardens to filming the animals in their habitats, and creating stunning visuals. The behind-the-scenes of the final phase was truly a one-of-a-kind adventure itself.
This movie is a window into the world of animal enrichment, offering a glimpse of the innovative methods we used to improve the lives of captive animals. Through footage of the work carried out and the knowledge of the many experts, the scientific implications were revealed, discussing how the implications can thus be used to create more enriching environments for animals. This cinematograph will be informative to even those without a scientific background and will be educational to all.
The after-movie was a beautiful and heartwarming tribute to the WILDERVERSE. It captured the magic and wonder of the world that was created through the initiative, bringing each and every last person involved closer together as never before. It’s a must-watch for anyone interested in the fields of environmental science and zoology, in addition to all animal lovers.
Although the WILDERVERSE adventure came to an end, the impression that the initiative left not only in the wilderness but also in the hearts and souls of all those involved will never be lost. It was a dream that was shared, and it will continue to inspire so many for the years to come.
By Rtr. Tishani Wijekoon and Rtr. Dilki Fonseka