Monday, 23 January 2017

Teaming up to Support The Shape of Enrichment, Inc.

By Mark Kingston Jones

The Shape of Enrichment (SHAPE), was founded in 1991 by Valerie Hare and Karen Worley

Everyone who works for SHAPE is a volunteer, giving up their time and energy in the promotion of the charity's mission ‘promoting worldwide environmental enrichment efforts for captive animals, and encouraging improvements in animal welfare through education and international exchanges of enrichment theory and application’. The two main avenues for fulfilling this mission are a quarterly subscription based journal, now in a BLOG format, run by Karen, and through running capacity building courses/workshops for keepers, primarily in developing countries, run by Val.

The first mini-course was run in Brazil in 2000 and since then it has evolved into a full workshop, lasting from 3-5 days, designed around a core of practical and theoretical units, to assist animal caretakers in creating and assessing enrichment plans within their institutions. Since its first inception SHAPE has run over 100 workshops in 27 countries:
Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Georgia, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Lithuania, New Zealand, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam.

A conservative estimate is at least 3,500 animal care professionals have gone through our workshops, ranging from Curators, Directors, Managers, Veterinarians, Animal Caretakers, Biologists, Wildlife Enforcement Officers, Government Officials/Inspectors, Students, and even one Conservation Lawyer!
Chris and my roles in SHAPE started in 2009. I had been in contact with Val several times through my Lionrover research and after meeting with her at the 8th International Environmental Enrichment Conference in Vienna I asked her to come and run the 1st UK SHAPE Workshop at Port Lympne Reserve. I facilitated the conference and Chris attended as a participant. 

While she was at the Park we meet with the Overseas Director, and as a result of this The Aspinall Foundation decided to fully fund a 5 day workshop at Ragunan Zoo in Java, Indonesia. As well as paying for the workshop costs, they offered to fund a representative from every zoo and sanctuary/rescue centre across Indonesia to attend. In total 80 keepers, care staff and managers came, making it the biggest workshop to date. I went with Val to act as an Assistant Instructor helping with planning, logistics and the group projects, where the participants take everything they have learnt over the previous days and design, build and test their ideas with the host facility's animals. It was a huge eye opener for me and since then I have instructed on 16 SHAPE keeper workshops and 2 others in the UK, Indonesia, South Africa, Romania, Russia, Lithuania, Uganda, Vietnam, Armenia, India and Croatia. In addition, I started my own version of the course, designed for Students (SEECs) who are interested in working within the animal care industry, and we have run 29 of these to date. In 2016 I joined Val in becoming a Workshop Coordinator for SHAPE.

After Chris’s first experience of SHAPE he began applying its lessons to his work with captive animals and developing his ideas even more than he had done previously. He started to work with research Interns to collect data on his efforts, and presenting these results at national conferences. He also joined me as an Instructor on the 2nd SEEC and has run them with me ever since. As a result of all this, in September 2012 he and his colleague Steve were invited to co-run a unique SHAPE workshop for small carnivores with Val at Paulina Zoo, Brazil, where they completely renovated 3 enclosures (if you have a spare hour Chris edited together a home video of the whole trip, which you can find here but be warned of a small amount of bad language and a large amount of bad beards!). Since then, in addition to the 28 SEECs, Chris has Instructed on five UK workshops and one in India.
We are now two of a small team of 10 full SHAPE Instructors based in the USA, UK, Brazil, Hong Kong, South Africa and Romania who volunteer their time to provide workshops as and where we can. Like many charities, SHAPE is run on a shoe-string budget and we are often reliant on partnering with other NGO’s in order to run workshops.

As well as earning a living and improving the welfare of the species we work with, our aim for Team Building with BITE is to promote SHAPE’s mission and support its future work. We do this with each team building workshop we run, which follows SHAPE's philosophies, and tests, designs and promotes new ways to enrich the lives of captive animals. In the long term however, we want to take that further by providing some financial support towards its continued running, or by having more time to donate to running workshops. 

If you are interested in supporting SHAPE's work, stay tuned for next week’s BLOG instalment where we will outline a new package that will allow you to do just that!

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