Fun day at Auckland Zoo for special guests

By Tony Ng

Logan Mennie, 9, gets up close and personal with Burma the elephant at the Auckland Zoo, as part of Blind Week. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Logan Mennie, 9, gets up close and personal with Burma the elephant at the Auckland Zoo, as part of Blind Week. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Some special guests at Auckland Zoo got closer to the action than most people are ever allowed.

To help celebrate Blind Week, which starts tomorrow, the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind treated eight blind children to a fun day out at the zoo where they got to touch the animals, including resident elephant Burma.

Most visitors have to stand at a distance.

Nine-year-old Logan Mennie from Valley School, Pukekohe, had been eagerly anticipating this trip ever since he was told about it.

"I woke up feeling very excited this morning," he said.

At first he was nervous when he fed the elephant but they soon became acquainted and Logan enjoyed patting Burma.

Jeffrey Burnett, also 9, got up at 6am to get ready for his road trip with his mum from Whangarei and couldn't wait to meet Burma. He has met the zoo's previous resident elephant, Kashin. The new elephant tickled his stomach in the process of grabbing the piece of fruit on offer.

"I didn't expect a tickle it was a good surprise."

Foundation spokeswoman Rosalyn Macdonald said activities for children were held throughout the year but this was the foundation's first organised Auckland Zoo trip.

Blind Foundation life skills specialist Gendy Ritzema - who assists blind people to learn and deal with everyday scenarios - accompanied the children.

Mrs Ritzema said the visits were important for the children to learn about the animals that they hear about and get a "mental vision" in their heads by touching them.

Gaewyn Harvey, a social worker from the foundation's Waikato-Bay of Plenty office, said the kids were quite often the only blind person in their school.

"These activities helps them realise they are not alone."

Auckland Zoo events co-ordinator Zoe Firth hoped the visit would become an annual event.

Blind Week runs until next Monday.


If you would like to make a donation to Blind Week or volunteer for their upcoming initiatives please visit www.blindweek.org.nz

- NZ Herald

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