Petting Zoo

Kishorit’s petting zoo was established in 2010 as an attempt to provide work for a particular member who was prone to violent outbursts and had difficulty working with others.  We believed that working with animals would be an effective means for rehabilitating someone with special needs due to the unconditional love offered by the animals, and the sense of security, responsibility and self-worth that come from giving to others.
 
Within a few short months, the member underwent a monumental change.  He no longer needed a full-time shadow and his behavior improved tremendously.  This prompted us to open a petting zoo that would employ additional members with significant challenges.  Under the professional management of Natalie Fox, the new employment center was born and became a central part of some members’ rehabilitation.  Today, the zoo cares for a wide range of wild and domesticated animals – birds including birds of prey, reptiles, and mammals. 
 
9 Kishorit members work in the petting zoo on a daily basis.  Once per week an animal workshop is offered as a leisure time activity for anyone in the community.  Additionally, any member who needs individual animal therapy can receive it on a one-to-one basis in the petting zoo.
 
Special Initiatives
The petting zoo has become a wildlife rehabilitation center.  Injured animals from all over the north of Israel are brought to Kishorit where they are then rehabilitated. The members feed, clean and care for them, and the animals receive veterinary care.  Those that can be rehabilitated are re-released into the wild.  Those that cannot be re-released are kept and cared for at Kishorit.
 
Often, the members see their own stories in this process of rehabilitation and they draw great strength and encouragement from the animals.  During the process, the person with special needs who is generally on the receiving end of the “kindness equation” switches roles and becomes a giver, a supporter, the stronger one in a relationship, the one responsible for rehabilitating another.  This opportunity empowers and strengthens the members, and gives them a feeling of responsibility and self worth.  Some of the animals that we regularly rehabilitate are tortoises, eagles and hawks, although many other types of animals are sent to us as well.
 
The Kishorit petting zoo works in conjunction with the veterinary services of the Ramat Gan Safari, and takes in the Safari’s wounded song birds.  Some of these birds are endangered due to habitat destruction and climate change caused by mankind and it is particularly gratifying when we can rehabilitate them and re-release them into the natural environment to continue laying eggs and increasing the species.  Some of the songbirds in our petting zoo include the hoopoe and robin.
 
In Israel, in general, and the North, in particular, there has been a sharp decline in owls in the wild.  In our petting zoo we are proud to breed and raise owlets and release them into the wild.
 
Plans for the Future
In the Western Galilee there is a large population of insect eating bats.  We plan to establish a bat colony that will nest, breed and hibernate in our area.  It will be used as a natural way to control the insects in the fields and vineyards in our region.
 
In conjunction with the Ramat Gan Safari, we also hope to open a zoo for animals that are indigenous to Israel.  The idea is in the earliest planning stages and we hope to make it a reality in the near future.
 
Ultimately, we would like the open the petting zoo to the broader community and invite students from other regional schools to care for the animals together with our Kishorit members.  The Kishorit members will benefit greatly from working with individuals from mainstream society.  They will learn to work together in groups and take responsibility.