Social Engagement: Medium
What’s What: Do you have an enthusiasm for animals, wildlife and conservation? Wouldn’t it be great to share that passion with others? Zoo volunteers provide valuable support to animal keepers and guests. Without volunteers, zoos wouldn’t be able to advance educational programs and conservation efforts.
Amava Take: Zoos are amazing places where we get the unique opportunity to observe different animals—from the small and mild to the big and wild. Zoos also play a critical role in conservation, preventing the extinction of many species. The U.S. has 215 accredited zoos in 45 states and the District of Columbia, most of which count on volunteers to survive, thrive and expand. People can help out in many capacities, from hands-on, to behind the scenes. You can assist zookeepers with cleaning and feeding, or interpret animal behavior for guests. There are also roles for gardening, administration, education and special events. Volunteers contribute thousands of hours each year and are essential members of the staff. There are also one-time opportunities depending upon seasonal programming.
From the Front Lines:
What kinds of candidates are you looking for to fill these positions?
People comfortable working outdoors and among animals and who are reliable, friendly, outgoing, and interested in conservation.
Any tips for first-timers to make it a productive and fulfilling experience?
Pay close attention during training; you’ll learn a lot of valuable information and important safety procedures.
What’s a typical daily schedule like?
It depends on what you volunteered for and where you are assigned. You will be on your feet and mostly outside.
From the Trenches:
What’s the most satisfying part of the job/experience?
Seeing the smiles and sheer delight on the faces of people of all ages.
How would you describe the hard parts?
In a word, poop. I’ve become skilled at mouth breathing.
What’s your favorite animal?
Any kind of monkey. I can watch them all day.
Special Requirements: Background check and training. Some organizations require that you become a member.
Finding a Position: The Association of Zoos and Aquariums lists every accredited zoo in the U.S. Find a zoo near you and find the “volunteer” menu on its website. Become a Zookeeper offers tips on how to be a great zoo volunteer. If you’re near Nebraska or want to travel, the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha is the world’s largest zoo, home to about 17,000 animals of 962 species and covering over 130 acres.