Zoo volunteers

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LydiaC

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I am considering looking into volunteering at the Dallas Zoo. However, they require a one-year commitment, so I want to make sure I know what I'm getting into. Have any of you ever volunteered at a zoo? What were your responsibilities? What did you like about it, what did you dislike? How was your experience beneficial in the long-run?

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Jess Monster

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Every zoo is different in what they expect. The zoo I worked for had various departments that all took on interns so the type of work you could be doing was highly varied.

I did a zookeeping/animal husbandry internship (it had a stipend when I did it but now the same positions are 100% volunteer). I basically assisted zookeepers and did most of the grunt work of cleaning enclosures, prepping food, and cleaning windows and off-exhibit facilities. I occasionally got to help feed some of the animals, help with training, and do animal observations for breeding and medical purposes. Enrichment was also one of the big projects for the interns to control. I was only expected to work a quarter but I stayed on through spring and half the summer. I was working nearly full time but that wasn't a requirement.

There were also separate "volunteer" programs for non-students or high school students. Those volunteers were largely utilized for guest relations and were stationed outside specific exhibits to answer questions or conduct surveys.

I have a friend at a different zoo who volunteers within an animal programs department and does the "animal experience" type work where she uses live animal ambassadors to educate the public. I always thought that looked fun. She gets to play with cute little animals all day though I'm not sure what type of commitment she's on the hook for.

Overall, I enjoyed it. The downsides were the 30 minutes drive, some disorganization at the department level, and the almost complete lack of pay. That last part made it unsustainable long term. As far as being beneficial, yes and no. I'm not interested in zoo or wildlife medicine so aside from further developing my husbandry skills and spending the spring and summer in a fun work environment, I don't feel that it has specifically furthered my academic or career goals (at least not anymore than any other type of animal husbandry job on a farm or in a kennel would have).
 

alpaperart

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Hey there!:) I volunteer at the DC National zoo in the veterinary hospital! My day is as follows: I get to the hospital at 7 AM, prepare food for animals in the hospital/in quarantine. I also clean cricket and meal worm enclosures. I also do laundry. That normally takes about an hour, then all the vets and techs have rounds at 8 AM so I sit in and listen to what's going on for the day. After that we normally do procedures. I get to sit in and watch all of them! I've seen anything from a rat to a lion, it's pretty cool! I normally do all the anesthesia sheets and sometimes help grab things the vet needs/ label any samples/blood we get. I also get to sit in on necropsies whenever I want. Last month I sat in on a cheetah necropsy. The vets are super nice and are very helpful with vet school questions and concerns:). The techs are also great and I've become friends with a lot of them!

When there aren't procedures I do a lot of work and cleaning around the hospital. You'll definitely be doing a lot of this. I also restock items and help fill prescriptions a lot. The quarantine keepers call me down sometimes to help clean animal enclosures, and some days are entirely cleaning days. I normally leave at 3PM, so it's an 8 hour day.

Sometimes they let me go into the park and watch procedures, but normally I stay in the hospital and watch procedures that come in. Overall it's a great experience!!!! I would definitely recommend doing it!:) but just know it's a lot of work, and a lot of it will be cleaning and restocking.

PS I do 16 hours a week there.
That sounds amazing!! There's an internship I applied to for animal health at the Staten island zoo but it's very far from where I live. It would only be 2 days a week so I hope I still get it lol and it's only for 4 months

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alpaperart

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Fingers crossed for you!:) I do 2 days a week at the zoo and it's definitely manageable/worth it!!
Thanks!! I would be doing it while having a full time job. I think I would be pushing it with the manageable part it would be like a 3 maybe 4 hour commute to the zoo. Already a 1 hour commute to my job. Everything is so far from where I live

It's animal health so it would be in the zoo hospital! A lot of cleaning but I like cleaning =)

Are you interested in zoo wildlife medicine? I keep hearing it's very competitive especially zoo positions!

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wildlifeorzoovet

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Thanks!! I would be doing it while having a full time job. I think I would be pushing it with the manageable part it would be like a 3 maybe 4 hour commute to the zoo. Already a 1 hour commute to my job. Everything is so far from where I live

It's animal health so it would be in the zoo hospital! A lot of cleaning but I like cleaning =)

Are you interested in zoo wildlife medicine? I keep hearing it's very competitive especially zoo positions!

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Staff vet positions at zoos are extremely competitive, even at smaller zoos. In order to become a zoo vet, the typical plan would be to perform extremely well in vet school (e.g. straight A's or close to it), then do 1-2 years of internships (usually a 1yr small animal rotating internship then 1yr zoological med internship), then a 3yr zoological residency, then become board certified by the ACZM, then hope that someone retires from their job at a zoo. It will help if you are willing to go anywhere that has a position for you. I have heard from some folks that not everyone has to follow this extremely long and difficult process, and/or that certain steps aren't absolutely necessary. I have also heard that getting internships, residencies, and zoo jobs also depends on your networking skills and ultimately who you know as much as how competitive a candidate you are (in other words, not only do you have to be a competitive candidate, you also need to have connections). But I don't think there is any reason to get discouraged. Make a plan and work hard and see what happens. There are other very interesting zoo/wildlife-related career options if you can't find a job at a zoo. It sounds like you are already doing the right thing by getting zoo experience...that experience and the connections you make will certainly be beneficial.
 
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LydiaC

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Hey there!:) I volunteer at the DC National zoo in the veterinary hospital! My day is as follows: I get to the hospital at 7 AM, prepare food for animals in the hospital/in quarantine. I also clean cricket and meal worm enclosures. I also do laundry. That normally takes about an hour, then all the vets and techs have rounds at 8 AM so I sit in and listen to what's going on for the day. After that we normally do procedures. I get to sit in and watch all of them! I've seen anything from a rat to a lion, it's pretty cool! I normally do all the anesthesia sheets and sometimes help grab things the vet needs/ label any samples/blood we get. I also get to sit in on necropsies whenever I want. Last month I sat in on a cheetah necropsy. The vets are super nice and are very helpful with vet school questions and concerns:). The techs are also great and I've become friends with a lot of them!

When there aren't procedures I do a lot of work and cleaning around the hospital. You'll definitely be doing a lot of this. I also restock items and help fill prescriptions a lot. The quarantine keepers call me down sometimes to help clean animal enclosures, and some days are entirely cleaning days. I normally leave at 3PM, so it's an 8 hour day.

Sometimes they let me go into the park and watch procedures, but normally I stay in the hospital and watch procedures that come in. Overall it's a great experience!!!! I would definitely recommend doing it!:) but just know it's a lot of work, and a lot of it will be cleaning and restocking.

PS I do 16 hours a week there.

That sounds awesome! I would love to be able to observe procedures. However, I believe that the zoo requires hospital volunteers to have veterinary technician experience, which I don't have yet. I'll have to ask about that when I go in for the interview meeting tomorrow.
 
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