Week Two: Pumas and People

Week two draws to a close, and I’m stunned at how quickly things are falling into place. As I work each station and get assigned to new ones, the names and faces of the animals nearby fall into place, becoming easier and easier to remember. I know the names of all of our sheep, goats, and mini horses that frequent our kids’ zoo better than the names of my fellow interns. My favorite station so far has to be the Tree Tops, which really just means finding whoever we have on the overhead paths that day and pointing them out to people. Being on this station means I get to relax, watch the animals, and talk to guests about something I’m pretty confident about. In Big Cat Falls, we had our three pumas out, siblings that were orphaned in the wild. It’s great to be able to watch them lounge on the path and talk to guests about our tree top system and how it helps keep the animals active and happy. The number one question I get is, “Do they ever pee when they’re up there?” to which I tell them no, but it could happen. They walk pretty quickly under the overhead pass after that.

While the public is wonderful, and vital to the Zoo’s function, some visitors aren’t the best. There are always those people who ask if I can “make the animals do something,” which I definitely can’t, and wouldn’t even if I could. Our polar bear, for example, doesn’t go into the water that often. She prefers to lay in the shade, and when the day gets hot, she goes inside. The fact that we give our animals this choice doesn’t seem to sit well with some people for some reason, who will take to yelling at her and banging on the glass in an attempt to get her to “do something.” Don’t get me wrong, the majority of the guests are great people who love learning about our animals, but there are others who do not understand that, even though the live in a zoo, these are wild animals. As daunting as it was at first, I actually enjoy speaking with the guests and trying to convey the Zoo’s goal, which is to Save the Planet (I’m not kidding). Through my job, I can get people excited about conservation, recycling, saving energy, and more, all within a few short minutes of conversation, facilitated by our amazing animal ambassadors. It’s made me realize that the Zoo is only really half about the animals; the rest is inspiring ordinary people to do things that will make a better future, for themselves and for the animals. Until next week.

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