My internship for the summer of 2013 was at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska. The mission statement of the Henry Doorly Zoo is "To promote conservation awareness on a local, regional, national and global basis while providing exciting recreational opportunities that simultaneously enhance our visitor's experience." For me, the experiences I had at the Henry Doorly Zoo lined up very well with this statement. While the goats at the barn didn't necessarily teach me about conservation, the African Wild Dogs and the keepers I worked with taught me a lot about what it means for a highly endangered species to survive. I learned a lot about how first parents of the Dogs don't normally do well, but that there's hope for the second round! I also learned that even though we as humans can hand raise an endangered animal's young, it can have negative impacts for both people and the animal, and sometimes you just have to let a species be successful on its own, no matter how unfair it seems. I also experienced so many exciting new things at the Red Barn, including lots of new education implementation for Zoo visitors, which I found to be highly impressive! The ever evolving area I was assigned to was really taking strides in being more appealing to the public and making their experience more rewarding, which I loved! We got to answer people's questions and show them something new they'd never known before – and it was very cool to see people's interest.
My goals for the internship included training an animal, which I definitely got to do! I worked closely with lots of animals, and helped train a chicken, goats, and even worked with the North American River Otters! I enjoyed being given the freedom to work with the animals. That was so awesome, to know that the keepers trusted us and let us work with animals they know really well – they didn't make us feel like we were incapable or not responsible enough, and I greatly appreciated that. I also loved that this area was so hands on, and so varied in the number and type of animals I got to work with! Some were less touchable, like the owls and the African painted dogs, but others were handled on a regular basis, and I learned a LOT from that.
I'd say one thing I didn't really like about this internship was that the supervisor of the keepers I worked with every day was very intimidating, and if she didn't like you she didn't hide it. I wasn't one of those people, but it made me feel really bad for the interns she was mean to, and I just felt like she was in a really awesome leadership role that she just didn't handle super well. Granted though, she was busy ALL the time. I definitely appreciated her knowledge though, the few times I talked to her I learned something new about one of the animals.
I learned so much from this internship, ranging from just plain old facts to the actual care it takes to look after so many animals. I learned a lot about diets of the animals too, which I really found myself enjoying! Because we had birds of prey, highly carnivorous dogs, otters, a pelican, and farm animals, I just saw a very broad range of food diets given to the animals and it was fascinating. Also as I mentioned, I learned how to train various animals, which I could even use on animals I own in the future. I feel like my experiences with education and the jobs I've had working with animal care and people together prepared me for this experience just fine. I enjoyed any physical labor and didn't feel like it was too much. The keepers in the Red Barn area did a really great job of teaching us anything we didn't really know coming into the internship.
In my future, I can definitely see myself working in an area of the zoo like this. A place where visitors (and I) can be hands on with the animals and really use them to teach people! This internship really made me feel like I was in the right place, because it wasn't the same every day, even though you had a bit of a routine. The animals changed every day, and so did various situations, which I liked! I get bored if things are the same day after day. While I can still see myself working in other fields available with the Fisheries and Wildlife major, I will definitely be keeping this experience in mind. I really liked the people I interned with, so I know I want to have a career where I experience this too. Overall, this is an experience I couldn't have loved more. I wish it could've been my summer job so I could spend all my time there!