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Category — Exhibits

An Experience like No Other: the Zoo Academy Story

Guest Blogger: Zoo Academy Senior, Sarah Franklin

To start off, my name is Sarah Franklin.  I’m a Zoo Academy student here at the Cincinnati Zoo, and I love every minute of it. The Zoo Academy is a branch of Hughes STEM High School, and is offered to anyone who attends.

Here’s a bit of my story on how I ended up here:

I was raised on a farm, not too far from Cincinnati, but in a small town that you’ve probably never heard of before. Growing up, my family and I had an array of animals on our farm. I used to love to go out with my father in the mornings or evenings to feed the animals. Any opportunity I had to go out with him, I’d jump right into my muck boots, (that came higher than my knees), throw on my coat or jacket, depending on the temperature, and run out right behind him. Some of my favorite memories from my hometown were right out on that farm with him.

Here I am as a toddler on my Dad's farm.

Here I am as a toddler on my Dad’s farm.

At about the age of fourteen when my dad got remarried, I had the opportunity to move to Cincinnati and change schools. I wasn’t particularly happy with my current school system, so I began to research about public schools in Cincinnati. During one of my searches, I came across Hughes High. They talked a lot about pathways on their website, and featured a pathway they called: (you guessed it) The Zoo Academy! I called up the next day to learn more about it, and actually spent time talking to Glen Schulte, who is now my current teacher. I fell in love the minute I learned about this amazing opportunity, and decided that this was where I wanted to start my new beginning. We packed up and moved soon after and that began my story here, at my favorite place on Earth.

In my Zoo Academy uniform

In my Zoo Academy uniform

The Cincinnati Zoo and Hughes High School have become second homes for me. I have had experiences here that I could experience nowhere else.  I became a strong leader within my school, and the biggest Big Red Athletics fan they’d ever seen. Actually, this year, (my SENIOR year), I was recorded as the first girl in Big Red history to score points for the Hughes Football team. I even did a radio interview about it. That was an experience within itself, and I am so fortunate to have been a part of that.

Here I am in my football gear with my littlest fan.

Here I am in my football gear with my littlest fan.

Here at the Zoo, I do daily work with the keepers, animals, and currently the wonderful staff within the Education Department. Some of my favorite animal encounters have been during these last two years, having the opportunity to work with animals that range from insects to elephants. One of my favorite experiences was working with the cougars this past fall while in the Night Hunters department at the Zoo. I also met the love of my life here at the Zoo, a hyacinth blue macaw named Azul at the Bird House. I’ve enjoyed every lab I’ve participated in, and learned so much from the staff here. It is really an experience that is like no other, because the Cincinnati Zoo is the only zoo in the country that allows high school students to participate in labs and work alongside keepers on a daily basis.

Here I am with the love of my life, Azul.

Here I am with the love of my life, Azul.

In the upcoming future I plan on attending the University of Cincinnati and continuing on my story here at the Cincinnati Zoo. I feel as though my experiences here at the Zoo aren’t ready to come to an end yet, so I hope I am able to continue on here after I graduate, whether it is as a volunteer or even a paid staff member. I love it here at the Zoo, and though this may not be where my career path ends, it is definitely a place that I would hope for it to begin. Thanks so much for reading my story!  If you ever see me around the Zoo, stop me and ask any questions you’d like!

Best Wishes, Sarah.

November 20, 2013   6 Comments

A Story of Loss and Redemption – The Passenger Pigeon 99 Years after Extinction

On September 1, 1913—the passenger pigeon was one year away from extinction.  Martha, the last of her species, lived here at the Cincinnati Zoo and was an aged bird. Efforts had been made for years to find a mate for Martha that would provide a chance for the species to survive. In truth, the fate of the passenger pigeon had been sealed several decades before by modern communications (telegraph), transportation (rail), rampant commercial-scale harvest of the birds and the felling of large expanses of hardwood forest habitat.  For Martha and her species, it was a waiting game. The eyes of the nation watched for the inevitable to happen.


Martha, the last passenger pigeon

Martha, the last passenger pigeon

The inconceivable loss of the most common bird species on the planet shook society out of its torpor. There had been billions of passenger pigeons only 50 years before—racing up, down and across the continent like a biological storm, consuming the fruits of the forest in its quest to fulfill their mission to feed, nest and make more pigeons.  Few would have believed that there would soon be none. Those that were concerned were not influential enough to prevent it. By the time it was clear to the majority what was going to happen, it was just too late to do anything about it. It was the first time we could be certain that humans had caused a species’ extinction.  It was, and is, a heavy burden, yet it was also a catalyst for change.

There is good that came from this extinction. Many species considered common today were on the brink of the same fate at the end of the 1800s. American bison, wild turkey, white-tailed deer and pronghorn antelope were all on the same path to extinction as the passenger pigeon. After the loss of the passenger pigeon, people got to work to save these species from the same outcome. President Roosevelt began the National Parks program and wildlife conservation efforts sprang up all over the country. The wildlife conservation effort we know today was born out of the loss of the passenger pigeon.  In a very real way, modern zoos as well as countless other conservation organizations around the globe owe their existence to this one event. It is an impressive legacy and one to be celebrated in the coming year.


It's hard to believe that the white-tailed deer was once on the brink of extinction.

It’s hard to believe that the white-tailed deer was once at risk of extinction.

Over the next year, the Zoo will celebrate what works in the world of wildlife conservation as a commemoration to Martha. To start, we will renovate the current Passenger Pigeon Memorial at the Zoo to include a hopeful message that celebrates the success of wildlife conservation rather than mourning the loss of a single species. We will highlight the work of our Zoo in species conservation and celebrate the work of others in our community and beyond.  We will be blogging each month with updates on the renovation of the Passenger Pigeon Memorial and more, and hope you will join our story and celebration in the coming year.

Passenger Pigeon Memorial

Passenger Pigeon Memorial


September 1, 2013   5 Comments

My Summer Interpretive Media Internship

Guest blogger:  Crissi Lanier, Interpretive Media Intern

This summer I’ve had the great opportunity to be  an Interpretive Media Intern at the Cincinnati Zoo.  When I began in June I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew I was excited. The summer experiences certainly haven’t lessened that excitement.  I’ve been assisting Shasta Bray, the Interpretive Media Manager, in three main areas.

First, I’ve been writing blogs on various topics from how to tell our elephants apart to the new Africa exhibit.  Writing about different experiences I’ve had at the Zoo as part of the Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) has been fun, both because of the actual writing as well as sharing my experiences with others.

In addition to the blogs, I’ve been updating and creating animal pages for the Zoo website.  This has been one of my favorite projects because I have learned so much about species I have never heard of or paid attention to before this summer.  I’ve become much more comfortable with the Zoo and what can be found where in the exhibits. I don’t know where everything is yet, but I certainly feel more at ease than before.

Say Hello to Moe every time I come for a meeting!

I say hello to Moe every time I come to the Education Center for a meeting!

Both of these projects have allowed me to incorporate one of my other passions – photography.  I have been fortunate to be able to include some of my personal photos on the animal pages and blogs, which is very rewarding.

One last project has been helping to find out how visitors feel about the new interactives in Jungle Trails. We have completed observations and short interviews about each interactive as well as the overall opinion of the new installments. Everyone seems to really enjoy them!  Read more about them here.

Morning walk through Jungle Trails

Morning walk through Jungle Trails

The greatest part of this internship has been all the great people I’ve met and had the chance to get to know.  Everyone truly seems to love their job at the Zoo in all departments. Learning from Shasta has been such a great experience. Much of what you see throughout the Zoo has Shasta’s personal touch to make it look just right while also engaging and educating visitors.  She works with a team from Graphics and Marketing to fine tune each piece.  I rarely thought about all the signs and information that are presented throughout the Zoo and how these pieces were produced.  This summer has given me a whole new perspective on them and why certain pieces are located where they are; it’s not by accident!

Shasta Bray and I

Shasta Bray (left) and me (right)

Overall, this internship has been an experience of a lifetime and the only negative part is that it has to end! There has never been a day I wasn’t excited to come to the Zoo. Each morning as I head to the Education Center, I pass through the P&G Discovery Forest, where I say hello to sweet Moe the sloth and beautiful Leroy the blue and gold macaw.

LeRoy in P&G Discovery Forest

Leroy in the P&G Discovery Forest

After all, who else gets to walk through a rainforest on their way to a meeting or hang out with orangutans on their breaks!

Hello Lana!

Hello Lana!

August 28, 2013   No Comments