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Animal Care Internship Program

So you want to be a zookeeper.

Fall 2014 interns hanging out with Tommy the cheetah.

Fall 2014 interns hanging out with Tommy the cheetah.

Have you always wanted to work with animals?  Do you have a passion for conservation?  If the answers are yes, then you are well on your way.  As with many careers these days, job-seeking in the zoo world has become very competitive.  It is sometimes particularly hard to get experience working with animals.  In addition, many positions require a bachelor’s degree in Zoology, Biology, or a related field of study.  The best way to get experience is to apply for an internship with animals.

The Cincinnati Zoo has recently re-vamped our animal care internship program.  The traditional internship has been reinvented as the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden Animal Keeping Training Course.  The training course lasts 16-weeks (40 hours per week unpaid, un-benefited) and occurs Summer, Fall, and Winter.  The positions encompass the education of skilled professional and technical work in the routine daily care of assigned animals, enclosures and related facilities within a particular animal department.

Summer intern Jenny training a Savanna Monitor.

Summer intern Jenny training a Savanna Monitor.

Through goals set by interns and staff, each intern follows a curriculum designed to provide a basic skill set and experience for becoming an animal keeper in an AZA institution.  Each week a new topic is presented and discussed.  Topics include (but aren’t limited to) basic husbandry, operant conditioning, enrichment, nutrition, veterinary care, public speaking and presentations, green practices and conservation, and job-seeking/interview skills.  Interns are responsible for completing 4 separate projects related directly to the animals they will be caring for.  Mid-session and final reviews are conducted in order to provide each intern with constructive feedback about their contribution to the internship.

If you think this internship matches your goals in life, you will need to meet the following requirements in order to apply: 1) Current college junior or senior working toward an animal related degree, Biology, Zoology etc.; or within one year of graduation with a related degree. 2) Demonstrate commitment to working with wildlife in a zoo setting. 3) Comfortable working with a diverse collection encompassing all classes of animals.

As testament to the strength of this training course, one of our past interns gave us this feedback: “This internship has definitely been one of the best experiences of my life!  I have learned so much thanks to the generosity and time of others.  All of the topics covered facilitated my professional growth and has solidified my desire to be a zookeeper.  This internship, with its well-developed curriculum should set the bar for internships in zoos across the country.”  Wow!  What an amazing compliment.  However, we will never rest on our laurels, continuing always to improve and modify the content in order to provide the best experience possible.

Summer intern Amanda with her enrichment project, the “Snake Slalom.”

Summer intern Amanda with her enrichment project, the “Snake Slalom.”

So if you have the desire, educational background, and commitment to work with animals in a zoo setting, apply for the Zoo’s Animal Keeping Training Course.  We are currently accepting applications for the winter section.  Check out www.cincinnatizoo.org/about-us/job-opportunities/ for more information and to apply.  This is an amazing opportunity to get animal care experience at a world class institution!

November 25, 2014   No Comments

Do You Know the Potto?

Everyone is familiar with primates like gorillas, monkeys and even lemurs, but not too many people know of the potto. So what’s a potto, you say? Pottos are prosimians, which are primitive primates, not as highly evolved as monkeys but sharing many of the same characteristics (fingernails and toenails, stereoscopic vision, forward facing eyes, etc.). Some other prosimians include lemurs, lorises, bushbabies, tarsiers and aye-ayes.


Gabriel the potto. Photo by Sophia Cifuentes

The Cincinnati Zoo is one of very few zoos around the world to exhibit pottos, not because they are endangered, but more because of their nocturnal way of life. Many zoos do not have a building like our Night Hunters exhibit in which the day / night light cycle is reversed. This allows us to exhibit nocturnal creatures under subdued blue lighting during the time our guests visit and then fill the exhibits with white lighting when our guests have left.

In early 2014, there were only 16 pottos in four zoos in the United States—Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Milwaukee County Zoo, Franklin Park Zoo and Cincinnati Zoo, of course. We have maintained pottos in our collection since the mid-1960s when we first opened the former Nocturnal House. We have been one of the top breeders of these African primates and we currently have seven pottos at the Zoo. Recently, it became clear that if we wanted to keep these charismatic animals in U.S. zoo collections, then we needed to have a plan to maximize the potential of our small population with regards to breeding and to also recruit more zoos to commit to exhibiting them as the potto population grew.

Baby potto

Baby potto

The Mammal Curators of the zoos holding pottos were all on board with the desire to continue to work with this species. The pedigree information of the U.S. population of pottos was run through a computer software program that provided us with the best possible pairings from our small group in order to maximize genetic diversity. From that information it became clear that in order to achieve our goal, 12 of the 16 pottos needed to move in order to create the pairings recommended. We also needed one more facility to join us to provide the extra space needed to ultimately put together the seven potential breeding pairs indicated by our “computer dating” service. The Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska stepped up to become the fifth zoo in the U.S. to maintain pottos.


By mid-summer, the five zoos had committed to making the necessary moves to have all the transfers completed before cold weather might become an issue for transportation. Of the six animals we originally had here in Cincinnati, four have transferred to other zoos while five new pottos arrived. We now have three pairs as well as a young male who will serve as a companion animal to an aging bamboo lemur. The other zoos involved with pottos will either have one pair (Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and the Henry Doorly Zoo) or two pairs (Franklin Park Zoo). The Milwaukee County Zoo, which is now holding a single young female potto, is attempting to import a young male potto from Africa, which will provide new genetics to our population as well as provide us with yet another pair of animals for breeding.

It has been very gratifying to see how well the five zoos have worked so quickly and cooperatively towards our common goal to maintain a healthy potto population. Though the potto may not be an endangered species, we would hate to lose this charismatic creature from our collections. Many Cincinnatians have met our potto, Gabriel, at the Zoo or at events around the city. I like to think that it’s because of this ambassador animal that more Cincinnatians know what a potto is than people in any other part of the country.

October 9, 2014   1 Comment

A Glimpse into our Green Teens!

By Kaitlin Burt, Sustainability Intern

At the “Greenest Zoo in America”, we are constantly working to make the zoo and the visitors experience as green as possible. An important aspect of doing this is getting the word out and educating our visitors. This summer we are lucky to have a great group of teens that are doing just that. These teens are known as the Green Teens and this is the Zoo’s third summer having them volunteer with us. The Green Teens rotate their time between multiple stations such as the Go Green Garden, the Aquaponics Greenhouse, the Base Camp Café, and teaching about Vermicomposting at Insect World. With the help of these Green Teens, we are able to educate and answer any questions the visitors might have on what the Zoo is doing to go green, as well as help make our guests have a positive visitor experience to the Zoo.

Many of our teens have volunteered with us for multiple summers, and we are so grateful to have them! Below is an interview done with three of our current Green Teens, all returning Green Teens and are very knowledgeable about the Zoo’s green efforts. Candice is a junior at Oak Hills High School, Christine is a sophomore at Ursula High School, and Hailey is a freshman at Campbell County High School.


Candice, Christine, and Hailey


1.    What is your favorite green initiative the Zoo has implemented?
a.    Candice: Aquaponics
b.    Christine: Solar Canopy
c.    Hailey: Solar Canopy

2.    What is the most interesting thing you have learned about while being a Green Teen?
a.    Candice: That 80% of waste can be diverted from landfills by composting and recycling
b.    Christine: That food utensils can be made to be compostable
c.    Hailey: Learning about the Aquaponics system and how you can make your own no waste habitat

3.    What is your favorite Green Teen station (The Aquaponics Greenhouse, The Go Green Garden, or Vermicomposting at Insect World) to volunteer with?
a.    Candice: Go Green Garden
b.    Christine: Go Green Garden
c.    Hailey: Vermicomposting at Insect World

4.    Why did you come back to be a Green Teen this year?
a.    Candice: Because I had so much fun last year
b.    Christine: I enjoy volunteering at the zoo and being around other green teens
c.    Hailey: Because I always have a lot of fun here and I like being near animals

5.    What is your favorite memory/story from working at the Zoo this summer?
a.    Candice: While transporting the worm bin back and forth between Insect World, giving brief synopsis on vermicomposting to everyone who is interested, and reaching people who might not normally be interested in composting.
b.    Christine: Helping a family learn how to start vermicomposting at their own house
c.    Hailey: At Insect World, getting little kids excited about the worms and interested in composting

6.    What is your favorite exhibit or animal at the zoo?
a.    Candice: Manatees and CREW
b.    Christine: Manatee Springs
c.    Hailey: Wolves and Painted Dogs

7.    What is one skill you will take away from this experience?
a.    Candice: Public Speaking
b.    Christine: Keeping calm with large groups of people
c.    Hailey: Public Speaking, and learning to shorten my stories

8.    What are your future Career Plans? What do you hope to study in college?
a.    Candice: Wants to major in biology and maybe work with CREW one day
b.    Christine: Wants to major in biology in college so she can be a zoologist for National Geographic
c.    Hailey: Wants to be an exhibit interpreter or run her own animal training business

9.    If you could have everyone perform one conservation action, what would it be?

a.    Candice: Stop mining all together
b.    Christine: For everyone to recycle
c.    Hailey: For everyone to compost and recycle and reduce what goes to the landfill

10.    What advice would you give future Green Teens?
a.    Candice: Read the info packet, practice speaking, and have fun!
b.    Christine: Keep up to date on what’s going on at the zoo
c.    Hailey: Get to know your audience

These young ladies, along with 17 other teens, have increased their public speaking skills, customer service skills, and knowledge about sustainability. With these young men and women, the Zoo is able to continue to share its story about being the “Greenest Zoo in America.”

The Zoo’s VolunTeen program is open to teens ages 13-17 with opportunities such as the Green Teens as well as opportunities in Horticulture, Education, and with T.R.I.B.E. For more information, visit http://cincinnatizoo.org/support/volunteer/ and click on the VolunTeens Tab.

August 6, 2014   1 Comment