When people think of working at a zoo, they usually have visions of animal care careers like keepers and veterinarians, but there are many other career opportunities in zoos and aquariums.
The Wildlife Conservation Society’s teen volunteer program helps expose young people to the operations of the zoo. While the bulk of their responsibilities in this program are geared towards building interpretive skills and learning about animals, new programs are in development that will promote critical thinking, peer leadership, and sustainable citizenship to create future environmental stewards and leaders.
Although these programs are designed with lofty goals, once people start working around the zoo they can’t help but feel inspired to save wildlife. The Wildlife Conservation Society and the Prospect Park Zoo hope these new programs will give teens the opportunity to become the next generation of zoo professionals.
Everyone knows that the animals have to be cared for every day and that the job of a keeper involves cleaning exhibits and night quarters, feeding animals, and veterinary staff provides animal medical care. But it takes more than that to run the zoo. A maintenance staff of people skilled in plumbing, electrical work, and construction are required to keep the animal’s homes (and the staff offices) in good repair. Other staff ensures the zoo is kept clean every day. Ticket agents are responsible for a host of guest services tasks, not the least of which is selling tickets for admission to the zoo. Security guards are on duty 24 hours, 7 days a week. Environmental education instructors oversee the zoo’s creative education programs, school tours, special events, and volunteer activities.
At the Wildlife Conservation Society’s headquarters at the Bronx Zoo, more professional staff provides support to Prospect Park Zoo along with the other WCS wildlife parks. A myriad of departments include accounting, fundraising, public affairs, exhibit and graphic design, food and merchandise services, and more. In fact, many employees of the Wildlife Conservation Society – and certainly at the Prospect Park Zoo – started their careers as teen volunteers. It’s a valuable and rewarding experience that clearly inspires people to make the zoo their career choice.