April 12-18 is Volunteer Week

Volunteers play a vital role in fulfilling the Zoo’s mission of “Nurturing Wildlife and Enriching the Human Experience,” from helping with office work to assisting our animal keepers. This week is Volunteer Week, so we’re highlighting the many ways our volunteers give their time to the Zoo.

Volunteering is a great hands-on learning experience. Photo by Jamie Pham.

Animal care volunteers assist the Zoo’s keeper staff with the daily management of the Zoo’s residents, from food preparation to exhibit maintenance. All of our animal keeper volunteers come to the Zoo with extensive experience with exotic animals (at least 100 hours) and they help support the Zoo’s mission and broaden their experience with our unique collection of animals.

Education volunteers enjoy connecting people with animals. Photo by Jamie Pham.

Education volunteers—docents—play a vital role in communicating the Zoo’s message to our guests. After successful completion of a 23-week UCLA Extension course, docents lead school and family group tours, help at education stations, and assist with events. Docents are great with children, have excellent interpersonal communication skills, and love teaching.

Sandy Skeen is one of the volunteers who help build enrichment items that keep the Zoo’s animals healthy and active. Photo by Valerie Jarion.

Enrichment keeps the animals in our care physically and psychologically active, and offers visitors a chance to see natural foraging or hunting behaviors. Volunteers assist enrichment staff in many ways—from designing feeder devices and creating fire-hose hammocks to building platforms that encourage climbing. Enrichment volunteers also maintain a garden that provides foods that aren’t readily available from grocers such as banana leaves, fennel that has gone to seed, dandelions, roses, and society garlic.

Christina Griffith helps make the contact yard at Muriel’s Ranch a pleasant experience for people and animals. Photo by Jamie Pham.

The contact yard in the Winnick Family Children’s Zoo is a prime location for “light bulb moments,” when a child learns something relatable about animals for the first time. Yes, it’s dusty, and cleaning up after those feisty goats and sheep can be a challenge, but it’s a wonderful place for animals and people to connect and give children an appreciation for our domestic animal friends.

Docent Rita Losset takes a break from the paper trail. Photo by Michelle Ramirez.

Not all volunteer assignments take place out on Zoo grounds! From preparing Beastly Ball invitations in Special Events to folding Zoo Lights origami cranes for Marketing, helping out with office tasks at the Gottlieb Animal Health and Conservation Center and everything in between, there’s a dedicated crew of volunteers who spend hours helping with a wide and ever-changing variety of assignments.

Margie Hawkins makes an impression with her antler demonstration at a Special Needs Outreach presentation.

The Special Needs Outreach Program brings the Zoo to individuals who cannot easily visit the Zoo. Trained docents bring small, live animals and other hands-on items to schools with classrooms for children with disabilities, hospitals, daycare centers (adult and children), and nursing homes.

Student Volunteer Brittany Holloway introduces guests to special outreach animals during Big Bunny’s Spring Fling. Photo by Jamie Pham.

For some, weekend and evening events are what really make the Zoo stand out. Featuring music, vendors, entertainment, and education, these special events communicate the Zoo’s message to a wider audience. We couldn’t do it without dedicated volunteers who return weekend after weekend to lend a hand with crafts, education, check-in, and directional assistance—all vital components of a successful event.

Interested in Volunteering?

Visit our Volunteer page for more information.