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.

A Few of my Favorite Things

We asked our volunteers what their favorite things are about volunteering at the Zoo:

I love seeing all the kids’ faces light up when I tell them fun facts about the animals.
2015-04-10T16:57:47+00:00
I love seeing all the kids’ faces light up when I tell them fun facts about the animals.

We have no favorite thing about volunteering at the Zoo. We would rather think that we are able to be of a help to the people we come in contact with—be it the public, the keepers, staff, or other volunteers. We hope that we make a difference. Having said this, we best not forget the animals that are an ever-present joy.
2015-04-10T17:03:01+00:00
We have no favorite thing about volunteering at the Zoo. We would rather think that we are able to be of a help to the people we come in contact with—be it the public, the keepers, staff, or other volunteers. We hope that we make a difference. Having said this, we best not forget the animals that are an ever-present joy.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is expanding my understanding/knowledge of the workings of the natural world.
2015-04-10T16:54:14+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is expanding my understanding/knowledge of the workings of the natural world.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is that I didn't have to become a docent but can be useful as a general volunteer for various departments who have flexible hours for their particular needs.
2015-04-10T16:51:41+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is that I didn't have to become a docent but can be useful as a general volunteer for various departments who have flexible hours for their particular needs.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is enjoying the companionship of other volunteers and all office staff. They make me feel wanted and certainly appreciated.
2015-04-10T16:59:56+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is enjoying the companionship of other volunteers and all office staff. They make me feel wanted and certainly appreciated.

Children and animals, my docent friends, too—those are my favorite things at the Zoo!
2015-04-10T16:59:24+00:00
Children and animals, my docent friends, too—those are my favorite things at the Zoo!

One of my favorite things about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is to greet and visit with my docent friends as well as, may I add, walking the Zoo as an ambassador. I love visiting with the patrons, too.
2015-04-10T16:51:10+00:00
One of my favorite things about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is to greet and visit with my docent friends as well as, may I add, walking the Zoo as an ambassador. I love visiting with the patrons, too.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is the wonderful, dedicated people I have met during my 33 years as a docent at the Zoo.
2015-04-10T17:02:44+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is the wonderful, dedicated people I have met during my 33 years as a docent at the Zoo.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo meeting and making new friends; helping to educate the public about animals and their niches on the planet.
2015-04-10T16:50:18+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo meeting and making new friends; helping to educate the public about animals and their niches on the planet.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is the people.
2015-04-10T16:51:27+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is the people.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is all the wonderful and lasting friends I have made.
2015-04-10T16:48:23+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is all the wonderful and lasting friends I have made.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is the interaction with people and, hopefully, seeing their joy in learning about the animals and conservation.
2015-04-10T16:48:55+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is the interaction with people and, hopefully, seeing their joy in learning about the animals and conservation.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is watching the toddlers getting to know the goats in Muriel's ranch.
2015-04-10T16:55:10+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is watching the toddlers getting to know the goats in Muriel's ranch.

My most favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo sharing facts about the animals and with patrons/newer docents, watching their enthusiasm.
2015-04-10T16:50:01+00:00
My most favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo sharing facts about the animals and with patrons/newer docents, watching their enthusiasm.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is helping the visitors in any way I can, as well as assisting the Zoo to get a job done.
2015-04-10T16:52:54+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is helping the visitors in any way I can, as well as assisting the Zoo to get a job done.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo: the ANIMALS.
2015-04-10T16:33:18+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo: the ANIMALS.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is the feeling that I am contributing something meaningful and necessary to the welfare of the animals.
2015-04-10T17:01:19+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is the feeling that I am contributing something meaningful and necessary to the welfare of the animals.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is seeing the wonder and excitement on the young children's faces when I talk about the Zoo animals.
2015-04-10T17:00:55+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is seeing the wonder and excitement on the young children's faces when I talk about the Zoo animals.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is seeing happy faces and hearing the words "I never knew that" or "So that's what ___ looks like up close."
2015-04-10T16:53:58+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is seeing happy faces and hearing the words "I never knew that" or "So that's what ___ looks like up close."

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is the amazing group of all the docents and our endearing love and care of all the animals.
2015-04-10T17:03:17+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is the amazing group of all the docents and our endearing love and care of all the animals.

I love witnessing the “light bulb moment” when the concept or word I'm explaining makes sense to the people I'm talking to.
2015-04-10T16:50:31+00:00
I love witnessing the “light bulb moment” when the concept or word I'm explaining makes sense to the people I'm talking to.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is telling a visitor something interesting about an animal and having them say, "Thank you. I've been coming to the Zoo for years but didn't know that!"
2015-04-10T16:18:20+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is telling a visitor something interesting about an animal and having them say, "Thank you. I've been coming to the Zoo for years but didn't know that!"

My favorite thing about volunteering is the fact that there is always something new and different to share with our guests.
2015-04-10T16:58:04+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering is the fact that there is always something new and different to share with our guests.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is learning about the amazing animals and working with the wonderful (and entertaining) kids. 🙂
2015-04-10T17:00:30+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is learning about the amazing animals and working with the wonderful (and entertaining) kids. 🙂

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is without a doubt spending time with our beautiful gorillas; with an emphasis on the Amazing Evelyn is my favorite thing! But, tied with the gorillas is my admiration for all the Zoo volunteers who do a wonderful job and are just like one big happy family. They are my inspiration daily. This is why I love coming to the L.A. Zoo.
2015-04-10T17:00:18+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is without a doubt spending time with our beautiful gorillas; with an emphasis on the Amazing Evelyn is my favorite thing! But, tied with the gorillas is my admiration for all the Zoo volunteers who do a wonderful job and are just like one big happy family. They are my inspiration daily. This is why I love coming to the L.A. Zoo.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is seeing the children's faces looking at the animals, my passion.
2015-04-10T16:49:25+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is seeing the children's faces looking at the animals, my passion.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is seeing and being around the animals—especially behind-the-scenes opportunities.
2015-04-10T16:50:51+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is seeing and being around the animals—especially behind-the-scenes opportunities.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is seeing and constantly learning about my new two-legged and four-legged friends and then having lunch with some of the bipedal ones.
2015-04-10T16:59:36+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is seeing and constantly learning about my new two-legged and four-legged friends and then having lunch with some of the bipedal ones.

My favorite thing about being a Zoo volunteer is it offers me the opportunity to connect with like-minded people who believe in giving back.
2015-04-10T16:58:21+00:00
My favorite thing about being a Zoo volunteer is it offers me the opportunity to connect with like-minded people who believe in giving back.

My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is spending time with keepers who care so much for their animals and teach me to do the same.
2015-04-10T17:01:53+00:00
My favorite thing about volunteering at the L.A. Zoo is spending time with keepers who care so much for their animals and teach me to do the same.

I love the Zoo, the visitors, the Zoo staff, and fellow volunteers!
2015-04-10T16:53:38+00:00
I love the Zoo, the visitors, the Zoo staff, and fellow volunteers!

I love being around the animals.
2015-04-10T16:49:41+00:00
I love being around the animals.
Say “Thank You” to our Zoo Volunteers via Facebook

Interested in Volunteering?

Visit our Volunteer page for more information.