Docent Doug Finds His Calling

Docent Doug and Billy

There are these sleepless moments many of us have in the middle of the night—usually between 3 and 5 a.m.—called the hour of the wolf. You wake up and your thoughts turn to random ideas that become something greater than anything you’d have imagined by day. In one of these moments, I decided to become a volunteer.

Meerkats (Photo by: Docent Doug)I wanted to give back to society in a way that was not just related to my family or my own needs. My interest in animals, in addition to an article I had read about the number of animal species that have disappeared during the relatively short time man has been on the planet, led me to the Los Angeles Zoo. When I learned that the training program required a commitment of 23 weeks, amounting to a college-level zoology course, I was intrigued. This is some serious volunteering, I thought.

Once I started the program, I realized my initial reaction was wrong. Although the training contained a lot of information and was challenging at times, I enjoyed every minute of it.

I’ve been a docent for over a year now, and it’s been a wonderful experience. It’s been delightful to meet and educate L.A. Zoo visitors about the animals, but also to positively impart the importance of maintaining and conserving the animal species still on the planet, and how the Zoo fits in to that struggle.

Cotton-Top and Docent DougI’ve met a lot of good people at the Zoo, some that have become friends. I’ve given lots of Zoo tours, traveled to Long Beach with a very large (read: very human) cotton-top tamarin, roamed around the Zoo as a werewolf, and led a tour for a group of nuns. Normally we discuss evolution in our tours, but with the lovely Sisters we were simply happy to find a commonality in the beauty and grace of the creatures on this planet.

I’ve spent many a morning in the quiet interval before the Zoo opens watching the animals start their day. There’s hope in the gentle morning amblings of the majestic western lowland gorillas or the jubilant honks of Mario the goose in the Winnick Family Children’s Zoo.
I would urge anyone who has ever thought about giving back—to our world and others—to take the provisional class and become a docent at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

I’m on the committee for the weekend class and would love to meet you. I promise that it will open up a new world for you and give you the opportunity to make a difference on our planet. Perhaps if enough of us lend our voices, as well as a helping hand, we can positively affect climate change and habitat destruction, while having fun in the process. We’re all in this together. Come help us make a difference!


To learn more about becoming a volunteer through the Docent Program, please visit: