A summer program is tapping into the obsession kids have with animals. The Idaho Falls Zoo’s Junior Zoo Crew is underway.
“They assist with animal care with the keepers and they also get to help with education and on grounds interaction,” said Megan Donovan, the volunteer coordinator for the Idaho Falls Zoo.
Thirty-three teens get hands-on experience working with animals and the knowledge to prepare them for the future.
“Volunteering is very important to get your career started if you want to be a zookeeper and get your foot in the door,” Donovan said.
The teens primarily work in the Children’s Zoo area. They take care of the alpacas, goats, llamas and more.
Even though there is a routine, every day is still a new experience.
“I had not ever touched a goat and I did not know that they can be small or big and didn’t know the different types,” said Dallin Watson, a Junior Zoo Crew member.
A typical day for the teens starts out with giving the animals their breakfast, cleaning out the animal’s areas, working in the contact yards and then doing enrichment with the animals.
“Get them used to some animals exposure and some fun things for them to do,” said Caroline Conley, a Junior Zoo Crew member. “We give them toys and treats for them to play with. That’s something I really like to do.”
Conley said working for the zoo has been something she has wanted to do for a long time.
“I want to be a veterinarian one day, so this is an awesome way to get more involved with different types of animals,” Conley said.
Now that she is old enough, working with the animals is a dream come true, even if it involves routine hair brushing.
“(Andy the Alpaca) has some hair on the top of his head and it is always messy. He loves to get his hair messy,” Conley said. “We always spend time brushing out his hair.”
Conley believes that the program has given her a bigger appreciation for the wildlife and environment around her.
“It’s really great to be able to come to the zoo and know who all the animals are, connect with them, understand how important it is to take care of them and conserve our different species here at the zoo,” said Conley.
The Junior Zoo Crew work two to three shifts a week. Each shift is about three to five hours long.