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Volunteer Opportunities in Zoos, Aquariums, Museums and Nature Centers

Frank with SlothI consider myself extremely fortunate in having been able to spend a lifetime working in zoos with animals from all over the world.  However, zoo work is not for everyone – even those who are passionate about wildlife may become frustrated by the lack of opportunities (not to mention the exceedingly low salaries!).  There is, however, a very pleasant alternative for those who wish to be around exotic creatures on a regular basis– volunteering.  Many zoos, aquariums, nature centers and museums accept volunteers, and most provide extensive training. 

Typical Volunteer Activities

Volunteers become involved in a host of interesting activities and often have more frequent contact with the public than do staff members.  Those seeking to enter the zoo field as salaried employees usually acquire useful job experience as well.

Volunteers provide valuable information about animal behavior and conservation by answering questions, conducting tours and helping visitors to interpret exhibits.  In some institutions they also interact closely with animals – preparing diets, monitoring animal contact areas and using hand- raised creatures in educational and outreach programs (i.e. nursing home visits).


Volunteers may also assist animal keepers where long periods of observation are required, as is the case, for example, when new animals are introduced to an exhibit.  They also participate in research efforts – at the Bronx Zoo, a group of dedicated volunteers documented the fact that Alligator Snapping Turtles remain submerged for over 2 hours.  This discovery eventually led to important new information concerning the physiology of these rare and unusual reptiles.

Everyone Benefits

Frank with SlothUnfailingly, volunteers report that the experience adds a new dimension to their lives…my mother, for example, volunteered at the Bronx Zoo for most of the 21 years I spent working there, and counted the opportunity as one of her life’s most rewarding.  Elderly and retired people make up the bulk of the volunteer force at many institutions, and I can’t help but believe that they also pass along a bit of valuable “life wisdom” while working with youngsters.

While not everyone will be able to duplicate the experiences pictured in the accompanying photos, I hope they will give you some idea of what may be in store should you follow this exciting path.

Further Reading

Specific information is best obtained from your local institution.  A centralized listing of zoo opportunities is available here.

You can read about an exceptionally well-run volunteer program on the website of the St. Louis Zoo.



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    Nice post and this enter helped me alot in my college assignement. Gratefulness you seeking your information.

  2. avatar

    Volunteering at an aquarium sounds like an awesome way to better get to know the underwater world!
    And for someone who enjoys a fishkeeping hobby this is a really great opportunity to do what they love while at the same time helping out in thier community. Sounds like something I should look into!

  3. avatar

    Thank you for giving all these wonderful opportunities.
    I wish you, and your friends, all the possible best.

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