DCCC Zoo and Aquarium Science Majors Care for Animals at Greensboro Science Center
Aug. 12, 2014 – Animal care internships are about more than interacting with endangered animals. There’s the cleaning – spraying and squeegeeing the stalls, raking the outdoor areas and scooping animal waste. There are also the dirty dishes that must be cleaned and the trash that must be emptied. But for three zoo and aquarium science majors from Davidson County Community College, all the hard work is worth it, because it’s for the animals.
Jamie Williams, Shanon Walker and Chris McRee are spending their summer working as animal care interns at the Greensboro Science Center. By shadowing the professional keepers at the center and learning to care for captive endangered species, these DCCC students are preparing for future careers at Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited facilities. Each is earning college credit as part of DCCC’s five-semester applied associate degree.
Among their responsibilities, the interns prepare meals for the animals twice a day. They follow a diet sheet to know how much fruit, vegetables, greens and protein to weigh out for each animal and chop up the food. Then, they scatter and hide the food throughout the animal habitats to encourage foraging.
The interns provide entertainment for the animals through enrichment activities and toys. Williams, who is a native of Charlotte, made new toys for the African penguins, small-clawed otters and an agouti she keeps. She has also painted with the penguins and otters.
“Working with the animals on a daily basis really is special for me,” Williams says. “I love going in and seeing the penguins walk over to greet me. They even know who I am when I stand on the other side of the glass outside the exhibit. I've had penguins sit on my lap when I’m recording feedings, and I hand-feed the penguins and otters on a daily basis as well.”
Walker, who is from Cary, has gotten to know the personalities of the animals she cares for and she loves when they get excited to see her. She says the classes in animal behavior, safety, animal social groups, environmental enrichment and animal conservation at DCCC have all helped tremendously with her internship. However, interactions with the animals like feeding goat milk to a tiger or caring for three species of lemurs bring the career to life.
“I am getting a ton of hands-on experience doing this internship. I'm learning things that you can't get from a book or sitting in class,” Walker says. “It is a lot of hard work. There’s a lot of cleaning and sanitizing, building and repairing things in this work field. I am learning to be good with tools. But I’m doing it all for the animals, and it makes it all worth it. It is very satisfying to see an animal enjoy an area you worked hard on.”
The interns also observe medical procedures, assist with daily health checks and give medication.
McRee, a Greensboro native, also helped with an animal transfer pick-up. He accompanied one of the senior keepers from the science center to pick up a red ruffed lemur at Piedmont Triad International Airport that was coming from the Denver Zoo. He says his internship will provide the specific animal care and critical thinking skills needed to be a competitive candidate for jobs in the future. He hopes one day to be a keeper at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
“My zoo and aquarium science coursework at DCCC has prepared me for this internship by teaching me basic zoo keeping skills, the history of the profession and organizations associated with the zoo keeping field,” he says. “There are a ton of experiences I've had during this internship, but the best part is being able to do something I love and am passionate about. I get to take care of these incredible animals and be responsible for their well-being. It's one of the most fulfilling things I've ever done.”
Editor’s note: In the first photo, DCCC student Jamie Williams holds a penguin in her lap while recording a feeding during her internship at the Greensboro Science Center. The second photo shows Shanon Walker feeding a red panda. In the third photo, Chris McRee gives goat milk to a male tiger named Axl.
Founded in 1963, Davidson County Community College is noted for its quality educational programs and services. As one of 58 institutions within the North Carolina Community College System, DCCC offers studies in more than 50 degree programs. A fully-accredited, multi-campus college, DCCC celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013 and is looking forward to serving students in Davidson and Davie counties for many years to come. The college is committed to developing minds, inspiring imaginations and preparing students for enhanced career and educational opportunities within a changing global environment. Visit Davidson County Community College at davidsonccc.edu.