Looking for a summer internship that would provide hands-on experience with a variety of different animals, University of Delaware student Gabrielle Rubino decided that she should apply to a place defined by its animal diversity: the Philadelphia Zoo.
Rubino, a senior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources who is majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences with a minor in wildlife conservation, applied for the animal care internship through the zoo’s website after talking with an acquaintance who had interned at the zoo in the summer of 2010.
She explained that after submitting an application, writing a letter of interest and sending two letters of recommendation, officials selected her for an interview and, ultimately, the internship.
The internship lasted 11 weeks, from the end of May until the middle of August, and Rubino started her day at the zoo every morning at 8:30 a.m. She worked alongside the staff at the Children’s Zoo, and her main duties included preparing and distributing food for the animals.
Feeding a wide array of animals, ranging from ferrets and box turtles to owls, ducks and porcupines, Rubino received first hand experience on the dietary needs of diverse wildlife.
Feeding and preparing meals was not the only part of her job, however. Rubino explained that she also “learned how to maintain animal enclosures and exhibits with proper cleaning methods. I learned proper handling, crating and capture techniques for these different animals as well.”
One of the most interesting parts of her internship was learning about animal enrichment. “I learned what it meant to provide different types of enrichment for the animals such as visual, tactile and auditory enrichment,” said Rubino. “I never knew that a Senegal parrot could be so fascinated by bubbles, or that Macaws would be completely silent while watching a Disney movie.”
Rubino also got her hands dirty tidying up various animal living spaces, cleaning out the mini-horse and donkey yards, the bunny village pens and the chicken and turkey yards. Of the cleaning process, Rubino joked, “I have never spent so much time with hay in my life, nor do I hope to again.”
When it was time to take the animals out for “play time” for the public to see, Rubino had to make sure that she was sharp on the animal information so she could answer any questions that the zoo’s visitors might have. “I was always asked questions about the animal that was out for showing so I had to be very knowledgeable on all the types of animals.”
Rubino said that she “absolutely loved this internship.” She met great friends and learned fascinating information, all the while gaining hands on experience with a variety of different animals from a staff that she described as “always helpful and willing to teach.”
Although she is not 100 percent sure what she wants to do with her future, she said that she wouldn’t rule out working at a zoo because she “enjoyed every day I spent interning at the zoo.”
For those students interested in a summer internship at the Philadelphia Zoo, visit the website.
Article by Adam Thomas