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The Zoo is open! Entry passes are required for all guests, including infants, and visitors must follow safety measures.

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Thank You, Volunteers!

National Volunteer Appreciation Week (April 19-23, 2021), carves out a much-deserved moment of time to recognize volunteer service. Personally, I’m considering 2021 a Volunteer Appreciation Year. In the midst of a global pandemic, our volunteers have demonstrated their unwavering commitment to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. The Zoo may be closed as a public health precaution due to COVID-19, but our mission to save species continues.

Our volunteer aides support animal care, science and horticulture behind the scenes and in the community. Some have continued to report to the Zoo this year, under enhanced safety protocols, to assist staff and researchers. Other volunteer aides joined the Virginia Working Landscape’s citizen science program to assist with biological surveys, monitoring species diversity across northern and central Virginia. Our panda behavior watch volunteers transitioned to a 100% virtual watch and continue to play an instrumental role in collecting nursing and behavior data to monitor giant panda cub Xiao Qi Ji’s health and growth.

Our volunteer interpreters are some of the friendly faces that guests see around the park during a visit. Although interpreters have not yet returned to the Zoo, we continue to learn and laugh with them online. They join us for Zoom meetings and use virtual education resources, such as our Animal Adventure Guide, to keep learning about wildlife and conservation. I know they look forward to sharing their knowledge with visitors when the Zoo reopens.

This year, our volunteer aides and interpreters are similar to the wildlife they love so much — adapting to new environments and finding ways to not only survive, but also thrive. They have shown that conservation happens everywhere: at the Zoo, at home and even online. While we wish we could showcase each member of our incredible volunteer family, we have asked a few to share their favorite stories and experiences from over the years.

Zoo Interpreter Kim

What is your favorite Zoo animal or exhibit?

Murphy the Komodo Dragon at Reptile Discovery Center.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering at the Zoo?

Knowing we make a conservation difference, not just locally but all over the world due to D.C.'s tourists taking knowledge home about how to treat animals and the environment.

How long have you been a volunteer at the Zoo?

Five years!

What is your favorite Zoo animal story?

Keepers at the Zoo recorded cases of parthenogenesis in reptiles not previously seen before.

What is your conservation passion?

Conservation of animals not usually regarded as "cute!" For example, Cuban crocodiles are critically endangered, and they are really wonderful animals who are important to their ecosystem. But they're not as publicly advocated for as some mammals who are a little less toothy!

Zoo Aide Cindy

What is your favorite Zoo animal or exhibit?

It changes all the time. I love the wallabies and our new joey.

What is your favorite thing about volunteering at the Zoo?

Being around the animals. It’s always new, interesting and fun.

How long have you been a volunteer at the Zoo?

Wow, 18 years! Doesn’t feel that long! I worked one year at the Elephant House and the last 17 at Small Mammal House. Working at the Zoo is just fun — everyone should do it!

What is your favorite Zoo animal story?

I was inside cleaning the Geoffrey’s marmoset exhibit (when we had five females). I was wearing hair combs to pull my hair back and suddenly felt one of the combs moving in my hair. I thought the keeper I was working with nearby was behind me and maybe they had moved it, but when I turned around, one of the marmosets was behind me holding my hair comb in her hand! She was really intrigued by the comb and color, and licked it to check it out. She quickly realized it wasn’t that interesting, so she threw the comb down on the ground — she was done with that!

What is your conservation passion?

Getting others to see the beauty and wonder of our Zoo animals so they will be inspired to protect all animals and the habitats they live in. It really starts with the children — they understand.

Zoo Aide and Interpreter Yvonne

What is your favorite Zoo animal or exhibit?

Great Cats

What is your favorite thing about volunteering at the Zoo?

Being around so many wonderful people who work at the Zoo, and also being with the animals. I am very proud to be a Zoo volunteer.

How long have you been a volunteer at the Zoo?

3 1/2 years

What is your favorite Zoo animal story?

The first time Pavel, the Amur tiger, chuffed at me — I was so proud he had accepted me.

Editor’s note: A tiger’s “chuff” vocalization is a friendly social greeting.

What motivated you to volunteer at the Zoo?

Being asked if the big cats ate salad ... from an adorable 5-year-old.

What is your conservation passion?

Saving endangered species!

 

Thank you to all our volunteers — we couldn’t save species without you! Interested in joining the volunteer program? Check the volunteer page when the Zoo reopens for information on how to become a volunteer. In the meantime, show your support from home by following us on social media with #NatZooZen, tuning in to the live animal webcams or making a donation today.