Beginning Jan. 18, 2022, the Zoo is open Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Entry passes are required for all guests, including infants. All visitors ages 2 and older are required to wear a mask in all indoor spaces at the Zoo, regardless of their vaccination status. Fully vaccinated visitors do not need to wear a mask in outdoor areas. Select animal buildings remain closed.

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Primate Animal Keeper Internship

This internship has closed. To see open and upcoming opportunities, visit the internships page.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo provides the opportunity for interns to gain experience in the zoo keeping field by participating in daily animal keeper activities, including animal husbandry, nutrition, enrichment, training and visitor education. The Primate Department, which features a variety of great apes, lesser apes, monkeys and lemurs, is seeking applicants for consideration.

Learning Objectives: 

This is an unpaid internship opportunity wherein the intern will support the Department of Animal Programs, Primates. Through this internship, interns will:

  • Learn basic animal husbandry alongside professional animal care staff, including cleaning exhibits, preparing food and enrichment activities, assisting with environmental enhancements, principles of operant conditioning and behavioral husbandry, and interpretation of animal behavior
  • Learn formal and informal interpretive educational programs for visitors
  • Understand and follow animal/keeper safety guidelines, operations and polices
  • Learn USDA and AZA guidelines, NZP directives, procedures and protocols, and other related literature
  • Develop a project revolving around primate behavior and enrichment to complete during the internship
  • Present a short summary of the project to Primate staff at the end of the internship
  • Learn to research and create new enrichment for the Zoo's primate residents, which include gorillas, orangutans, gibbons and lemurs. All enrichment must fall within established safety guidelines for each species and behavioral observations will be essential in order to evaluate the effectiveness of new enrichment.
  • Gain experience in all aspects of scientific research, including literature review, study design, data collection, data analysis and formal presentation
  • Gain a significant understanding of primate behavior through observation and development of ethograms to quantify natural behaviors
  • Applicants must be at least a junior in college and currently pursuing or have a bachelor’s degree in a related field
  • Experience in conducting behavioral research and knowledge of research techniques preferred but not required
  • Ability to commit to a regular schedule, three days a week, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Ability to work both independently and in a team environment with staff and volunteers
  • Professional and self-motivated
  • Must enjoy working outdoors in all weather conditions and be in good physical condition (able to stand for long periods of time, stoop, climb and lift at least 50 pounds)
  • Upon acceptance, interns will be required to provide documentation of a current (within three months) negative TB test and tetanus. Accepted interns must also pass a background check.
This is an unpaid internship. College credit is offered if desired; intern is responsible for obtaining necessary approvals from their university. Intern will be responsible for all transportation costs and personal health insurance.
Washington DC
The intern will make his or her own housing arrangements in the Washington, D.C., area.
The Smithsonian's National Zoo and the Smithsonian Institution do not provide free parking to interns.
Term of appointment: 

Spring Session (January– May) will last approximately 4 months

Application deadline(s): 
Friday, December 3, 2021
Internship Category: 
Animal Programs
How to Apply: 

To apply, go to: solaa.si.edu and select "New to SOLAA? Create Account Here."

Information that will be requested (in SOLAA) includes:

  • Basic personal information
  • Professional Resume or CV
  • One-page statement of your interest in pursuing this position. The statement should mention relevant experience, career goals, your reasons for wanting this internship and what you hope to gain from the experience. Your statement is very important during application evaluations.
  • Transcripts from your current and/or previous institutions. Unofficial transcripts are acceptable.
  • Two letters of reference, including at least one academic reference.
  • Schedule of availability.

Once you create your account and provide the information above, you will see a screen where you select the type of appointment you are interested in. You will select:

  • Type of appointment: “Internship”
  • Unit of interest: “National Zoological Park”
  • Program: “National Zoological Park Internship Program”
  • Project: “Rock Creek-Primates”

Important: Your application is considered complete when you hit “Submit.” Your SOLAA submitted application with references must be received by the deadlines as noted above.

For Additional Information

Questions about this internship should be sent to Emily Bricker.