Primate Animal Keeper Internship

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute provides the opportunity for interns to gain experience in the zookeeping 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, small 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 Sciences - Primates. Through this internship, interns will:

  • Learn alongside professional animal care staff basic animal husbandry, 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 about the principles of animal enrichment and put those into practice by preparing and presenting enrichment to the entire primate collection in species-appropriate ways
  • Learn about the principles of operant conditioning and positive reinforcement.  Put principles into practice by training animals for medical care or educational demonstrations
  • 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 to complete during the internship
  • Present a short summary of the project to Primate staff at the end of the internship
  • Gain a significant understanding of primate behavior through observation and development of ethograms to quantify natural behaviors
  • Gain skills in resume building, cover letter writing, interviewing, and other forms of professional development.


  • Applicants must be at least a junior in college and currently pursuing or have a bachelor’s degree in a related field
  • Ability to commit to a regular schedule, 3 days a week (including one weekend day), 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, COVID vaccination 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 their 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

Fall session (September to December 2024). Specific dates are dependent on applicant and department schedules.

Application deadline(s)



Internship Category

Animal Programs

How to Apply

To apply, go to: 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.