The zoo is open! All visitors will require free entry passes and be required to follow safety measures. Free timed-entry Asia Trail/Panda Passes are required for the giant panda viewing.

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Education Interpreters: Elephant Trails

The Smithsonian's National Zoo’s Elephant Trails exhibit is currently seeking volunteers to be education interpreters. Interpreters at Elephant Trails play an important role in enhancing the experience of Zoo visitors by introducing them to the Zoo’s Asian elephants, sharing animal and conservation stories, answering questions, and engaging visitors in activities using biological objects and artifacts.

Education interpreters learn about the elephants, their natural history, ecology and species conservation stories, as well as the conservation work of Smithsonian animal care staff and researchers, so they can share this information through conversations with Zoo visitors.

Volunteers will also learn about the first-class animal husbandry and medical care of this species, based on decades of Smithsonian elephant research at the Zoo and in native habitats.

In order to be considered, you must be able to make a year’s commitment to the program and must be able to work three three-hour shifts each month. Shifts are available both weekdays and weekends from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 1-4 p.m. For the first year, a minimum of one shift per month must be in the afternoon. Additionally, you must be able to attend monthly evening meetings the second Tuesday night of most months and support exhibit-related special events.

Age Range: 




Special qualifications: 

A strong interest in Asian elephants and their conservation, and the desire and ability to talk with a wide variety of people is required. Volunteers will be on their feet, indoors and outdoors, for three hours and must be able to tolerate the extremes of Washington, D.C., weather.


Training consists of both classroom and online sessions beginning in early March. You must be able to attend all four of the in-person training dates on March 8, 19, 26 and 29. Weekend sessions are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and weekend sessions are from 6-9 p.m.


Washington DC





Contact phone: 


Additional information: 

These positions are highly competitive, and there are limited spaces available. Once you have submitted an application, you will be called to set up an interview. Submission of an application is not a guarantee of placement. The Smithsonian Institution and FONZ are committed to providing the safest environment for our staff and volunteers, as well as for our guests.

Applicants must schedule an interview, and those that are provisionally accepted must pass a Smithsonian background check, which includes fingerprinting, as a requirement for approval as an exhibit interpreter prior to beginning to volunteer.