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.

Share this page:

Primate Education Interpreter

  • Orangutan

From lemurs to gorillas, primate education interpreters cover species and topics in the Great Ape House, Gibbon Ridge, Lemur Island and Think Tank. The unifying themes of this interpreter program are primates, their lifestyles and their cognitive abilities. The 440-foot-long O-line, which allows orangutans to travel between the Great Ape House and Think Tank, is also included in the scope of the Primate Interpreters.

Interpreters will learn about the natural history, conservation status and Zoo management of nine species of primates, as well as the brown rats (or Norway rats) and hermit crabs in Think Tank. They will also learn the individual histories of many of these animals and share all of this information with visitors in a largely conversational manner.

Think Tank is an exhibit about a process that cannot be seen but can be inferred from observing behavior: thinking. It explores the areas of tools, language and social living to determine if particular behaviors are thinking or non-thinking.

To be considered for this position, you must be able to make a year’s commitment to the program and 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 p.m. to 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 primate species and the themes of Think Tank, a desire and an ability to talk with a wide variety of people, and a tolerance for the extremes of Washington’s summer weather.


Training consists of both classroom and online sessions beginning the last week in August. You must be able to attend all four of the in-person training dates on Aug. 26 and Sept. 6 (evening), 20 (evening) and 23.


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.