By: Jenny Gregory
Cleveland, Ga. – For most zoo patrons, the thought of working behind the scenes with the animals is simply a dream. For biology major Kayla Weeks, that dream became a reality during her summer break interning for Zoo Atlanta.
“I wanted to do an internship over the summer that involved working with animals,” the junior shared. She applied for a Zoo Atlanta internship program and began her placement in May.
Behind the scenes
“At the beginning,” Weeks said, “I was given a check-off list with the things I had to know. Every time a zookeeper would show me how to clean an enclosure or how to properly handle an animal, they would write their initials.” Once the supervisor felt confident that Kayla could safely perform the task, she was free to work independently. “Safety is very important at Zoo Atlanta,” she said.
Weeks began each work day by cleaning enclosures and feeding the animals. She also had the opportunity to take certain animals out of their enclosure to allow visitors to experience them up close while educating them about the animals.
“When it came to the demonstrations,” Weeks said, “I played a role in the show for most of the summer, and toward the end of the summer, they let me host three shows by myself which was challenging, but a huge blessing.”
While Kayla cared for a variety of animals, her favorite was Ramsay, a Woma Python. “The reason I love this snake,” Weeks shared, “is because he is a large snake – about four to five feet in length – and has the most beautiful coloring.”
She went on to say he was a peculiar snake. “A little off,” as she explained. “Woma Pythons are aggressive in nature, but since birth, Ramsay has been very docile and friendly.”
Weeks was able to face and overcome some of her insecurities during her internship at Zoo Atlanta. Speaking to the guests was intimidating at first. “I was very nervous and, honestly, scared for my first few [encounters],” she said. “But the more I spoke, the more confident I grew in answering the questions about the animals. I am an introverted person, and although I like to be out of my comfort zone because it grows my trust and faith in God, it’s also a very difficult thing to do.”
The job also allowed the young college student to understand the complexity and challenges of this career path. “Animals take a lot of work to care for properly. I had never taken care of an animal before, and just doing what I did for only four days a week was a lot more than I had imagined. But it was well worth the effort to keep those animals living happily.”
Weeks also shared how “God opened my eyes to the opportunity of telling people about the importance of animals in this world and how we should be better stewards over them.”
For her, the idea of providing care to these animals in a zoo setting is something she may aspire to do. “I’m not sure yet,” she says. “But I hope to experience other internships pertaining to the care and education of animals while still in college.”
Jenny Gregory is the Content Manager for Truett McConnell University.
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