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Zoo Update from Director and CEO Denise M. Verret – August 2022

Rose-breasted cockatoos (or “galahs” as they are called when by their Aboriginal name) are native to Australia and used to the summer heat. Photo by Jamie Pham

It’s August, which means we are hosting nearly 900 Zoo Campers and are also taking our outreach programs to 36 parks throughout the City as part of the Recreation and Parks Summer Play L.A. program, where we are engaging over 1,000 campers.

It also means that the L.A. Zoo has launched its first-ever ten-week paid internship program for college students from over-excluded identities in Los Angeles. The program’s goal is to provide these students with the opportunity to work directly with industry professionals on projects in our Conservation, Learning & Engagement, and Animal Nutrition divisions. This year, the program has 14 remarkable interns engaging in real world, project-based learning and weekly professional development from their mentors. Here are some of the highlights of what each section is learning and working towards:

  1. Conservation: These interns have been learning field techniques, taking soil samples, learning about biodiversity and conservation, sound mapping, and studying signs of wildlife indications. Interns are practicing observational and record-keeping skills through habitat mapping and sampling plants from multiple transect quadrants while cataloging their GPS waypoints.
  2. Learning & Engagement: These interns are working with the Zoo’s Learning & Engagement team to facilitate its Migrant Education Program (MEP), which is coordinated by the LAUSD’s Beyond the Bell program and is designed for children who are the immediate family members of migratory workers; these children are given opportunities to experience new learning environments that enhance their social and cognitive development. Activities include hiking in Griffith Park, engaging with staff across the Zoo, and participating in animal keeper presentations and habitat design. The interns also visited Recreation & Parks sites throughout Los Angeles with the Zoo’s Community Outreach program, where they helped facilitate programming that encourages campers to spend time observing nature in their parks.
  3. Nutrition: This intern is working directly with the Zoo’s nutritionist to explore, plan, and prepare the meals of various animals at the Zoo, in addition to scoring the animals’ body condition. This intern also had an opportunity to join our animal health team for a laser therapy session with an orangutan and a foot treatment session for a tapir.

The inaugural paid internship program will conclude on August 18 and is the first of many programs to come, as the Zoo continues its ongoing commitment to equitably engage with the diverse communities of Los Angeles. We know that future conservationists and Zoo professionals will come from every corner of our city and beyond, and we’re excited to be a part of that journey.

Denise Verret posing with the giraffes
Denise M. Verret, Zoo Director and CEO Photo by Jamie Pham