Tuesday, September 20th
Hey Zoo Atlanta fans! I’m Claire, a recent transplant to Georgia and an even more recent employee of this fabulous zoo! I moved to Atlanta from South Florida in May for my fourth elephant internship. I have always loved elephants. I fell in love as a 3-year-old at the Indianapolis Zoo. Any time I got the chance to see an elephant over the 23 years since then, I’ve jumped at the opportunity — be it locally at a zoo or across the world. I know I want to be with elephants as many days of my life as possible. This led me to move across the country twice for internships. I also sacrificed many weekends, driving three hours each way to volunteer with them in Florida. I had never been to Zoo Atlanta before my internship started, but there was no doubt in my mind it would be an amazing opportunity for growth. So I packed up and moved again … thank goodness I have such supportive parents!
I had an incredible summer working with Kelly and Tara, the Zoo’s gorgeous elephant girls, and I even learned to take care of new animal species (well, new to me): the meerkats and warthogs. I have absolutely fallen in love with Atlanta and the Zoo as a whole. Fast forward four months… I am now a seasonal keeper!! So, it’s with elephants, right? Wrong.
And this is where we talk about tunnel vision and actually achieving your dreams and goals. I’ve spent four years moving for unpaid internships, working my hands raw, applying for elephant jobs, and having my heart broken over rejections. Until I saw the inner workings of Zoo Atlanta, I lived in a bit of a naïve world. I thought eventually someone would see my potential and hire me to work with their elephants, despite not having a year of paid experience. I’ve realized that there are a few more steps between me and my dream than I originally thought, and I could not be more thankful for Zoo Atlanta for teaching me that.
I just finished my first week in Outback Station, learning about and taking care of naked mole rats, tanuki, kangaroos, and, of course, the petting zoo critters. I absolutely love it and cannot wait to go to work every day. I have had many moments that made me so proud of myself already. I’ve fallen in love with naked mole rats’ goofy behavior (sorry, Mom, I know you’ll never look at me the same!), gotten one-on-one time with kangaroos, and some of the petting zoo animals are finally realizing that I am a “safe person” who will give them food and a good scratching.
I was so focused on elephants, that I missed out on the joy of starting out with some of the smaller animals. I still want to be an elephant keeper more than anything, but now I am looking forward to all of the steps, the coworkers who will mentor me, and the various animals I need to learn from on my journey.
Thank you, Zoo Atlanta, for an amazing internship, your welcoming Zoo family, and for seeing my potential and giving me my first taste of what being a real zookeeper feels like. I cannot wait to stick around and get to know everyone at the Zoo better!
Seasonal Keeper, Outback Station