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Bear vs. Peacock and other unexpected excitement from my Philadelphia Zoo internship

May 9, 2011

Nick Greif, former Internships.com intern and participant in the 2010 Intern Olympics, is a senior finance student at the University of Pennsylvania.

ZOOgreiflion Bear vs. Peacock and other unexpected excitement from my Philadelphia Zoo internship

Nick Greif, an intern for the Philadelphia Zoo, enjoys long walks near the lion's den.

By Nick Greif

I wasn’t sure what to expect on my first day as an Environmental Education and Animal Behavior intern at the Philadelphia Zoo. Whatever I’d expected, it certainly wasn’t Ben, our Asiatic black bear, catching and eating one of the zoo’s free roaming peacocks right in front of the glass that separates him from the zoo’s visitors. But that was exactly what happened.

You see, Ben had gotten a bit hefty and was on a veterinarian proscribed diet that apparently he felt wasn’t enough food for him. As it turned out, this wasn’t the only time Ben had done this, and he’s actually nabbed another in the last few months since my spring internship started. It’s a zoo, and these are wild animals, and wild animals occasionally eat other wild animals. All a part of the education I’ve been receiving as a zoo intern.

Of course, watching a large bear eat a peacock is not all I do at the zoo, and generally not what I do at all. What I do involves educating zoo visitors about the animals at the zoo, their habitats, and the environment in general. It also involves the occasional monitoring of certain animals of interest. For example, I’ve spent time watching, notating, and videoing the actions of two of our Canada lynx as they were exhibiting breeding behaviors and reporting that data back to the animals’ direct handlers. I’ve also spent time monitoring cheetahs in Africa via remote cameras to help researchers on the ground track and monitor their movements and actions.

This makes this a great internship for anyone looking to work in the fields of animal husbandry, veterinary studies, animal behavior, zoology, biology, ecology, environmental studies and a whole host of other majors.

As a business major and political science minor then, you might ask what on Earth I’m doing at the zoo.

As a business major and political science minor then, you might ask what on Earth I’m doing at the zoo. Fortunately, it is not just a great internship for people looking to enter a related field, but it is also a lot of fun and lets you hang around at the zoo all day and watch the animals at no cost. That’s why I do it, and I will miss it after I graduate in May and move on with my life.

Lastly, you may wonder how one goes about getting a zoo internship or an internship with an animal related company. Most zoos, aviaries and aquariums offer internships on their websites if they haven’t posted them on Internships.com. As for more lab-based work, your university (or a nearby university) is extremely likely to have a large number of research opportunities in the field available, and if not they will likely know of labs in the area who are looking for help.

Whatever you end up doing, just make sure you enjoy it. As for me, watching an Amur leopard roll around in the grass is exactly what I like, so the zoo has been a great place for me.

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