10 Best U.S. Zoo Internships

Annual Animal Stocktake At London Zoo
••• Carl Court / Getty Images

Zoo careers tend to be difficult to obtain, so it is always wise to gain as much experience as possible before pursuing a full-time position. Future zoo keepers, zoologists, and zoo educators should consider a zoo internship to add strength to their resumes. Here is a sampling of available opportunities:

  1. The Denver Zoo (in Colorado) offers zoo keeper internships with birds, hoofstock, carnivores, primates, and fish or reptiles. The zoo also has a sea lion/seal program. Students are exposed to animal care, training, diet preparation, habitat maintenance, record keeping, and behavioral observation. The internships are open to college students studying biology, zoology, or a related field. While some internships are paid (at a rate of $9 to $11 per hour), many are unpaid.
  2. The Cincinnati Zoo (in Ohio) offers animal keeper internships during their summer session. Interns are involved with diet preparation, exhibit maintenance, observing behavior, and shadowing experienced keepers as they complete their duties. Opportunities are available with manatees, rhinos and hoof stock, amphibians, elephants, giraffes, primates, reptiles, and birds. Internships are unpaid and require an 8:00 am to 3:30 pm schedule over a five-day work week (with some weekend days required).
  1. The Fossil Rim Wildlife Center (in Texas) offers animal care internships with carnivores (primarily wolves), black rhinos, and birds. Duties include diet preparation, feeding, habitat maintenance, assisting with some veterinary procedures, maintaining records, and completing an independent project. Housing and a stipend are available.
  2. The International Exotic Animal Sanctuary (in Texas), the first sanctuary certified by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, offers either three or six-month internships. Duties include feeding, behavioral observation, habitat construction and maintenance, record keeping, health management, and educational presentations. Applicants must have completed at least two years of college in a zoology related major or have three years of experience at another AZA-certified facility. Interns receive free housing, use of a vehicle, and a weekly stipend. 
  1. The Conservators’ Center (in North Carolina) offers wildlife keeper internships where students can work primarily with carnivores (such as tigers and other big cats). Interns shadow experienced keepers and learn to perform duties such as food preparation, cleaning enclosures, transporting animals, providing behavioral enrichment, keeping veterinary records, and utilizing physical or chemical capture techniques. Intensive summer internships involve a five-day work week (from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm) and the center can assist interns with finding local housing if needed. Spring and fall internships require a commitment of 16 hours per week.
  1. The Kentucky Reptile Zoo internship program offers interns the chance to work at a well-known herpetology center for three month periods. Students will handle snakes and other reptiles, give educational speeches to visitors and complete an independent research project. College students, or recent graduates, from an area of the biological sciences are given preference during the application process. Housing and a small weekly stipend are provided.
  2. The Duke Lemur Center (in North Carolina) offers an unpaid animal husbandry internship that allows interns to work with over 250 animals, primarily lemurs but also other species such as bushbabies and lorises. Intern duties include daily care, cleaning, diet preparation, assisting with behavioral and veterinary work, and recordkeeping. Summer internships run for an eight-week period and require a five-day work week, including one weekend day. Housing is not provided.
  1. The Big Cat Rescue internship (in Florida) allows interns to gain experience working with lynx, bobcats, servals, ocelots, and more during the introductory internship. After completion of level one, students may move on to work with tigers, lions, leopards, and cougars. The level 1 internship is unpaid and lasts 12 weeks, with interns working five to six days per week. Free housing is provided. Level 2 (cougars) and level 3 (lions, tigers, leopards) interns receive a small stipend.
  2. The Black Pine Animal Sanctuary (in Indiana) offers two internships: the Exotic Animal Care Internship and the Primates & More Internship. Animals on site include ostriches and emus, parrots, lions, tigers, cougars, bobcats, primates, reptiles, and bears. No housing or stipend is available, but college credit is possible.
  1. The Mystic Aquarium (in Connecticut) offers many internship possibilities in sea lion husbandry, pinniped husbandry, beluga whale husbandry, penguin husbandry, and more. Interns are involved in a hands-on capacity with tasks such as feeding, performing habitat cleaning activities, behavioral enrichment, training, record keeping, and assisting with veterinary procedures. Internships are open to current college students or recent graduates. While these opportunities are unpaid, college credit is possible.

    If none of the ten opportunities above are what you are looking for, there are other opportunities on the animal-related internship sites marine animal internships and wildlife rehabilitation internships.