If you’ve been to the Zoo, you have likely noticed, been greeted by or had a discussion with someone in a bright coral shirt. We have a whopping 691 active volunteers at the Zoo who contribute their time to further our mission of wildlife conservation through education and participation.
Our volunteers are integral to the daily operations of the Zoo, and not just for the reasons that are visible. Though many work out in the open handling animals or answering questions, there are over 50 different assignments that volunteers can choose to do! Each assignment fills some essential need to operate our facility, and some are more unusual than others.
We’ve highlighted some of the most unique volunteer assignments here at the Zoo:
We have 23 volunteers who work in the commissary alongside staff making diets for our animals. They use the freshest ingredients to create tasty dishes for more than 900 animals who call the Zoo home. This includes making yummy birthday cakes!
Animal Enrichment Team Member
Fifty-eight volunteers come together twice a month to create fun and tasty enrichment items for our animals. Enrichment items encourage the animals to express natural behaviors by stimulating their minds and bodies! This includes anything that the animals can touch, smell, eat or climb on and are generally made out of household materials.
Sea Turtle Healing Center Volunteer
You may have heard about our Sea Turtle Healing Center, located in a behind-the-scenes area of the Zoo. The Healing Center takes in sick or injured sea turtles and rehabilitates them with the goal of releasing the animals back into the ocean. Eighty-two volunteers dedicate their time to this cause, making diets, cleaning tanks, creating enrichments, assisting with intakes and more.
Mangrove Care Volunteer
As you may know, Florida is home to three species of mangroves: red, black and white. These plants are vital to the Indian River Lagoon, as they provide food and habitat for fish, stabilize the shorelines, filter toxins and store carbon dioxide. Here at the Zoo, we house all three species, many of which are located in the habitats and cared for by staff members. However, there are mangroves located in a behind-the-scenes area that are maintained by around 20 volunteers! They donate 15 minutes of their time to water the plants twice a day.
Landscaping Crew Assistant
Nineteen volunteers donate their time to keeping the Zoo beautiful! They do anything from planting flowers to removing branches or maintaining mulch. We are lucky to have these volunteers who are willing to get their hands dirty to help us look good.
Perdido Key Beach Mice Volunteer
Our conservation team has a behind-the-scenes program that is dedicated to building a healthy, genetically diverse population of endangered Perdido Key beach mice. Participating in this program are 20 volunteers, who help feed the mice, weigh them and clean out their tanks, among other tasks.
WDTA Animal Handler Keeper’s Aid
Inside our Wildlife Detective Training Academy live several dozen critters including small mammals, snakes, lizards, tortoises and amphibians. Seven volunteers spend their time at the Zoo making special diets for these animals, cleaning their tanks and enclosures and handling the animals.
On top of these specific assignments, there are also five volunteers who work in the offices here, assisting employees with administrative tasks. Hundreds of our volunteers also dedicate their time to work our special events like Boo at the Zoo, Jazzoo, Cold-Blooded Weekend and Safari Under the Stars.
We appreciate each and every person who volunteers their time at the Zoo, whether that job is out in the open or behind the scenes. Every volunteer provides an essential skill or task that contributes to making the Zoo the best it can be for animals and guests alike.