Spending spring break at the zoo

A group of 10 animal-loving students spent their spring break volunteering at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida.

The trip was run by a Coastal Carolina University alumna and coordinator for civic and community engagement Leah Levert. Students spent three days at the zoo, taking care of a variety of animals and assisting the horticulture and education departments. The students were excited to be able to help animals in any way possible.

The students learned about how the zoo operates through a behind-the-scenes tour. The students spoke to zoo employees about potential internship opportunities and how to get started in environmental work. The group, which was diverse in year and major, shared a common passion for conservation.

“I wanted to see what it’s like to work in a zoo and share my love for the environment,” freshman marine science major Grace Hunter said.

According to Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ official website, the zoo has over 2,000 animals and 1,000 plant species. They are known for their Animal Wellness Team as they are one of very few zoos which has one. In 2017, they opened a Manatee Critical Care Center which helps rehabilitate and release injured manatees back into the wild.

The zoo’s vision is to inspire visitors to help preserve ecosystems by exposing visitors to animals they wouldn’t have a chance to see otherwise. According to their website, the zoo focuses on establishing a connection with nature for their visitors and making them feel empowered to create change.

Junior biology major Emily Fass said people becoming conscious of their actions can help sustain wildlife.

“Adding mutually beneficial practices to our routine like taking shorter showers, unplugging chargers, and learning to recycle properly can make a huge difference,” she said.

Many of the students hope to inspire more people to care about the environment in their future professions.