My name is Angelea McPartlin and I am a recent graduate of Skidmore College. While at Skidmore I majored in Biology and Environmental Studies with a minor in anthropology. While living at home in Westchester County, New York, I am interning at LEO Zoological Conservation Center in Greenwich Connecticut. LEO is an off-exhibit breeding facility for rare and endangered species. While there is opportunity for group tours and events, the facility is not open to the public. I am 1 of the 5 Shadow Zookeeping interns at LEO this summer. Fortunately, while the others complete their internships in August, I will be staying on at LEO for an additional 3 months thanks to the Post-Grad funding I was awarded from Skidmore. During this time, I will be able to work with many of the animals at LEO – gaining valuable experience caretaking for the species in my section.
I started my internship working primarily with primates, including orangutans, colobus monkeys, siamang and white-handed gibbons. The keeper I am pared with and I are tasked with daily care of the animals and the maintenance of their enclosures. Examples of our tasks include diet and enrichment preparation and cleaning of their “bedrooms.” We are responsible for monitoring behaviour and health of our animals, and do all we can to make their lives comfortable. My favourite part of this section is the enrichment, where we create different things to mentally stimulate the animals. Whether it be introducing new smells, new toys, new structures of providing food enrichment, there are many ways to provide fun for the animals. For example, we provide a daily forage to make the orangutans look for their food as they would in the wild. Another great aspect is training, were the animals learn commands (such as displaying a foot) using juice to positively reinforce their behaviour. These animals are very intelligent, and it is really interesting to be so close to them on a regular basis.
Now, approximately a month and a half into the internship, I am split between working with the primates and with another section. The animals in this new section include giant ant eater, lowland tapir, Bactrian camels, bongo and sulcate tortoises. I have similar daily tasks with these species (cleaning, feeding, enrichment, etc.) and very much enjoy the ability to work with such different animals. My favourite part of this section is the regular care for a baby Bactrian camel named Leia. She has a very strong personality, is very active and is highly entertaining to play with. While I am unsure of what I might be doing in the coming months of this internship, I hope to work with other animals at LEO, such as cheetah, giraffe, penguins and aardvarks.
Thanks to the Career Development Center at Skidmore, I was able to secure funding for a dream internship that I would otherwise have been unable to commit to. Working 5 days a week and rendering me unable to continue my full-time job at an animal hospital, being unpaid for 6 months would have likely prevented me from pursuing my masters in Wildlife Conservation next fall and would have put me very far behind on my student loans. I greatly appreciate the opportunity this funding provided, as the work I am doing now puts me in a great position for applying to jobs in conservation in the future.