My name is Rowan Schomburg and I am a rising senior double majoring in English and Biology. This summer I’ve had the opportunity to explore my passion for animal conservation with an internship at the Philadelphia Zoo.
My responsibilities ranged from day to day, and I enjoyed coming in and knowing I would be working with different animal teams and conservation education staff. This experience has furthered my passion for animal conservation and animal welfare. I was able to learn about every facet of zoo operations. Every day there was something different for me to observe and learn. I am a part of the nutrition team, so we prepare daily meals for each animal depending on diets, medication, and browse (branches, leaves, bamboo shoots, and vegetables we grow at our farm). Each animal has a very specific diet and allotted caloric intake to ensure the animal is as healthy and happy as possible. I really enjoyed this behind the scenes work I got to do since not many visitors think about the effort to feed the 1,300 animals under our care.
The factor that drew me to the Philly Zoo was the work they do with endangered animals. Each animal department has breeding programs and species survival plans to help grow species population numbers. The Zoo also partners with many conservation organizations to help protect wild animals. The Philly Zoo was America’s First Zoo and home to many other firsts including the first to keep our flamingos pink, the first to successfully bred Golden Lion Tamarians and help bring their population number back from near extinction, the first to assist in efforts in saving the Rodrigues Fruit bat that was dangerously close to extinction, and we are home to the only Mhoor gazelle in North America and they are unfortunately extinct in the wild.
By being home to many rare species we have the opportunity to educate the public about these fascinating animals, so another one of my responsibilities was guest education. I would stand in front of an animal enclosure and do a “keeper chat” providing information about the animal and answering guests’ questions. The Philly Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, so animal care and animal welfare is of highest importance to zookeepers, curators, and the animal health team, and throughout the summer I would be assigned animal observation projects to assist the animal care teams in researching their animal’s behavior including Amur tigers, a giraffe family, a mongoose lemur family (that welcomed a baby mid-summer!), Western lowland gorillas, a white-handed gibbon family, and many others. The project that stands out is my observation of Tony, a southern white rhino, to determine what affects his body position in his habitat. I found the higher the noise level is on the path the more likely he would be turning away from guests due to his excellent hearing. Through this observation, I developed a fondness for him and became in tune with his likes and dislikes, he is extremely docile and lives with two female zebras (Susie and Laura), and he gets frightened by squirrels, birds, and even butterflies.
This internship was crucial for me to get experience with animals and explore the world of careers that work with animals.