Zoo crew

Future environmentalist goes behind the scenes at the zoo to get more experience


Mackenzie Gonzales

Junior and Zoo Crew member Alyssa Gonzales shows off a tiny moth. “I joined zoo crew because I have a passion for the environment,” Gonzales said. She plans on continue with Zoo Crew until she ages out of the program.

Mackenzie Gonzales, Cartoonist

People are scattered throughout the Henry Doorly Zoo enjoying a sunny summer day amongst animals. Amongst these visitors are teens who enjoy the zoo more than others. These teens can be found with pelts draped over their arms with small children crowding around them arms extended their hands buried in the soft fur of a Snow Leopard.

Each one of these students are a part of the Henry Doorly Zoo’s Zoo Crew; a volunteer group open to high school students, dedicated to teaching the public about the environment and all the animals that live there. They can be spotted sporting red, green, or blue shirts depending on their age with the zoo’s logo proudly displayed across the left breast. One proud Zoo Crew member is junior Alyssa Gonzales.

“I stumbled upon this volunteer program almost on accident,” Gonzales said. “It was only after I had not been accepted into the Zoo Academy through school that I went to the zoo’s website and found Zoo Crew under their volunteer tab.”

When Gonzales found this opportunity she jumped right on it and began discussing the idea with her parents.

“When Alyssa came to us about Zoo Crew we were a little hesitant,” mother Nicole Gonzales said. “I mean we had to pay $70 just so she could volunteer if she was accepted, but in the end we figured it would be good for her since it will giver her both volunteer hours for school and hands on experience for a possible career in the field she wants to study.”

As a zoo crew member it was Alyssa’s job to carry around pelts of various animals for visitors to pet and learn about. Some days she spent her time making enrichment items for the animals so that way they could exercise their brain and get a treat in the end. Other times these enrichment items are nothing but toys for the animals to toss, kick or throw around for fun. Alyssa is always armed with bio facts much like the other zoo crew members.

Not all of her days are spent wandering the zoo, though. Some days are spent ing the classroom either teaching or being taught new information about the animals housed at the zoo. Alyssa hopes to study Biology when she graduates. The environment is something she has been passionate about from a young age. 

“I plan to continue volunteer with Zoo Crew as it closely alines with what I want to do,” Alyssa said. “I hope to continue working with animals and the environment as a career. To me its an important subject that not too many people seem to care about.”

Alyssa plans to continue with Zoo Crew until she ages out of the program.