These volunteers help Zoo visitors connect with the animals at hands-on Discovery Stations, interpret behavior, lead tours, and even handle and present small mammals, snakes and amphibians. Docents also assist with children’s programs, special events, observational research and conservation activities. Those interested in becoming Santa Barbara Zoo Docents can attend a free information meeting on either Thursday, November 1 at 5:30 p.m. or Saturday, November 3 at 1 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Online applications and more information are available at: click here.
No previous experience for Docents is required, but excellent communication and interpersonal skills are a must, points out Jessica Kam, the Zoo’s Volunteer Coordinator.
“Our ideal candidate not only loves animals,” she says, “but they need to be able to communicate with all ages, from toddlers to school-age children, teens, adults, parents and grandparents. They are our ambassadors for the animals and they not only educate, but inspire visitors about conservation of our natural world. They also have a lot of fun in the process!”
The process begins with filling out an online application (www.sbzoo.org) and attending one of the November meetings. Following that, candidates will receive the dates and times of the subsequent orientation, interviews and an in-depth 8-week training beginning in January 2013.
Zoo Docents are asked to volunteer two hours per week for at least six months, after completing their training. There are bi-monthly “Brown Bag” Docent lunches featuring speakers from the Zoo’s animal care staff and special guests. Field trips are taken to the locations of Zoo conservation programs and partnerships. For teens, Community Service credit is available for their service. There is a one-time fee of $100 for all Docents to cover training, educational and reference materials, Docent vest, and nametag.
“It is a two-way street or learning and teaching,” adds Kam, “The Docents are always learning more about our animals and sharing that knowledge with our guests.”
Docents enjoy various social events with other volunteers and zoo staff, continuing education classes, membership benefits — and the opportunity to share their knowledge and appreciation of animals and the natural world with others.
Hundreds of docents have donated their time and talents since the program began when the Zoo opened in 1963, and that tradition continues during its 50th anniversary year in 2013. The Santa Barbara Zoo is the tri-county region’s number one visitor destination and has more than 13,000 members. Visited by more than 450,000 guests per year, it is home to more than 80 different species of animals, including 15 endangered or threatened species.
For more information, contact Jessica Kam, Volunteer Coordinator at (805) 962-5339 ext. 153 or jkam@#sbzoo.org .