How did you first become involved with the Junior Museum & Zoo (JMZ)?
I had been familiar with the JMZ for a few years and really wanted to volunteer here, but unfortunately had too many other commitments. One of those commitments was working as a wildlife rehabilitator at the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley.
One day a baby raccoon (Loki) with a severely damaged eye was brought into the wildlife center. He was clearly unreleasable. I knew that Rob Steele, JMZ Zoo Director, was looking for a raccoon and this baby was the perfect candidate. After Loki moved to the JMZ, I visited him when I could and soon was drawn into helping socialize young African straw bats. I was enchanted and so began my regular volunteer work here.
I find the JMZ a wonderful balance to my work at the wildlife hospital where we deliberately have no relationship with the animals in our care and try very hard to keep them wild so they can be released. At the zoo I can get to know the animals with their quirks and interesting personalities. The staff is so caring and compassionate.
What’s a typical day like when you volunteer at the JMZ?
My main focus at the zoo is helping with animal enrichment. On a typical day the first stop is the bat cave where I talk to the bats, give them treats, and work on gaining their trust. My next stop is Olive the Western screech owl. I have been one of Olive’s handlers for five years now. She loves being on the glove and coming out to meet visitors.
After that I spend time with Edward the tortoise and the raccoons. The rest of my time is spent helping feed various animals, giving extra attention to whichever animal needs it, and talking to visitors.
In your opinion, what’s the most important work the JMZ does?
Our most important task is to educate children about animals and teach them to respect them. Not all children will be lucky enough to see animals in the wild. As more wildlife lose their habitat, instilling a love of animals in the children is an investment for the future. They are the ones who will make sure there are preserved places for them to live.
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering at the JMZ?
Other than working as a rehabber at the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, I sing at nursing homes with a choir, and am a master gardener. In my “free time” I love being in nature, spending time with friends, and traveling to exotic places.
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