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Returning Zoo Crew

Returning Summer Zoo Crew

Returning teens who are back for a second (or third or fourth!) Zoo Crew program have a wider range of exciting options available to them, including the chance to work in animal care as a Junior Zookeeper, educate guests as a Naturalist, or continue to work with our Camp Zoofari program as a Camp Mentor.

Summer 2024 applications are open!

Apply now!

Applications for 2024 summer Returning Zoo Crew are now open and will close on March 8th at 11:59pm.

Three Summer Options

Naturalist

Teens will educate zoo guests about our animals and conservation actions they can take to protect animals in the wild.

  • Participants must commit to three full weeks during the summer. These weeks do not need to be consecutive.
  • Schedule will be Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Camp Mentor

Assist with our Camp Zoofari summer camp for kids.

  • Duties will include assisting with teaching lessons and crafts, monitoring and managing camper behavior, and being a mentor and role model to campers.
  • Participants must commit to three full weeks during the summer. These weeks do not need to be consecutive.
  • Schedule will be Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Junior Zookeeper

Teens will assist zookeepers with daily care of our animals including feeding, cleaning, and observing.

  • Age requirements and schedule depend on the animal section they are selected to work in.
  • Participants must commit to three full weeks during the summer.

Options for teens with one summer and for teens with at least two summers of prior Zoo Crew experience are listed below.

 

Junior Zookeeper options for teens with at least one summer of prior Zoo Crew experience:

Aquatics Junior Zookeeper (open to former Aquarium Junior Zookeepers only for 2024)

Zoo Crew in the Aquatics department will assist Aquarium, Penguin and Sea Lion Staff with the daily operation, including but not limited to cleaning,  diet preparation, exhibit maintenance, and guest enrichment and interaction through lively educational opportunities in the Zoo’s public spaces.

Schedule: Participants must be able to commit to three consecutive weeks during the summer. You will be scheduled Monday-Friday 6:30 AM – 3:00 PM.

Preferred Knowledge or Skills:

  • Previous experience in animal care
  • Team Oriented
  • Ability to listen well and follow directions
  • Willingness to try new things
  • Complete tasks to the best of their ability
  • Willingness to learn operant conditioning basics
  • Familiarity with interpretation and guest service

Birds Junior Zookeeper

In addition to learning about the husbandry of the animals in the Bird Department, Zoo Crew will learn about a variety of other subjects such as:

  • Natural history
  • Enrichment
  • Training
  • Animal observation
  • Conservation

Schedule: Participants must commit to three weeks during the summer. You will work Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Preferred Knowledge or Skills:

  • Ability to follow directions and listen well
  • Willingness to try new things
  • Hard work ethic

Wildlife Connections Junior Zookeeper

Proof of a negative tuberculosis test (TB skin test) is required for this position. 

Wildlife Connections is a large department with several different taxa under our care. The Wildlife Connections department was recently formed through the merging of the Children’s Zoo and Natural Encounters departments. We take care of the animals in these two areas of the zoo which includes mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. We have both large mammals like llamas and small mammals like monkeys. The same can be said for the variety of our birds and reptiles as well. Junior Zookeepers will learn and assist zookeepers in daily husbandry duties for many of these species. These duties include: 

  • Cleaning animal holding areas and exhibits. This task requires moving in and around animal furniture and propping. You may be asked to help feed and enrich our animals as well.  
  • Diet preparation 
  • Assisting and creating stimulating enrichment 
  • Observing and taking part in animal training with your zookeeper mentor 
  • Various projects: Propping, substrate changes, assembling animal related furniture and/or painting 
  • Assist with daily animal observations 
  • Assist with keeper talks, animal handling, and ensuring great guest experiences 

The Wildlife Connections Junior Zookeeper opportunity will include two different tracks. Junior Zookeepers will be placed in a track that sparks their interest by the zookeeper staff mentors. It is our hope that with these tracks in place, you will be able to focus and excel in the places you want to.  

  • Track 1 focuses on Ambassador Animals with some of the following areas: River’s Edge, Drylands, AAB Contact Area, and Farm. 
  • Track 2 will include Exhibit Animals in the following areas: Rainforest, Forest, Coastal Area, and Desert Prairie.  

Please note: Most of your day will be spent helping keepers with cleaning of exhibits, washing of dishes/enrichment, and other physically demanding projects. 

Schedule: Participants must commit to three weeks during the summer. You will be scheduled Monday-Friday. Hours will be 7:30am-3:30pm. 

Preferred knowledge or Skills: 

  • Relative animal experience
  • Team oriented
  • Public speaking experience
  • Good listening skills
  • Responsible
  • Outgoing 

Hoofstock Junior Zookeeper

Proof of negative tuberculosis (TB skin test) is required for this position.

Hoofstock Zoo Crew will be assisting with daily tasks throughout the department. This can include, but may not be limited to:

  • Animal husbandry; cleaning exhibits/holding areas, preparing diets, providing enrichment, and animal observation
  • Work projects; sweeping, raking, moving substrate, and organizing off exhibit areas
  • Ethogram observation and data collection
  • Guest interaction and keeper chats

Participants must commit to three weeks during the summer. You will be scheduled Monday-Friday 7 a.m. – 3 p.m., however, during some weeks you may not be scheduled for a full week depending on Hoofstock staff availability. Please indicate all your available weeks on your application.

Preferred Knowledge or Skills:

  • Safety conscious
  • Willingness to try new things
  • Hard work ethic

Junior Horticulturist

Zoo Crew will assist the Horticulture staff in all areas of the zoo, while learning about general plant care and the interaction between plants and animals. Tasks vary widely depending on weather and support for other departments, however, a few of the tasks that can be expected are:

  • Mulching
  • Weeding
  • Pruning
  • Planting
  • Collecting and distributing browse

There are several specialty areas of horticulture that Zoo Crew will have an opportunity to learn about, including care of the living wall, carnivorous plants, pollinator gardening, greenhouse and nursery plant care, container plantings, and browse for the animal departments.

Participants must be at least 16 years old and commit to three weeks during the summer. You will be scheduled weekdays 6 a.m. – 11 a.m., however, during some weeks you may not be scheduled for a full week depending on Horticulture staff availability. Please indicate all your available weeks on your application. Because of the early start, you must have access to reliable transportation.

Preferred Knowledge or Skills:

  • Safety conscious
  • Willingness to try new things
  • Hard work ethic

Natural Encounters Junior Zookeeper

Proof of negative tuberculosis (TB skin test) is required for this position.

Natural Encounters Zoo Crew will learn and assist keepers in daily husbandry duties. Which include:

  • Cleaning animal holding areas and exhibits. This task requires moving in and around animal furniture and propping.
  • Diet preparation
  • Assisting and creating stimulating enrichment
  • Various projects: Propping, substrate changes, assembling animal related furniture and/or painting.
  • Assist with daily animal observations
  • Help with keeper chats and ensure great guest experiences

Schedule: Participants must commit to three weeks during the summer. You will be scheduled Monday-Friday 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Preferred Knowledge or Skills:

  • Safety conscious
  • Willingness to try new things
  • Hard work ethic

Additional Junior Zookeeper options if you have at least two summers of prior Zoo Crew experience:

Carnivores Junior Zookeeper

Carnivores Junior Zookeeper 

Zoo Crew in the Carnivore Department will assist Carnivore staff with daily operations, including but not limited to the following:

  • Exhibit maintenance and cleaning
  • Preparing diets and observing/assisting in feeding
  • Planning and implementing enrichment activities for collection animals
  • Performing animal observations
  • Observing animal training sessions
  • Assisting in answering guest questions during formal and informal presentations
  • Participating in various work projects

Participants must be at least 16 years old. Due to the nature of working around dangerous animals in the Carnivore department, Zoo Crew will be expected to have a high degree of maturity and focus.  There will be no expectation of touching any animals in the collection at any time and Zoo Crew will be expected to follow all directions from the animal keeper staff.

Schedule: Participants must commit to three weeks during the summer. You will be scheduled 3 days per week Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. – 12 p.m

Preferred Knowledge or Skills:

  • At least one summer of experience in another Junior Zookeeper position
  • Experience with heavy cleaning, including scrubbing, hosing and raking
  • Ability to take instruction, follow directions well and receive constructive feedback
  • Attention to detail and focus
  • Ability to limit personal distractions and remain quiet when directed

Elephants Junior Zookeeper

Proof of negative tuberculosis (TB skin test) is required for this position.

Zoo Crew in the Elephant Department will assist Elephant staff with daily operations, including but not limited to cleaning and diet preparation. Zoo Crew should be prepared for:

  • Spending the majority of the day in extreme weather, especially heat/humidity.
  • Strenuous physical labor including raking, shoveling, sweeping, and hosing, at times exceeding 1 hour.
  • Learning basic information about elephants and elephant husbandry.
  • Helping to create enrichment items and putting them in yards/barns.
  • Observing and taking notes on elephant behavior.
  • Interaction with zoo guests.
  • Speaking on microphone to present at least one keeper chat.

Due to the nature of working around wild animals, Zoo Crew will have limited interaction with elephants over the course of their program. Zoo Crew exhibiting situational awareness, good judgment, and good work ethic may earn the opportunity to interact with elephants at end of their program commitment, with staff permission.

Schedule: Participants must commit to three consecutive weeks during the summer. You will be scheduled Mondays-Fridays 7 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., however, during some weeks you may not be scheduled for a full week depending on Elephant staff availability. Please indicate all your available weeks on your application.

Preferred Knowledge or Skills:

  • Experience with hard physical labor is ideal (mucking out barn stalls, 4H, etc).
  • Able to take instruction.
  • Ability to work independently once provided with instruction.

Primates Junior Zookeeper

Proof of negative tuberculosis (TB skin test) is required for this position.

Primates Junior Zookeepers will work shadow primate keepers. They will assist keepers with the following tasks:

  • Cleaning cages
  • Observing training
  • Helping to create daily enrichment.
  • Assisting with animal behavior observations

Participants must be able to commit to three weeks during the summer. You will be scheduled Monday-Friday 7 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Preferred Knowledge or Skills

  • Ability to follow direction and listen well
  • Strong animal observation skills and awareness of safety around dangerous animals

Returning Zoo Crew Program Fees

  • Summer only: $200
  • Year-Round: additional $250

Applications

Apply now!

Applications for 2024 summer Returning Zoo Crew are now open and will close on March 8th at 11:59pm.

 

Accommodations & Accessibility

We believe there should be no boundaries to the Zoo Crew experience. Teens of all abilities are welcome to join, and all participants receive thorough training and mentoring while in the program.

The Zoo Crew experience includes:

  1. Exploring Zoo grounds, which has varying smells, light, noise, and temperature levels
  2. Maneuvering on uneven terrain
  3. Spending up to 2 hours at a time outdoors, sometimes in a stationary location
  4. Engaging with Zoo guests in a friendly and respectful manner
  5. Keeping track of time, following a schedule, and working with minimal supervision
  6. Working collaboratively with fellow teens and Zoo staff and volunteers
  7. Maintaining a positive attitude and conducting yourself in a professional manner while on Zoo grounds
  8. Adhering to Zoo Crew policies and procedures

Our goal is to set up all teens and staff for success. To help us provide the best possible experience, please inform us of all special considerations prior to participation. This may include information on allergies, accessibility concerns, behavioral, psychological or emotional conditions as well as any other special needs. Please contact us at teenprograms@houstonzoo.org or 713-533-6567 to make an accommodation request. We are happy to work with households to make Zoo Crew accessible to teens with varying needs. We are, however, unable to provide one-on-one support or supplementary services.

You can view a recording of the 2024 information session here.

Check out our Adventure Programs for more ways for teens to get involved with the Houston Zoo!

Adventure Programs

Questions? Email us at teenprograms@houstonzoo.org or call us at 713-533-6567