By BRIANNA HARMON
Growing up, I always wanted to work around animals. Now I’m living that reality at the Dallas Zoo.
The magic of the zoo seems to fade as you get older.
You start to resent the zoo because it seems ridiculous to go to stare at caged animals.
I know this because I was one of those people.
For me, the magic of seeing animals never faded, but I resented the fact that all these animals were being locked up.
But I’ve learned that zoos are more than display cages for wild creatures.
To me, the Dallas Zoo’s conservation efforts are the best in the nation.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International mission is to conserve and protect gorillas and their habitats in Africa.
The fund has established multiple education, health and economic projects with local government agencies, universities, nongovernmental organizations and communities that will share the ecosystems.
The fund’s goal is to protect gorillas and empower Africans to conserve their natural resources.
We have a cheetah named Winspear who is an ambassador for his species.
The catch is that he lives with his “brother,” a black lab named Armani, 24/7. Winspear and Armani travel all over North Texas to spread the word about how to help cheetahs in the wild.
Cheetahs are naturally shy, and labs not so much. I feel like labs have the “everyday is the best day in the world” attitude.
With Armani having that attitude it makes Winspear feel safe.
I have always gotten a “Night at the Museum” feel when thinking about the zoo, the whole idea that once the zoo closes, all the animals were set free to explore.
The Dallas Zoo makes that a reality. The Giants of the Savannah exhibit, which opened in 2010, provides a interactive experience with the animals.
The Savanna is home to the elephants, zebras, giraffes, ostriches, lions, warthogs, red river hogs, guinea fowls and cheetahs.
The exhibit was named a top 10 zoo exhibit by USA today in 2015.
When money became an issue for me over the summer, I began searching for a second job.
One day on campus, I saw a recruitment table for the Dallas Zoo.
I applied even though I thought it would be a long shot.
The day I got hired, I felt like all my childhood dreams came true.
I work guest services at the zoo, and we handle the ticket booths, carousel, lorikeets, bird’s landing and the giraffe feeding platform.
I have now been working at the zoo for four months, and it’s been a crazy adventure.
I will never forget the first day I got to work with giraffes. Being my favorite animal, it was so cool to get to work hands-on with them at the feeding platform.
When the day was over and we were waiting for the keepers to come shift the giraffes back to the barn, I grabbed my phone and a bucket of lettuce and FaceTimed my mom. I spent the next 20 minutes on the phone with my mom as I fed the giraffe.
Everytime I have a moment that I can call my mom while I’m working at the zoo I call her.
My first “dollar day,” I had never faced more disrespect.
Some guests were willing to do whatever it took to get a closer look at the animals or, in some cases, were just blatantly rude.
But like with every job, there are ups and downs, and working at the zoo, the ups are always greater than the downs.
Seeing the personal interactions guests can have with the animals is amazing.
The guests’ faces just glow when a giraffe walks right up to them for food.
The keepers clearly love the animals. Even though I’m not a keeper, I have opportunities to work with the animals firsthand as well.
The Dallas Zoo is a family-oriented place for visitors, but it’s also a very family-oriented place for employees. I have grown as a person in my short time there and met some unique people.
The zoo broke their attendance record for the seventh year in a row, There was a 4.4 percent increase over last year’s record. Key factors to the increase in guests is the overwhelming public support of a airlift rescue of elephants from Swaziland that were to be killed. Also the birth of a new calf, Ajabu, in May to rescued elephant Mlilo.