Educational Adventures: Stretching to Connect Giraffes and People

New at the Zoo
July 6, 2018
We Are AZA
July 6, 2018

Patrick Wolff

Education specialists wear a lot of different hats and are among the first wave of Zoo staff to interact with guests. They conduct Zoo Camp sessions and sleepovers in addition to presenting the daily educational programming including the elephant care demonstration, the seal training demonstration, the flamingo experience, animal experiences at Muriel’s Ranch, and the giraffe feedings. Education Specialist Patrick Wolff has been facilitating giraffe feedings since they started in November 2016 and he enjoys helping people connect with the animals.


“Every day is a little bit different, which makes it fun for us and our guests because there is always something new to learn.”


“There’s a big difference between actually interacting with giraffes and watching nature shows about giraffes or even coming to the Zoo every week and watching them from a distance in the exhibit. It's a totally different ballgame,” he observes. “Visitors’ expectations can vary quite a bit, so an important part of our job is to interact with people in line and get them geared up so that they know what to expect when their turn comes. We also help with logistics to make the experience go smoothly. If people want photos, we know all the best angles and that frees them up to just enjoy the experience instead of trying to take a selfie while they're feeding because that takes away from making that connection with the animal.

Another aspect of his job is explaining some of the animal behaviors for different audiences, which can range from elementary school students or teenagers to adult couples. That can sometimes be a challenge. “For instance, a lot of people ask what's happening when our only adult male, Philip, is demonstrating mating behaviors,” Wolff explains. “A normal part of that is for him to taste the urine of the female to make sure that she is pregnant and if she is not, he will try and make that happen. We definitely hear a lot of interesting questions about that. Every day is a little bit different, which makes it fun for us and our guests because there is always something new to learn.”

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