By Janet Hrezo, Brevard Center Staff
When Dave Friedland arrives at his internship site, he says “good morning” to Em, Joe and Brandi-Ann, the volunteers and staff at the Paws on Petting Zone at the Brevard Zoo. However, Ferdinand, Clarabelle and Chaplin prefer a scratch on the head or a pat on the rear. As part of the petting zoo crew, Dave’s “coworkers” include pygmy goats, alpacas, armadillos and a monitor lizard named Ollie.
Working in Paws On is not just about petting the animals but taking care of them as well. It is hard work and Dave loves it. There are stables to clean, the yard to maintain and other physical tasks to accomplish, and when the zoo opens, Dave’s job includes interacting with visitors to make sure that they have a positive experience.
This internship has been a perfect fit for Dave since it pairs his skills and interests in the field of recreation with the opportunity to practice social skills and become more independent. Zoo personnel, both staff and volunteers, have truly made Dave feel a part of the team, and he has become one of the zoo’s biggest advocates. For example, after the recent birth of an alpaca, Dave has given us weekly updates on her growth and invited students and staff to vote for her new name.
Many thanks to the Brevard Zoo staff who have sponsored internship opportunities for Brevard Center students over the past few years, especially Volunteer Coordinator Mary Bowman and Lead Animal Keeper Brandi Ann-Pagano. They have provided students with supervision, training and encouragement and helped them to explore possible careers and further develop their job skills.
The Brevard Zoo opened in 1994. In addition to the Paws on Petting Zone, the zoo features exhibits of animals from Africa, South America, Asia, Australia and Florida. Educational programs, including summer camps and the Jr. Zookeeper Program, are available. For more information, visit www.brevardzoo.org.