The Zoo’s Education Animal Collection

Photo by Walter Brooks

When you come to the Zoo you see lots of animals, but you won’t see all the animals the Zoo cares for. This is not because they are hiding or sometimes hard to spot in their exhibits., it is because they are part of the education animal collection.

This collection of animals helps provide educational programming for our ZooMobile Program, our summer Stage Show, or our ZooClass program. In fact, most every education program we offer utilizes an education animal. We have 50 individuals in the collection across 31 species!

We select certain animals for the collection to meet the needs of our programs. For example, we have a three-banded armadillo named Doug. We acquired Doug because of the large variety of programs he can help us with. He has a shell for protection and long nails for digging, which makes him perfect for a program that talks about animal adaptations. He also comes from the rainforest of South America, which fits right into our habitats program. In addition, when he is completely rolled into a ball he looks like a circle, which is great for our three-year-old ZooClass about shapes.

You might ask why we don’t have these animals on exhibit. Well, the biggest reason is that they are working animals. They are taken out of their permanent Zoo enclosure on a daily basis to travel in a carrier to their programs where they are shown to the public. When not on a program, we provide them much-earned peace and quiet. We also spend this time off exhibit with them, handling them and teaching them new behaviors – just generally getting close to them so they are comfortable with us and other people they will come near when out working our programs. These educational animals need to be highly sociable with people.

So if you are interested in learning more about what kinds of animals are in our education collection, click here. Remember, the only way to see these animals in person is by booking inviting our ZooMobile to your school, organization or event or by coming to one of our camps, classes or tours!

Stay wild!

- Kenny Nelson, Education Animal Programs and Training Coordinator

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