Today we meet Lara Kirkendall the Outreach Coordinator and Interpretive Center Supervisor at the Sacramento Zoo.
Describe your job: I manage the Interpretive Center, where all the live animal programming happens. I am responsible for the care, feeding, maintenance, and training of the education animal collection, developing and presenting stage shows, off-site Zoomobile programs and on-site keeper chats. I also oversee the behavior training program of the exhibit animals and am a Supervisor of the Day.
In addition, I train and mentor docent and college-age interns in animal handling and interpretation to the public.
How long have you been in the position? 16 years
What in your background helped you get the job? I was an athlete most of my life which taught me to be a team player, to be solution oriented and to check your ego at the door. When dealing with people, animals and behavior training, all of these skills come in handy. You never know what you will get each day, but networking with other professionals and being flexible enough to rework set plans, regardless of why the plan failed, is a necessity.
What’s your favorite thing about job? Knowing that I am able to give the Interpretive Center animals the best possible life, as they give their lives for conservation and education.
Describe a favorite memory/experience in your current position: Our Hippo, Jewel of the Nile, used to be a fan favorite. And in the summertime, we would get watermelons for her to have as an enrichment treat. After a few months of training, I was finally cleared to walk alongside her exhibit and offer her the watermelon during the afternoon keeper chat. For the first few times, she would just watch me with only her eyes above the water, waiting for me to set the melon down in the exhibit and walk away. Then, one day, she swam right over to me, put her feet up on the wall, and lifted her head up to my level. She opened her mouth as wide as she could and waited patiently for me to place the watermelon right where it belonged.
Do you have a favorite animal? Why is it your favorite? My favorite is the Eclectus parrot, Robbie. He has a great personality, gets along well with any other non-carnivorous animal, and is always offering new and different behaviors, but refuses to do any of them on cue. He talks non-stop behind the scenes, then is completely silent in a stage show, except for a quiet “hi” that the audience can barely hear. Then, once he is off stage, you can hear him yelling “hi” for minutes.