Animal Services Internships

Are you interested in gaining valuable, hands-on experience in the zoological field and first-hand knowledge and mentoring from experienced animal care professionals? Come join the animal care team at the Virginia Zoo! We are currently accepting applications for interns in the Animal Services department from motivated individuals interested in pursuing a rewarding career as a Zoo Keeper. Interns will work with our Africa, Asia, Animal Ambassador, Birds/Australia, Reptile/Herps, or Zoo Farm/Americas teams. Interns will learn all aspects of animal care and management in an AZA-accredited zoological organization.

Zoo Keeper interns at the Virginia Zoo work directly alongside Zoo Keeper, animal managers and veterinary staff as we strive to continuously provide the best possible care for the animals here. Under the guidance of experienced zoo staff, interns have the opportunity to gain experience in many aspects of zoo keeping, including but not limited to: daily animal husbandry, care and nutrition; regular cleaning and maintenance of animal areas and exhibits, as well as an understanding of exhibit set-up and design; direct involvement in our animal enrichment and positive reinforcement training programs; an understanding of animal behavior and experience in behavioral observations and animal welfare/wellness assessments; record keeping; and guest interactions. Qualified applicants must be able to work in a team environment and work outdoors in a variety of weather conditions and temperatures. Interns will gain daily work experience as well as specialized training through a series of instructor-taught classes and skills training sessions provided by Lead Keepers, Zoological Managers, Veterinary staff, and our Enrichment Coordinator.

Applicants should either be college graduates, currently in college, or have some college semester credits completed. Applicants need to be able to commit to the four-month program, with a weekly work schedule of 40 hr/week. The internship does not provide an hourly salary but can qualify as paid zoological experience through a small monthly stipend for living costs.

There are 7 different areas that prospective interns may apply for:


This team works with a wide variety of African mammal species including white rhinos, Hartmann’s mountain zebras, lions, cheetahs, Masai giraffes, Eastern bongos, Watusi cattle, yellow backed duikers, red river hogs, slender tailed meerkats, Cape porcupine and rock hyrax. This team also works with four different African bird species that live in mixed species exhibits with the mammals: Stanley cranes, Egyptian geese, common ostriches, and Southern ground hornbills.


This team works with a wide variety of Asian mammal species including Malayan tigers, sun bears, moon bears (Asiatic black bears), Bornean and Bornean/Sumatran orangutans, siamang, white-cheeked gibbons, Malayan tapirs, Asian small-clawed otters, red pandas, and binturongs. This team also cares for an avian species in the Asia section, working with the sarus cranes.


This team specializes in avian species and works with a wide variety of birds around the zoo, including two different large ratite species (four Southern cassowaries and two male emus), a breeding pair of rhino hornbills, white-naped cranes, demoiselle cranes, cinereous vultures, bald eagle, laughing kookaburras, peacocks and peahens, guinea fowl, oropendolas, and many other different species of both perching and ground birds (from Victoria crowned pigeons to Asian fairy bluebirds to weavers). Many species are in breeding programs. This team also works with mammals, caring for a mob of Bennett’s wallabies.

Program Animals / animal ambassadors

This team works with a wide variety of ambassador animals that help inspire and educate Zoo guests through stage presentations, event appearances, and educational pop-ups throughout the zoo, including several mammal species (degus, prehensile-tailed and Cape porcupines, several species of armadillos, two-toed sloth, domestic and Flemish rabbits, chinchillas, hedgehogs, Lesser Madagascar hedgehog tenrecs), several avian species (macaws, several birds of prey – including flight trained birds such as an Eurasian eagle owl, chickens, Toco toucan, tawny frogmouth) and several reptile and amphibian species (including a very large Burmese python).

Reptiles and herps

This team works with a wide variety of reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and aquatic species, including several species of lizards, snakes (venomous and nonvenomous), tortoises, turtles, Siamese crocodiles, seahorses, frogs and other amphibians – including a frog lab with several diverse species. Many species are in breeding programs. This team works primarily out of the recently renovated World of Reptiles building, as well as additional herpetological exhibits around the Zoo.

Zoo Farm and Americas

This team works with a wide variety of mammal species from North, Central and South America, in a guest-focused area of the zoo. Species this team cares for includes white faced Saki monkeys, Bolivian titi monkeys, a breeding family of two-toed sloths, Northern tree shrews, ringtail cat, American bison, Cape porcupines, Dexter cattle, miniature Zebu cattle, Southdown babydoll sheep, alpacas, degus, Kune Kune pigs, prairie dogs, Patagonian cavies, and two different species of armadillos. This team also works with birds, caring for the Southern crested screamers and peafowl.

Animal Wellness

This team works directly with both veterinary and commissary staff and can potentially work with any species of animal at the zoo, depending on veterinary and nutritional needs. Interns in this area may assist in the care of a wide variety of animals temporarily housed in quarantine/hospital areas, including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Interns will assist commissary keepers in the zoo nutrition center, learning about nutritional needs and helping prepare animal diets, enrichment and any other associated tasks. Interns in this area observe and may assist the veterinary team during animal exams and procedures, recording vital signs and any other tasks needed at the veterinary team’s discretion.