Volunteer Spotlight

It’s National Volunteer Week!

Our Zoo Crew volunteers help in a variety of areas, including educating visitors about our animals, assisting with special events, scooping up poop in the ZooFarm, presenting education animals, leading school programs, filing and shredding paper, and helping with our family programs… just to name a few.

Our Conservation Youth Team volunteers are high school students that educate visitors about our animals throughout the summer and assist with our summer camp programs. They also volunteer for our EdZOOcation an Animal Appreciation events, like Party for the Planet and Reptile Awareness Day.

Finally, our group volunteers help with any big project that we have. Most often, this involves working with our horticulture team or creating enrichment for the animals, and even picking old chewing gum up off of the ground.

We sat down and interviewed two of our very own Zoo Crew volunteers who help play a role in the Virginia Zoo’s day-to-day operations. These friendly faces are some of the many people who volunteer at the Zoo to assist staff in various departments, as well as venture out on Zoo grounds to educate the public on our more than 500 animals and 11 gardens.

Jan Anten (left) and Arline Schulze (right) have been volunteering at the Virginia Zoo for decades and both enjoy spending their time here with both animals and people. Continue reading to learn about why they volunteer, and to hear a few great stories!

Q: How long have you been volunteering at the Virginia Zoo?

Jan: I’m not exactly sure because the years have flown by, but more than 20 years!

Arline: I recently completed my 35th year volunteering at the Zoo!

Q: Why did you start volunteering at the Zoo?

Jan: My friends were all starting to volunteer at local museums and I wanted to be different volunteer somewhere more animal-focused, so I decided to volunteer at the Zoo.

Arline: I fell in love with the zoo in San Diego before moving to Norfolk. When we moved here I wanted to help and watch the Zoo grow and become even better than what it already was. My daughter and son both separately approached me after they saw an article in the newspaper in which the Zoo was looking for docents to begin training. It was a sign that the Zoo is where I should begin volunteering.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do while volunteering?

Jan: Back in the day, I really liked taking some of the smaller program animals out around the Zoo and grabbing a book and reading to guests while educating them on the animal. Now I really enjoy talking with visitors about the animals.

Arline: I’ve always enjoyed engaging with visitors. I like meeting visitors from different areas and also talking with members who have seen the Zoo develop over the years.

Q: What has been your favorite memory or experience while volunteering here?

Jan: One time I was doing an outreach program with a ball python. I was presenting the snake and a man walked up and sat near me. When he realized I had a snake, his eyes grew wider and wider until he got up and rushed to get away. The biggest, “toughest” men are always the most scared of the animals, and it makes me laugh!

Arline: I’ve always loved working with the hawks that are animal ambassadors. My favorite memories always involve going out into the Zoo with a Red-tailed hawk and educating Zoo guests about the bird of prey. They’re so beautiful to me and it’s interesting knowing you’re that close to a wild animal. I also always enjoyed presenting bio-facts when the elephants were here. We would sometime present elephant poop and I remember finding an acorn in one once!

Q: If you could be any animal, what animal would you be and why?

Jan: It would definitely be a big cat. I have a fascination with them, so I’d probably be either a lion or tiger.

Arline: A bird, of course. I’d love to be an Osprey; to be able to soar and look down and see the ocean would be amazing.


Next time you’re in the Zoo, be sure to thank our volunteers in green polos. Without them, the Zoo would not be able to operate smoothly!