By: Mac Marzolini

Getting a job where you can work hands on with animals is a dream come true for many high school students – especially me. The biggest problem is that such jobs require prior experience working with animals. Since those job themselves provide experience, it becomes an endless cycle. I however found a way to work with animals without having prior experience.

The capybara
The capybara

At the Cabbagetown festival in early fall I came across a man who had with him a capybara (capybaras are the worlds largest rodent, found in waterways in South America) in an enclosed area to prevent people from overcrowding the animal. He asked me if I would like to pet it. I of course agreed and sat in the enclosed area with the capybara in my lap as it sucked on my thumb. He later handed me a cockatoo and some business cards to distribute and that was the closest thing I ever had to a job interview.

I later looked up the place that the man worked and owned; it was called “Hands on Exotics” and there was an upcoming orientation I could attend. I went to the orientation and I am now a volunteer zookeeper in one of the smallest accredited zoos in North America. My responsibilities include; preparing food for the carnivores, cleaning and disinfecting enclosures, socializing with animals, misting reptiles and invertebrates and so much more.

Larry the lemur and myself
Larry the lemur and myself

I volunteer once a week on Mondays and in most cases it’s the highlight of my week as I love working with the animals (especially Larry the ruffed lemur and cookie the rabbit that acts like a cat) and of course the people there are great too.

“Hands on Exotics” is an accredited zoo but perhaps not the zoo you may be used to. Instead of waiting for people to come to them, they bring their animals to people. They do birthday parties, company events and schools. They also specialize in special needs facilities and retirement homes where the animals provide a therapeutic experience.

For more information, please visit: http://www.handsonexotics.com/

Scorpion glowing under a UV lamp
Scorpion glowing under a UV lamp
Whip spider
Whip spider