Name: Samantha Bonifas
Class Year: 2018
Hometown: Delphos, Ohio
Internship: Wildlife Conservation Intern
Location: White Oak Conservation Center (Yulee, Florida)
Hello all! My name is Samantha Bonifas and I’m interning at White Oak Conservation Center for 8 weeks. White Oak is located in Yulee, Florida which provides the perfect atmosphere for the diverse range of mostly African species that call White Oak home. There are four sections in the animal care department including: birds, carnivores, east (hoofstock), and west. I am interning in the west section and get to work with a variety of species including; southern white rhino, black rhino, Indian rhino, Grevy’s zebra, Somali wild ass, Pere David’s deer, and babirusa. White Oak is not like a typical zoo, but is still certified by the Association of Zoo and Aquariums (AZA). White Oak mission is “save endangered wildlife and habitats through sustainable conservation breeding, education, and responsible land stewardship”. One of the amazing things about White Oak is they are able to house most of the animals in their natural social structures.
White Oak is a great place to intern for many reasons. First, this internship is very hands on, and they expect you to jump in and help whenever you can! The only time they don’t let you help is when your safety or the safety of an animal would be in question. Interns also get to observe almost all medical procedures that are done during your internship, even if it’s not in your focus area. Another great thing about an internship at White Oak is that everyday is different! You get a variety of experiences here that are different from most AZA facilities. The enclosures at White Oak are huge! We actually drive trucks in to feed the rhinos, and drive in tractors to clean. Another great aspect of White Oak is the people you get to work with. All the keepers are very knowledgeable and want every intern to get the most of this experience. They are really good about answering questions, and making sure you understand why certain things are done. For me this internship has helped me confirm that I want to work in the animal care field.
Even though every day is a little different there are certain tasks that need to be done daily in West. First we have our morning meeting at 7:30 AM with all the other areas. In this meeting each area talks about what they plan to do for the day and if there are any upcoming medical procedures. Next I find out what section of west I will be working in for the day either front and back. Back section Indian rhino, Pere David’s deer, some hoofstock, and black rhinos. While the front section has zebra, Somali wild ass, babirusa and white rhinos. Then we load up the truck with all the hay and grain we will need for the morning. We stop at each enclosure to count and observe animals, feed, and clean what we can. We also shift some of the rhinos from their large enclosures into feeding corrals. In the afternoon we usually have a project such as picking up stock piles (hay and manure), getting browse, or cleaning rhino pens. After we complete that we go back to the barn and load up more hay for the afternoon feeding and last round of animal observations before calling it a day.