Having previously interned at several other big cat sanctuaries and animal-related facilities, I came into this internship feeling as though I had a fairly good understanding of the daily duties and requirements for someone working in this field. That being said, it is always beneficial to make new connections and gain new perspectives, and I definitely feel as though my time at Crown Ridge has helped me to improve both my technical skills and my knowledge of sanctuary work.
Most of my prior experience with large cats took place at fairly large sanctuaries with somewhere between forty and over a hundred animals. Staff size at the other facilities, however, was about the same as here at Crown Ridge; thus, the cat to keeper ratio was significantly larger, which unfortunately meant that the staff did not have as much time to devote to interns. Because of this, I was very pleasantly surprised by the intimate attention that I received during my time here. The overwhelming supportiveness of the staff, their willingness to be patient with my mistakes, and their devotion to helping me improve in areas where I was lacking made this internship experience one of the most enjoyable I’ve had. Furthermore, by being included in staff discussions, I felt like my opinion was truly valued and that I was more of an equal than an intern.
Coming into this internship, I already had a good deal of experience with giving tours and creating educational materials for the public. These are two areas which I really enjoyed working in. Creating posters, writing articles, and verbally teaching others about the animals I love is something that has always been fun for me, and the freedom the staff gave me in choosing my topics for assigned projects made it really interesting. Through my research for the posters and papers, I even learned a few new things myself!
While I cannot think of anything that I wish I had known beforehand that was not already explained in the manual, I would advise future interns to start work on their projects—especially the enrichment item—early on to allow for possible setbacks. I would also tell them that they should come into this internship with a willingness to step out of their comfort zone and that they should never be afraid to ask questions if there is an area in which they are struggling or about which they wish to learn more. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working at Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary, and I would most definitely recommend this internship to anyone who wants to gain experience in the exotic animal field.