Featured Photo / Woodland Park Zoo
If you frequently visit zoos and aquariums, you’ve likely heard the term “animal ambassador”. But what exactly does that mean? Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo can answer that with an all-new program.
Woodland Park Zoo / YouTube
Accredited zoological facilities offer a unique sanctuary of “forever home” for rescued animals that cannot be released back to their native habitat due to illness, injury, or other reasons determined by the federal government. Zoos and aquariums also maintain a very large and complex network of responsible breeding programs to help conserve endangered or threatened animals.
The animals you see when you visit your favorite zoo or aquarium are considered ambassadors for their species. Through interaction and up-close observation, visitors develop an appreciation and concern for animals in the wild. This concern leads to greater awareness of threats to wild animals and daily actions to help reduce human impacts on natural ecosystems.
Now through September 30, visitors to the Woodland Park Zoo will have the opportunity to meet and learn about this zoo’s host of animal ambassadors.
“The role of an ambassador animal includes handling and/or training by staff or volunteers for interaction with the public and support of institutional education and conservation goals,” said Rachel Salant, collection manager at Woodland Park Zoo. “Our current ambassador animal collection is a separate group of animals that are housed off exhibit and are trained and used for education programs either on grounds or off grounds. Our collection includes a raccoon, a porcupine, an opossum, guinea pigs, snakes, lizards, the raptors featured in our flight program and more.”
Animal ambassadors are very used to people and comfortable being handled. They are trained to showcase their unique natural behaviors using positive reinforcement training methods.