Zoo InternQuest is a career exploration program for high school students. For more information see the Zoo InternQuest blogs.
We weren’t wearing fashionable khaki outfits or carrying any survival gear and I found my lack of a fedora to be slightly depressing. Regardless, as we traveled into the heart of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in the back of a keeper truck, I couldn’t help but feel a little, well, adventurous. One could almost hear the Indiana Jones theme song in the background- or maybe that was just me.
“All right guys, let’s start stripping this acacia,” a voice snapped me out of my khaki-filled daydream. I looked up to see Torrey Pillsbury, a Field Keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, gesturing towards the huge acacia branches strewn across the floor of the truck. Without further ado, we began moving acacia leaves from the branches into some buckets.
As I pulled off the leaves, I glanced around at our surroundings. We were rumbling through a narrow dirt road, nestled along a sloping hill. To the left was a large expanse of land, populated by several herds of exotic animals. Some were resting under the shade of trees, others meandering about, and still others leisurely eating. As we drove onto a road leading directly into the huge enclosure, I could almost imagine myself in the midst of an African safari. We soon came upon a small group of rhinos, to which we fed apple slices. I had never seen so many of them up close! But while that experience was pretty memorable, it faded in comparison to our encounter with the giraffes.
Giraffes, as it turns out, are pretty pushy when it comes to acacia. The moment we stopped near them, they immediately noticed the buckets of acacia leaves. It took all of our efforts to keep them from lunging into the back of the keeper truck and even then, a few particularly determined ones succeeded. Following Mrs. Pillsbury’s advice, we each took bunches of acacia leaves and held them out towards the hungry giraffes, who used their long tongues to snatch the foliage right out of our hands!
Being able to ride a feed truck into the huge enclosures of the Safari Park was an experience unlike any other. And feeding the giraffes and rhinos were all once-in-a-lifetime incidents that most kids simply dream about. Like most little kids, when I was younger, I couldn’t help but dream about adventure. Exploring my backyard, gathering up roly-polies for ‘science’, and pretending to be a spy were just a few of the things my imagination conjured up. When I grew older, I outgrew some of those dreams. But today, I got to relive them again. So dear reader, if you’ve ever imagined yourself on an adventure, here’s your chance. At the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, anyone can sign up for a photo caravan tour and get an up-close encounter with some amazing animals. And the best part is, the cost of your ‘safari’ will go towards the care and conservation of these exotic species. So do yourself a favor! Step out of your home and drop by the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Because right here, adventure is just around the corner.
– Lucy, Real World Team