Monkeying around: Local earns spot as zoo volunteer

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Julia Myers takes a self portrait with a giraffe at the Audubon Zoo. Photo submitted

Julia Myers takes a self portrait with a giraffe at the Audubon Zoo.
Photo submitted

“I went on down to the Audubon Zoo and they all asked for you…” –– The Meters, “They all Ask’d for You.”

For at least the next year, the animals at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans will be asking for 14-year-old Carriere native Julia Myers.
Myers recently completed training for the zoo’s Volunteer Jr. Keeper Youth Program.
“I’ve always loved animals and working with them,” Myers said. “I want to be either a veterinarian or a zookeeper and this program will help me in the future.”
According to the program application, the competitive program provides youth the opportunity to experience wildlife and the environment. The program also teaches participants teamwork, responsibility, valuable workplace skills and environmental preservation.
Myers is the daughter of Judy and Roger and her mother said Julia fell in love with animals in the third grade.
“We’ve always been a member of the Audubon Zoo and participated in behind-the-scenes tours,” Judy said. “The Jr. Keeper program is highly competitive. This year, there were about 400 applicants and only 120 were chosen.”
Julia said she was excited when she first heard the news of her acceptance into the program. Her summer training lasted four weeks this summer.
During her training, Julia sat through lectures, took written tests, learned about animals in the zoo and also the geography of the zoo.
“There’s a lot of hands on testing,” Judy said. “They teach them how to hold animals.”
Beginning this school year, Julia is required to volunteer one four-hour shift each weekend.
According to the application, volunteers will be placed in various spots throughout the zoo to present animals to the public, assist keepers with animal husbandry and talk with visitors about animals at the zoo.
Julia’s favorite animals are cats of all sizes.
“I learned about the big cats during my training,” she said.
“They taught us about their bones and muscles and we learned what type of food they eat. I also learned more about conservation of animals. I didn’t realize there were so many endangered animals and they showed me that I can actually do something to help.”
She also learned how to properly hold and handle animals, including a two-headed corn snake, foot-trained tortoise, ball pythons, rainbow boas, hedgehogs and guinea pigs.
While volunteering, Julia may be assigned to an educational cart, where she will inform guests about endangered species.
After two-years in the program, she can apply for a paid internship, depending on her level of animal certification, Judy said. Currently, Julia is beginner certified. The two other levels are intermediate and advanced.
She can volunteer at the zoo for as long as she wants, Judy said.
“We’re just so proud of her,” Judy said. “She’s a very special girl. She is at a maturity level that most kids her age don’t attain. If she’s got a goal, she’s going for it.”
Julia encourages other youth to apply for this program, which is open to students entering seventh, eighth or ninth grade.
“I’ve learned a lot and have fallen in love with it,” Julia said.
To learn more about the Jr. Keeper Youth Program, visit

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