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Wildlife Champion

This role is now full for the 2024 season! Still interested in being part of the crew? Call or email us at 608-283-1612/ Spots do open up occasionally, and we would be happy to get you on the wait list.


Wildlife Champions (WC) are the conservation educators of the Zoo! Standing outside animal enclosures, they teach guests about our animals, conservation and the environment. This is more than just spitting out facts. All WC’s receive training in basic empathy-building and interpretation communication techniques that help our guests better connect with and understand our animals. Champions complete check-ins twice during the summer that allow them to move onto more difficult animals and topics. This is a very addictive role, and one perfectly suited for those who enjoy sharing knowledge with their fellow humans.

I had a particularly good time explaining to a kiddo why seals might prefer real fish over his Goldfish crackers. It’s been so cool to help these curious, caring and goofy kids learn this summer.”

Dana, Wildlife Champion Volunteer


  • Welcome guests to animal exhibits
  • Start conversations with interested guests about animals, conservation and zoos
  • Use engaging body language
  • Ask open-ended, exploratory questions
  • Use vocabulary appropriate to the age of the guest
  • Utilize empathy and interpretation training to help guests connect with animals
  • Teach guests about conservation actions they can take to care for wildlife and the environment
  • Learn about HVZ animals and conservation efforts
Volunteering For All

Wildlife Champions utilize the entire Zoo to talk about animals. Each shift they can choose the animal(s) they talk about and for how long during their shift. This role requires going through doors, over curbs and up/down hills. WC’s regularly start conversations with guests that can range on a variety of topics depending on the animal, day and audience. It requires volunteers to be able to read body language, gauge interest and tailor presentations to audiences depending on age and background. This role also requires a lot of reading – as WC’s are asked to become familiar with our individual animals, general facts, and overall conservation messaging.

This role may not be suited for individuals who thrive better in direct instruction type of environments. While we do sometimes have biofacts (skulls, furs, etc.) to use, volunteers most often talk with guests regarding the animals and exhibits in front of them.

Requirements & Skills
  • At least 14 years of age to volunteer independently; 10-13 with a parent/guardian
  • Able to read, speak and understand English
  • Able to sit and/or stand for 2-2.5hrs at a time
  • Enjoys learning – Previous animal knowledge is not a requirement, but WC’s will be learning about our animals as they go!
  • Enjoys teaching people about animals, wildlife, conservation, zoos and environmentalism
  • Enjoys meeting new people and starting conversations

  • Gate Greeting – All Wildlife Champions start their first year off with three Gate Greeting shifts. This is to help WC’s get familiar with volunteering, using the radio and working with guests before they venture out into the Zoo.

Time Commitment
  • 9hrs/mo: Wildlife Champions commit to a weekly shift with a minimum of x3 shifts/mo from the time they begin through September.
  • Wildlife Champions are the most busy May through Labor Day. Shifts are available in April and September for those volunteers who want to balance their fast-paced days with some more relaxed times when we tend to get more local visitors.


All of these trainings are available as refreshers at any point upon request. Optional trainings allow you to try out other roles as shifts become available. They do not add to your minimum requirements (i.e. training in on another role doesn’t require you to add another set of weekly shifts). Training spots are limited; however, we will schedule more throughout the summer as interest and time allows.

  • Online
    • Radio Training (40-50min)
    • Volunteer Expectations (15-20min)
    • Intro to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (20min)
    • Volunteer Software Basics (5-10min)
    • Empathy & Interpretation Basics (60min)
  • In-Person
    • Onsite orientation (1hr) – Meet other volunteers, and HVZ Staff, guided Zoo tour, radio practice
    • Wildlife Champion shadowing & practice
  • Optional
    • Henry the Lion/Handler – (Must be at least 14+) – Learn how to tell a story, don the lion/handler costume and get practice in costume on grounds
    • Train/Carousel – (Must be at least 18+) – Basic ride operation, safety protocols and guest training
    • Goat Yard – (Must be at least 10-13 w/ parent/guardian, or 14+) – Learn to open & close, operate and educate at the goat yard
    • Gate Greeter – (Must be at least 10-13 w/ parent/guardian, or 14+) – Take a small tour of the Zoo going over important buildings, entries and guest protocol.

Weather Policy

Wildlife Champions have the option of interpreting indoors in the event of inclement weather.

Although indoors is an option, we do recognize that humans may not want to come out during truly inclement weather. We will contact volunteers in the event of a cancellation. This will count as an excused absence for the volunteer.