Study of Zoo Culture Essay

Submitted By pthlim
Words: 2238
Pages: 9

The Smithsonian National Zoo is one of America’s oldest zoos originally founded in 1889. I had the pleasure of conducting a participant observation on the culture in the Smithsonian National zoo, specifically between the zoo employees and their interaction with each other and the animals. The national zoo is a total of 3,263 acres, 163 acres of the zoo are located in Washington DC known as the park area and the other 3,200 is located in Front Royal, Virginia and is known as the Smithsonian Conservative Biological Institute, I conducted my research on the park area. The environment is rather pleasant and gives off a natural vibe even though it is located in the center of an urban city. The zoo was filled with trees ranging from 5 to 15 feet high (excluding animal habitats), generally speaking the environment was very welcoming, there were however certain areas that were off limits that I wasn’t able to visit. The office/main entrance of the zoo was more of a professional atmosphere with a touch of zoo exhibits posters. The zoo had hundreds of animals and dozens of animal exhibits all interacting with each other. The animals were all placed in habitats that were controlled and excluded predators but resembled their natural environments. I obtained consent for conducting this research by going to the front desk of the zoo and informed her that I was a student at Montgomery College and was doing a field participant observation project and would like to conduct it on the zoo employees interactions with each other and the animals, she was reluctant and quick to inform me that she would be fine with it and called her co-workers out who themselves were also fine with it, as long as I followed the zoo rules and didn’t interrupt any of the classes or tours that they had scheduled, which was understandable because it was a learning environment. A tour guide and animal caregiver even offered to take me around and wanted to know if I would “like to follow [her] around at which I agreed. For the first hour I followed her while she was caring for the animals, she was extremely open about her job and kind at which I was extremely surprised considering the fact that I had just met her. She let me follow her around while she was finishing up feeding, checking, and conducting research of her own on the animals; I however was forced to stay outside of the entrance door into the cages while she entered as I watched from a distance.
I observed her enter the cage of Kojo, a gorilla she took notes on Kojo, fed him, and even talked to him; I could see that she cared for Kojo very much. When Kojo saw her I noticed that Kojo jumped up and down as if he seemed excited to see her. She fed him bananas and some type of gorilla brown nut/seed, she asked him about his day and how he was feeling as if he could actually understand her. She told me that she had known Kojo for over 2 years and he is one of her favorite animals at the zoo and she thinks of him as “family”. We then walked back to her office as she dropped off her research papers at the office.
Later she then told me that her co-worker was ill so she had to cover for him and give a tour of the zoo to a group and that I was welcome to follow but I didn’t have to because it “could get dirty” when I asked her what she meant she said “some of the people could be extremely rude towards her and the animals” and that she was fine with them being rude to her, although it wasn’t enjoyable it was “part of the job” but what she couldn’t stand was that if anyone was rude to the animals. It was obvious that she cared greatly for the animals in the zoo, possible even more than herself.
I decided to follow her on the tour a see what she meant, when she met the group of 14 people, 8 adults and 6 children she introduced herself and gave the typical zoo speech addressing her name, telling facts about the zoo, and the rules of the zoo, she even told me to introduce myself at which I did and told the