Please note: All non-member Zoo tickets must be pre-purchased online or at the onsite kiosks.
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Wonderfully Wild. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Wonderfully Wild.

Monday Minute

Monday Minute - Partners in Conservation: ZooTeens

Larson Ankeny August 9, 2021

It’s never too early to become an agent of conservation! I have always been interested in animals and have vivid memories of every year asking my family to take me to the zoo for my birthday. I was fascinated by the diverse animals, enthralled by the exciting shows, and inspired by the animal keepers and other zoo staff that took the time out of their busy day to answer every question I had and yes, even listen to my run-on stories about my pet tortoise, too. Growing up with The Living Desert, I knew that I wanted to work at a zoo but did not know many career paths outside of an animal keeper or a veterinarian. So, I decided to investigate for myself and made one of the best decisions in my life, I became a ZooTeen volunteer.

As a ZooTeen volunteer I was exposed not only to the wealth of career opportunities that a zoo has to offer but was mobilized with the experiences and skill set that made me passionate about conservation. From sharing our giraffe conservation efforts to raking the Petting Kraal, I was engaged with the mission of The Living Desert and felt proud that I was giving back to my community. This propelled my career trajectory through college and then back to The Living Desert where I eventually was running the same ZooTeen program that had inspired me years ago. Today, I am excited to be working with the Education Engagement team to further elevate the ZooTeen volunteer experience as partners in conservation.

The ZooTeen program has evolved over time to not only provide teens with community service hours but also relevant job skills and inspiration to be true, active agents of conservation. ZooTeens are 14 – 18 year old high school students that are interested in conservation, education and giving back to their community. While a majority of our ZooTeens are locals of the Coachella Valley, the program represents a larger Southern California community as several of our ZooTeens drive in from as far as Redlands and Moreno Valley to participate in furthering our mission! These exceptional volunteers receive considerable training and education in guest services and conservation and can be found across the zoo making the best day ever experience in the Petting Kraal to the Model Trains Display and even in ZooCamp where they inspire the next generation of conservationists.

The Living Desert’s ZooTeen program is a place where teens can become active in conservation. Through the telling and teaching of our conservation stories they engage the public and help effectively raise awareness to one of our most discerning audiences, kids. Our youngest guests can look up to our fantastic ZooTeen volunteers as the inspiration and model for their future goals and behaviors. We are dedicated to giving back to these young conservation partners and engaging them with even more opportunities to learn, grow and develop the needed skills to be the next wave of zoo and conservation professionals.

Did You Know...


Are you, or do you know, a teenager that is passionate about conservation?

Apply to become a ZooTeen volunteer today!

For specific questions or to sign up for an orientation, please contact the ZooTeen Volunteer Office (760) 346-5694 or

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