When I was hired by the Greenville Zoo to be their 2017 Summer Furman Fellow, I did not know what to expect by way of work. My first week involved doing odd jobs for the other employees, bonding with the three large birds that call our office space home, and meeting all our wonderful docents and volunteers that do so much for the Greenville Zoo. I didn’t realize it yet, but I would soon become a part of a community that has one unique and sometimes under appreciated goal: educate guests about how they can sustainably live with all living things.
When people visit the Greenville Zoo, they are usually there to see the cute lemurs or the newborn ocelots. They will read the signs and learn fun facts about how anteaters have tongues that are two feet long. What visitors don’t realize is that they will be educated about the value of conservation. Every sign, every activity, and every choice at the Zoo is made to promote sustainable practices, whether we are taking part in a Species Protection Plan and the breeding of endangered species, or simply opening the public’s eyes to how recycling is good for the world, and even better for their community.
Specifically, the Greenville Zoo cares about impacting you. We want to take a guest in, and let them leave with the thought that, “Yes, I can be sustainable,” and “Yes, I can do my part to help the environment.” Because the Zoo is connected to the City of Greenville, we have high standards for this educational aspect. Our staff works unpaid overtime to make sure children coming to the zoo to have an affective learning experience. We have programs designated for kids to play in nature and experience uninhibited imagination, all while using only natural materials. Every sign and graphic in the zoo has a deeper message: These animals need help, and you can help them.
This has been something that I learned during my time at the zoo. When I first started, I was under the impression that one should leave animal conservation to the professionals. Only a great and combined effort can impact endangered species’ populations in a positive way. I also learned that a “professional” in sustainable efforts isn’t necessarily someone who has studied the science of it for years. The people who are really making a difference in our world are the people that are dedicated and determined to make a difference.
There are many ways that you can be involved in conservation efforts at the Greenville Zoo. The easiest way is given to you as soon as you enter: a token for the Quarters for Conservation initiative. Each visitor gets to use their token to vote on which of our featured endangered species will receive funding for their protection, both in Zoos and in the wild. Visitors can also learn about recycling, composting, and saving water in rain barrels in collaboration with the City of Greenville. Young teens and adults can volunteer with our keepers, education staff, and maintenance to both increase their own knowledge about conservation efforts at the Zoo, as well as help us reach the guests.
I implore you to visit us. If you’re not an “animal person,” come to learn about what the Zoo is doing for you and the City. There are many people in Greenville who have never visited the Zoo, but I still hold out hope that they find this gem of a park.