Over the years, the Primate Rescue Center’s Internship Program has grown into an incredible teaching and learning opportunity for interested individuals from across the globe. Interns become immersed in nearly all daily tasks that occur at the sanctuary, learning directly from primate caregivers about animal husbandry and a variety of tasks that must be tackled to keep a successful sanctuary animal care program running smoothly. Many PRC interns have gone on to become zookeepers or caregivers at other sanctuaries, and quite a few have become caregivers at the PRC after their internship was completed. For people seriously interested in focusing their time and energy toward learning how to give captive primates an enriching and safe life, the sanctuaries’ internship program is an invaluable opportunity.
This fall’s interns recently answered some questions about themselves, so here’s a chance for you to get to know a little about our incredible team of interns who started working with us this season.
Alexa Lua – Part-Time (20 hours per week)
Alexa grew up in a small town called Loomis, California, where she had her first memorable experience as a child that made her want to work with animals. Alexa recalls, “When I was ten years old, my Dad got me my very own hamster for my birthday. This taught me responsibility and made me proud to care for him. Then in fourth grade, we got a new dog and I wanted to do everything for him that I could. I also enjoyed training him to do new tricks. These experiences made me want to work with animals!”
Alexa first attended college at American River Junior College in Sacramento, CA, then transferred to Stanislaus State in Turlock, CA. Currently she is a student at Eastern Kentucky University and is majoring in Animal Studies. Alexa hopes to someday have a career working with animals or in animal-assisted therapy.
So far, her favorite part of being a PRC Intern has been watching the chimps at lunch and dinnertime in the play room. “I love seeing how they interact with each other and us, and their unique responses to the food and enrichment given that day”, she said.
As she’s been learning about the chimps and monkeys at the PRC, Alexa has been most interested in chimpanzee Rodney because “his floppy ears just get me”, and long-tailed macaque Opal because she is very interactive and expressive.
In her free time, Alexa enjoys running in order to stay in shape for her races.
Elissa Keicher – Part-time (20 hours per week)
Elissa has been a part of the PRC Volunteer Program since December 2016 but decided she wanted to become an Intern this fall to broaden her experience. Elissa grew up in New York, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Physical Anthropology from SUNY Buffalo. She then obtained a nursing degree from BCTCS and is currently working towards a BSN at Eastern Kentucky University.
Elissa recalls that as a child she began to love animals by watching her mother’s example. “My mom was a huge animal lover and she allowed us to have many pets growing up. She would also bring the family to the local wildlife center and the Bronx Zoo a few times each year. Those trips lead to my love of animals and my desire to work caring for them.”
When she’s not working as a nurse or as an intern at the sanctuary, Elissa enjoys reading and spending time with her husband and their pets. She plans to continue in the nursing field on a part-time or PRN basis while gaining experience working with animals. “I hope to eventually find a job as an animal caregiver at a sanctuary or AZA accredited zoo.”
During her time as a PRC Volunteer and now as an Intern, Elissa finds it hard to pick a favorite chimp, and says that her favorite individual changes often. “I love when Ike and Rodney are being playful; when Zulu makes her kissing face; when Martina points at shoes; when Vicki or Donald stare their intense stares; when Cory carefully solves his treat puzzles; when Jenny rolls around in paper; and of course when Noelle grabs all the mango pits and a magazine and runs off. “ Transitioning to an internship position has been fun for Elissa because she enjoys getting the chance to shadow the caregivers and learn more about what they do each day to care for the animals. She’s also enjoyed making enrichment for the chimps and monkeys, and looks forward to learning more about the medications and supplements the animals receive. Elissa also really enjoys cleaning enclosures!
Clara Loesche – Long-Term Intern (40 hours/week for at least 6 months)
Clara became our third ever Long-Term Intern this month. Clara has wanted to work with animals for as long as she can remember, and has completed internship and volunteer opportunities at other animal care facilities in the past to continue gaining experience in this field of work. Clara grew up in St. Louis, Missouri where she lived with her parents and three siblings. She recalls as a young child that her favorite area to visit at the zoo was the primate house. “I would have spent hours there if given the chance”, she remembers. This experience and seeing stories about Jane Goodall on TV helped drive her passion for all primates, especially chimpanzees.
Clara graduated from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, and a minor in Anthropology. She dreams of working as a caregiver at a primate sanctuary someday, and eventually she aspires to move to Africa and work at a sanctuary there.
While living and working at the PRC as an Intern, Clara has enjoyed getting to know the individual personalities of the residents and setting up new and interactive enrichment for the chimps. Her favorite chimp is Cory, who she loves for his spirit – even if it does get him into a little trouble with the other chimps at times. Clara also has bonded with Dehlia spider monkey. “I love the way spider monkeys move and the things they can do with their tails. And I love how Dehlia personally greets anyone she sees with such a fun sounding welcome”.