The internship program at the Primate Rescue Center is an amazing opportunity for individuals who are interested in learning about primate care to immerse themselves in the daily hustle and bustle of life at a primate sanctuary. Food preparation, cleaning of enclosures, creating enrichment, and observing primate behavior, caregiver tasks, and medical exams are a major part of our internship program.
This summer we were thrilled to host five interns for the months of June – August, and were delighted with their level of interest, enthusiasm for learning, excellent work ethic, and general friendly demeanor, as well as how well they worked together as a group.
Pictured left to right: Samantha Hilty, Elizabeth Hayes, Jessica Seals, Caitlyn Hume, Liz Unkraut
Jessica Seals is from Liberty, IN and attends school at Ball State University in Muncie, IN. She has already completed one Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Anthropology, and is working towards her second degree in Biology with a concentration in Zoology. Growing up, Jessica’s family instilled in her the mindset that all animals deserve to be treated with respect, and therefore animal welfare has always been important in her life. After a trip to the Cincinnati Zoo as a college undergrad, Jessica fell in love with the gorillas, especially a newborn infant in the group. This solidified her decision to become a zookeeper or a caregiver at a primate sanctuary.
When asked what her favorite part of her PRC internship has been, Jessica remarked on how much she’s enjoyed getting to know the unique personalities of all the primates who live at the sanctuary, especially the chimps. She also loves creating enrichment items to put in the various enclosures after cleaning, and seeing the primates enjoy and investigate their new items.
From the beginning of her internship, Jessica fell for Cory chimpanzee. He was the first chimp she was able to identify (partly because he’s always the one making the most noise), and she admires how he can go from rambunctious to super sweet and interactive in the blink of an eye. Because Jessica lived on property, she has also had the privilege of observing the chimps in the evenings in their outdoor enclosure, where Cory tends to spend most of his time.
Caitlyn Hume is practically a local, living just up the road in Lancaster, KY and will soon be finishing up her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Studies at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. As a child, Caitlyn was always an animal lover, and hoped to someday become a zookeeper. Now on the verge of graduating, her dreams are still following that same path as Caitlyn hopes to work in a sanctuary or zoo as an animal caregiver. In her free time, she enjoys reading a good book, playing with her dog and cat, and doing some online shopping. As a PRC intern, Caitlyn has enjoyed getting to know the personalities of all the animals at the sanctuary, and was excited to find that although she knew that primates are extremely smart, observing them in person took her understanding and awe of them to a whole new level.
When asked who her favorite chimp and monkey have been during her time at the sanctuary, she described her interest in Ike chimpanzee and Caleb vervet. “Ike is my favorite chimp. He has this aloof attitude like he doesn’t care about humans, but if you’re lucky he shows you how sweet and playful he really is under his mysterious exterior. And I love that Caleb vervet is always excited to see everyone and is so flirty. Not to mention very handsome!”.
Samantha Hilty grew up in Houston, TX, and as a child was obsessed with catching lizards and snakes in her yard, and was inspired by Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin on TV. Although her goals within the field have changed since she was a 5 year old, her love for animals still rings true.
Samantha attends the University of Texas in Austin, TX, with majors in Environmental Science and Biological Science. She plans to attend veterinary school in the fall of 2019 after she graduates, and hopes to continue working with primates as a vet in either a sanctuary or wildlife reserve setting.
When asked what she most enjoyed about her PRC internship, Samantha spoke of a lifelong dream fulfilled, after having read about chimpanzees for years and always hoping to work with or near them. Some favorite moments of hers were watching Cory use his grass forage board with utmost concentration, and doing laundry in the chimp kitchen as Noelle pulled a barrel up to the window nearby to watch her fold blankets. Samantha also remarked on what an incredible experience it was to work with all the PRC staff, volunteers, and fellow interns, and how much she enjoyed listening to everyone’s stories, and insight on primate care, making every day fun and memorable.
In addition to a fondness for Cory, Noelle, and Jenny chimp for her mischievous and playful personality, Samantha also bonded with Dewey rhesus macaque and Mandy Sulawesi macaque. “They both have adorable personalities. Mandy is so vocal and her Mohawk really suits her, and Dewey seems like a total sweetheart – his commitment to Bubbles long-tailed macaque is admirable.”
Before becoming an intern at the PRC, Liz Unkraut joined the volunteer team in December 2016 and instantly loved the sanctuary environment. After learning about the internship program, Liz realized that becoming an intern would be a great way to get even more of the experience she needed to achieve her future career goals, so she made the switch from volunteer to intern and we were delighted to have even more time with Liz at the sanctuary.
Liz grew up in Florence, KY, and always felt that when she was helping animals she was doing something good for the world; fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves.
Liz graduated with a Psychology degree from Northern Kentucky University, and now has her mind set on becoming a caregiver at a primate sanctuary. In her free time she enjoys wildlife photography, and hiking/camping.
As an intern, Liz feels that the most rewarding thing has been seeing how much of a difference the PRC is making in the primates’ lives, and learning more about the care that they receive each day.
Although she had a tough time choosing favorites, Liz has bonded closely with Jenny chimpanzee and Breanna rhesus macaque. “Jenny has such a fun and silly personality. I love her silly faces, and the way that she interacts with her caregivers. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s so cute. And I love how sweet Breanna is to the caregivers and her monkey companions.”
Elizabeth Hayes will be staying on with us for an extended time, as she is our second ever Long-Term Intern, living on-site and getting a glimpse of life at the sanctuary through a couple of seasons. Elizabeth grew up in Cleveland, TN near Chattanooga, and attended college at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology this past May. As a young girl, Elizabeth and her siblings adopted many rescue animals. This fostered respect, concern, and kindness that grew into a lifelong goal of helping to make a difference in the lives of animals, wild and captive. As an intern at another facility, Elizabeth learned about the decision the National Institutes of Health had made regarding the retirement of federally-owned chimpanzees from research, and she quickly realized that being a great ape caregiver was the career path for her. She also remarked that she “loves learning the primates’ different personalities and thought processes, and would like to find a way to make it clear to the public that we can appreciate their intelligence in a natural setting rather than trying to compare theirs to human intelligence through unnatural and harmful experiments.”
Elizabeth has been enjoying many parts of her internship experience, but especially likes using her creativity to help with enriching the various primate enclosures, based on the needs, habits, and movements of individuals living here. Preparing chimp lunch and monkey dinner is also a favorite task, and Elizabeth is always excited to find out if the primates have approved of her recipe. Even though it was extremely difficult for Elizabeth to pick a favorite primate at the sanctuary, she expressed a fondness for Jenny chimpanzee because of her playful personality and ability to spit mouthfuls of water with great accuracy, and Dewey rhesus macaque because of his sweet heart, despite his painful past before coming to the sanctuary.
The PRC staff is so thankful to all our interns for their hard work, creativity, and dedication to excellent care of the primates this summer. We know they will continue to be advocates for animals in need, and we hope that they will take what they have learned during their PRC internship and use it to further their career goals while making a difference in the lives of animals.
For more information about the PRC Internship Program, check out this LINK to our website and take a look at the internship requirements and application packet.