Zoo Animal Presenters

The Zoo Animal Presenter program is a paid, three-year internship program at the Oregon Zoo. Each year it trains about 30 low-income teenagers who head into the community to teach and serve.

Who can be a ZAP?

Each fall, the zoo works with public and alternative schools and Portland-area social service agencies to recruit potential ZAPs – teenagers ages 15 to 17 who show an interest in working with kids and animals. Every year nearly 100 teens apply for 10 open positions. Current ZAPs interview potential ZAPs; the zoo seeks teens from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds for the program.

ZAP training

ZAPs gain work experience in:

  • natural sciences
  • animal handling
  • giving presentations
  • being an outdoor educator

What do ZAPs do?

After training, Zoo Animal Presenters work in the community:

  • First to third year ZAPs work with live animals, giving presentations to children and families. These free outreach events are given at Boys and Girls Clubs, Portland and Hillsboro Parks and Recreation sites and at organizations that serve low-income children and families.
  • Second year ZAPs are counselors with the zoo's Urban Nature Overnight program. In UNO, they teach third to fifth graders outdoor recreation skills and environmental concepts while camping at the zoo and local natural areas.
  • Third year ZAPs form a conservation team. They head outdoors for fieldwork: collecting native seeds to be used at Metro natural areas and conducting animal and habitat surveys in natural areas and national forests. Team members also provide composting and recycling education at zoo camps, and work to raise endangered butterflies in the zoo's butterfly conservation lab.


Pam McElwee
ZAP program coordinator