My name is Lorraine Hillgen-Santa, I am a freshman at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford. I grew up being involved with Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, from having my birthday parties there to having the Zoo set up educational programs at my school. Since the age of four, I was extremely interested in becoming a Veterinarian. Education Curator Jim Knox and Zoo Director Gregg Dancho have always seen my love for animals and veterinary care and helped foster it from a very young age. In 2013, Mr. Dancho toured me through the Zoo’s Vet Hospital which showed me realistically what it was like to work with animals.
This week I had the privilege to interview Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo’s Vet Tech, Jennifer Gordon. Ms. Gordon moved from Maine to come and work at the Zoo. The Beardsley Zoo had drawn her attention because of the rich diversity of the species they have to offer. Ms. Gordon also explained how the Zoo is set up to help teach the animal care staff how to complete small veterinarian tasks such as giving an injection. She found that the Zoo was able to promote more growth and learning in all the people that come in contact with it than she had could have ever imagined.
Ms. Gordon has given me a little insight into the daily routine of being the Zoo’s Vet Tech. She starts off the day by making quick rounds to make sure no animals seem to have any signs of a major change in their well-being. Ms. Gordon will then see if any of the Keepers have reached out to her asking for an appointment or help with anything. Then Ms. Gordon will begin animal care for the animals either in quarantine from another Zoo or in the Hospital for other medical reasons. This entails meal preparation, feeding, and cleaning. Animals who are coming from a different Zoo must be quarantined for an outlined period of time before they can be exposed to the animals they will be living with here at the Zoo. This helps prevent the spread of disease especially one coming from another geographical location.
Most recently, Ms. Gordon has had four animals in quarantine, she told me about the Mexican Gray Wolf, the River Otter and the Sloth that she had in quarantine with her. Ms. Gordon then goes on to check the animals in her care for how well they are healing and attend to any specific medical needs as necessary. She will also have to run the blood or urine samples at some point in her day and record updates on her patient’s status. After that, she will have to complete another round of animal care.
Of course, I had to ask the question, what is your favorite part about being a Vet Tech at the Zoo? Ms. Gordon responded by explaining the feeling of being able to make a difference in an animal’s life, and especially in the endangered animal’s lives. Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo has been able to promote the life of many animals that are and have been near extinction. In fact, the Zoo has been able to promote endangered species to create offspring in an attempt to one day have a flourishing population again and continue the re-growth of a species.
Without those protecting endangered species, many more animals would be extinct and those of us with a love of learning about science and animals would never have the privilege or opportunity to ever see certain species or receive educational opportunities about them. Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo makes a huge difference in so many educational areas with conservation, endangered species and animal education, as a teenager I have taken advantage of such a local resource with the only Zoo in Connecticut and have found it to be advantageous for growing my education and love of learning about animals.
As I have gotten older, I have realized that I would like to become a Veterinarian Oncologist. In 2019 I decided that I wanted to begin a project involving animals and the science of how their saliva kills germs. I was able to enter that project into the Connecticut State Science Fair where I won in five categories and went on to the Broadcom Masters which is a National Science Competition. From there I placed in the top three hundred nationally. Since then I have been asked to speak as a young woman in science at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford, regarding my work and research.
It is for that same feeling of making a difference that Ms. Gordon described that I want to be a Veterinarian Oncologist.
My favorite part of going to Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is the experience you get each time of the year and how it is always a bit different. When you attend during different seasons of the year you see how some of the animals act differently and how the atmosphere changes. I love coming in the Fall because I love New England Falls and the animals seem to as well! During Fall visits the animals seem much more active and enjoy the cool, brisk weather. Another one of my favorite times to visit is during the summer, especially when you bring a few of your friends and you can take your time to walk through the grounds, maybe grab a meal if you want to. It is just such a great place to walk around and you receive such a positive feeling from the Zoo’s atmosphere.