Central Park Zoo Volunteer Program

William Holmstrom ©WCS

Thanks for your interest in volunteering with Central Park Zoo. Recruitment for the 2015 training program is now closed. Be sure to check back often for updates on recruitment for 2016!

Are you a "people person" who loves to educate others on topics related to wildlife and conservation? Become a volunteer docent at one of the nation's greatest institutions! You'll assist the Education Department at the Central Park Zoo in delivering wildlife and environmental conservation information to zoo visitors, leading tours, supporting zoo school and camp programs, participating in a variety of events, and offering administrative support.

Central Park Zoo Docent Responsibilities

Volunteers must be flexible and prepared to serve in any of the capacities listed below.

  • Engaging public visitors in interactive discussions about selected animals, their exhibits, and environmental conservation. A volunteer should initiate conversations with visitors to make them feel welcome as well as share information.
  • Conducting guided tours for school and youth groups, adult groups as well as family groups. These tours can encompass multiple exhibits, focus on a specific region and its wildlife, or concentrate on a specific topic, such as animal adaptations or behavior.
  • Standing and walking for extended periods of time throughout the day (unless using a mobility device such as a wheelchair).
  • Delivering amplified sea lion narration at feeding times. Narrators use a microphone to speak to large audiences 3 times daily.
  • Helping our youngest visitors explore the wonders of the Tisch Children's Zoo.
  • Assisting the Education Department in implementing summer camp sessions.
  • Attending additional trainings following the initial 9-session CPZ Docent training program. Opportunities for continuing education will be available for docents to attend to further their knowledge of wildlife and environmental conservation. Volunteers are required to attend a minimum of three continuing education programs per year.
  • Providing support for a variety of promotional, corporate, private, and special events.
  • Reading to children during summer story time activities.
  • Helping the Education Department with administrative duties such as record keeping, light administrative duties and preparation of arts and crafts for special events and educational programs.

Time Commitment Requirements

Each incoming volunteer is required to complete a 9-session training course, occurring on Sundays through February and March, followed by a 3-month probationary period. Volunteers are expected to make a minimum 1-year commitment of service to the Central Park Zoo upon successful completion of the training course. Weekday volunteers must commit to working one full day per week; a minimum of 150 hours of annual service. Weekend volunteers must commit to working one full day every other weekend; a minimum of 95 hours of annual service. Arrangements may be made with the Coordinator of Volunteers to work additional days, if desired.

The Central Park Zoo is open every day of the year, including all holidays. The zoo looks to its volunteers for support 365 days a year.

Training Program

Volunteer applicants will be interviewed in Fall 2014 by the Coordinator of Volunteers. Those accepted are required to complete a multi-week training program taught by zoo staff. The 9-session training program will take place February and March of 2015. Applicants MUST be available to attend all 9 sessions in order to be accepted into our volunteer program. The cost of training is $100. This includes fees for training refreshments, materials, uniform shirt and explorer vest. Final acceptance of a volunteer into the program is contingent on successful completion of the training course and a 3-month probationary period.

Volunteer Benefits

  • The satisfaction of a meaningful contribution of services to one of the world's leading conservation organizations, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
  • Individual year-round free admission to CPZ and the other 4 WCS facilities (Bronx Zoo, Queens Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and the New York Aquarium).
  • A 20% discount at the Zootique and 30% discount at the Dancing Crane Café.
  • An additional 25% discount off the WCS member price for seasonal general audience programs offered by the CPZ Education Department.
  • Invitations to attend continued education programs hosted by CPZ staff or other facilities that may provide opportunities for network with others in the field of wildlife conservation.
  • Participation for you plus one guest at the annual Volunteer Recognition Party held in September.
  • Tax deductions for certain expenses incurred as a result of volunteering with CPZ.

Program Organization

The Coordinator of Volunteers and the Manager of Education are responsible for selecting, supervising, and evaluating volunteers. For each day of the week, a Day Captain will be elected by the day's members or appointed by the Coordinator of Volunteers. The Day Captain is directly responsible for assigning jobs to that day's volunteers, making up a schedule, and maintaining records for the day. Day Captains also serve as the liaison between their day’s team and the Coordinator of Volunteers.

Additional questions? Contact the Coordinator of Volunteers at cpzvolunteers@wcs.org.