College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Animal & Avian Sciences

Two ANSC Students Intern at The Maryland Zoo

Abbi Santoni pictured with a blue duiker, the smallest species of antelope.
Abbi Santoni pictured with a blue duiker, the smallest species of antelope.

During the spring semester Abbi Santoni and Nancy Huffman, students in Dr.Monica VanKlompenberg's ANSC359 internship course, got up close and personal with exotic animals during their internships at The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

May 2019 graduate Abbi Santoni served as a a keeper intern in the Africa Barn, working with sitatungas, leopard tortoises, spur-thigh tortoises, African spoonbills, blue-bellied rollers, blue-winged teals, hadada ibises, hamerkops, red crested pochards, von der decken hornbills, waldrapp ibises, fulvous whistling ducks, spur-winged lapwings, blue duikers, white storks, grey crowned cranes, and ground hornbills. She assisted the keepers with daily husbandry, such as cleaning, feeding, diet prep, and designing enrichment.

She also developed her own project through the internship program at the zoo and UMD, where she studied the social behavior of the sitatunga, a type of African antelope, and applied that to their natural behaviors.

Nancy Huffman, a junior in ANSC, served as an intern for the Chimpanzee Forest and her daily responsibilities included preparing animal diets, assisting keepers in daily training sessions, working on new enrichment ideas, and helping maintain both the animal enclosures and keeper areas. The Chimp Forest features a troop of eleven chimpanzees, as well as three ring-tailed lemurs, two sifaka lemurs, 2 red-ruffed lemurs, 3 colobus monkeys, and a single Amur leopard. She also began a behavioral observation study on the zoo's female Amur leopard, Sofiya. "I would perform daily observations of Sofiya, cataloging her stereotypic behaviors (most namely excessive pacing around her exhibit) and theorizing possible causes. At the end of the semester, I helped the keepers implement a new care-taking schedule for her, to provide more opportunities for training and enrichment throughout the day, and hopefully improve Sofiya's long-term welfare."

Overall, both students had excellent and enjoyable internship experiences at The Maryland Zoo. Ms. Santorini reflected on her time there: "I enjoyed the unique experience of working with zoo animals and seeing what actually goes into zoo keeping. The keepers were great teachers and gave me many opportunities to gain the most from my experience. It was a very friendly and supportive atmosphere that allowed me to make the most of the internship."

Nancy Huffman handing leaves to Ana, a Coquerel’s Sifaka lemur.
Nancy Huffman handing leaves to Ana, a Coquerel’s Sifaka lemur. 

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