The recent death of a young intern killed by a lion at a North Carolina animal facility highlights the dangers that exist in the zoo and conservation science field. According to Anna Young, associate professor and director of the zoo and conservation science program at Otterbein University, students at Otterbein are prepared for these dangers.

“There are always levels of risks involved in any job, especially when you work with animals, but procedures are in place to eliminate risks," said Young.

Young places students at Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) facilities and helps them research safety standards of conservations and other centers. She visits all sites and develops relationships with each internship placement.

Amanda Siebert, a senior zoo and conservation science major, and Hannah Simmons, a junior zoo and conservation science and biology double major, were among ten students selected each year for placement at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Both credit their classroom preparation, specifically their freshman zoo seminar, for equipping them with the tools and safety protocols needed to avoid danger.


According to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium's Senior Curator of Animal Care Kelly Vineyard, student interns at the Columbus Zoo learn about the zoo’s safety protocols following the AZA’s accreditation standards and related policies and are trained on emergency response plans.

Every action that zookeepers and interns take is safeguarded by safety protocols. The animal team adheres to specific procedures when moving animals, executes a two-lock-system before entering areas in which animals are residing, and follows strict protective guidelines when working with individual species.

Interns are not left alone with animals and are removed from situations that pose additional safety concerns when necessary.


“There comes a point where you understand, accept the risks and move on,” said Simmons. “The fear diminishes as you feel prepared for an unexpected occurrence and continue to want to do your job no matter what.”

There have been no major animal related injuries to students in the zoo and conservation science program to date. However, the university has a plan in place in case any injury occurs.

If any injury occurs in the field, students are required to report the instance to their faculty adviser, as well as complete an injury report form for university records. If an injury is sustained, Otterbein’s environmental health & safety officer will investigate the instance to address any preventative injury in the future.