Name: Ben Rapson
Occupation: Education and volunteer coordinator at Scovill Zoo
City of residency: Decatur
What's an average day for you look like?
It's a lot of working with animals, and it's a lot of working with people and the general public. No matter what age they are, we want to make sure they have a good time here. It's a lot more people stuff than animal care stuff. I originally started as a camp counselor and then became a zookeeper. Now, I've landed on the education and people side of things at the zoo.
What's the best part of your job?
I love working at the petting zoo. It's one of my favorite things to do, because there's a lot of interacting with the public and the goats, cattle and other animals. My favorite is Eli the zebu. A zebu is like a little bull.
Is there something that you hope people take away from their experiences at the zoo?
There are two thing that we like to send people home with: That the zoo is out here doing good and that the zoos are fun. Our four core tenets as an Association of Zoos and Aquariums zoo are education, conservation, recreation and research. That's what zoos in the AZA focus on, and that's what we really focus on as well. In my position, it's a greater focus on the education and recreation, so we like to provide games for people to have fun and also to make sure they learn something.
Do you have a favorite animal or animal fact that you like to talk about with people?
I love talking about goats and zebus. I also like showing people the black rat snake, which is a big black snake that's one of the good ones. It eats rats and mice, so it will keep barns free of them.
What was it that sparked your interest in animals?
I had always been around animals growing up. I used to play with garter snakes when I was a kid. I graduated from the University of Illinois Department of Animal Sciences, and while I've had a few different jobs in my life, I always ended up coming back to animals.