1780 – The Official Blog of Transylvania University

1780 | The Official Blog of Transylvania University

Transylvania alumna wild about animal sanctuary internship

person preparing fruit

For National Zookeeper Appreciation Week, we’re checking in with a Transylvania University alumna putting her passion for wildlife to work as an intern at The Wild Animal Sanctuary-Texas.

Rachel Hazelett ’17, who hopes to one day run a sanctuary of her own, is learning about the nutritional needs of a variety of animals — from lions to lemurs — along with what medications to give them, safety regulations, grant applications and more.

“It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it,” she said for a social media feature on the sanctuary’s Facebook page. “I love getting up every morning to prepare diets and feeding them out where I get to see all the animals up close.”

Hazelett’s favorites include a personable Asiatic black bear and a white Bengal tiger “who is always so friendly, running the fence line chuffing to all who pass her by.”

Originally from Eastern Kentucky, the biology major also worked as an equine vet tech and horse trainer, but has since changed her career path from being a large animal veterinarian to zookeeping, research and animal rehabilitation.

After her internship, Hazelett plans to stay on as a volunteer at the sanctuary and continue her graduate studies in wildlife conservation and biology.

She’s pulling from courses she took at Transylvania — including obvious ones like comparative vertebrate anatomy and not-so-obvious ones like technical theater set design and construction, which helps in the building of enrichment projects and habitats. She specifically mentioned professors like Becky Fox for helping to foster an interest in working with animals (as did her Alpha Omicron Pi sisters with similar pursuits).

As with zookeepers across the country, Hazelett plans to continue spreading her love for “these magnificent animals” and educating people about the challenges they face, like habitat loss.