This summer, junior biology major, Mallory Balmert worked as a seasonal education assistant for show staff at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. As a seasonal education assistant, Mallory was responsible for putting on two different live animal shows, three times a day, in two locations from Memorial Day through Labor Day with animals such as a Burmese python, hooded vulture, white stork, barn owl, peregrine falcon, fennec fox, Egyptian vulture, scarlet macaw, kookaburras, guinea fowl and many more. Along with putting on live shows, Mallory cleaned habitats, made diets and trained animals. Mallory had no prior experience working with exotic animals, so she learned a lot in a very short amount of time.
The main show at the amphitheater had a pirate-themed storyline. Mallory explained one of the unexpected challenges of this job was working on her acting. “I still hadn’t nailed down my pirate voice for the show yet, so I practice at home after work hours,” Mallory said. “My mom thought it was hilarious when I would practice my voice.” The second show was an informational show on Australian animals.
In the Australian animal area, assistants work by themselves. One day Mallory was cleaning in the morning in that area and heard a voice say, “hello.” “I was alone, so it startled me,” Mallory said. “I looked around and saw no one else there, but then I turned around and saw our rose-breasted cockatoo, Opal, with her face pressed between the bars in her enclosure. She looked at me and said ‘hello,’ again. I laughed and said ‘hello’ back. After that, I was never surprised to hear Opal chatting away when I was there. Especially when you go to leave and turn off the lights, she says ‘buh-bye.’” Mallory said her job is extremely rewarding due to the bonds she made with the animals and that she got to teach others how intelligent and amazing the animals are at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Mallory had such an incredible experience that she is thrilled to be able to re-live the same experience again this summer.