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A Day at the Malone Zoo

By Abbi Leon

Volume 67, No. 6

Two of Zoo Team Leads Do Their Weekly Weigh-in of the Green Iguana, Gary. Photo by Sarah Imhoff

Malone University proudly offers one of the largest collections of animals at an on-campus zoo. The animal collection hosts four major categories of animals: mammals, avians, herptiles, and native/aquatic species. Kristen Beck, director of live animal collections, says that the live animal collection is what makes Malone so special.

“[The students] get a variety of experience, which makes our program very unique,” Beck said. “ [A lot of] live animal collections at other institutions only have mammals or snakes… We have all the taxa [types of animals] represented in our collection.”

In addition to her role as director of live animal collections, Beck is an adjunct professor at the university. She is passionate about animal care and has years of experience working to rehabilitate animals. 

“In my life’s journey, I’ve been a licensed wildlife rehabilitator with the Ohio Division of Wildlife for 26 years… I have a wildlife rehabilitation facility in Stark County,” Beck said. “I accept 1,600 animals annually and rehabilitate them and put them back out into the wild.”

Beck is the current president of the Ohio Wildlife Rehabilitators Association and has been active in the group for 13 years. Her main role at the association is to teach an eight-hour course called Introduction to Wildlife Training.

Through her experience there she was approached by Malone to consider taking her current position and has been serving the Malone community for eight years in this role. 

Beck says her mission and that of the program is to “care for creation and to teach the students who have a natural passion for animal care and choose this as a career path to show them responsible and high-quality standards of care for animals, no matter what they take care of.”

 “The purpose of the zoo program is to give hands-on experience with all kinds of animals to the students,” Beck said. 

This is one of the major aspects that brought current Malone senior Amy VanLew all the way to Malone’s program from Morgantown, Pennsylvania. 

“I preferred Malone over others [I was considering] because they actually have a live animal collection here… other universities had minimal or no live animal collections,” VanLew said. “Malone would provide me with a lot more hands-on experience.” 

In addition, VanLew cites Malone as one of the few Christian universities that offer a zoo and wildlife biology major. Going to a Christian university was something VanLew wanted from her higher education experience. 

VanLew is one of the two team leads that take care of the avians. She has been a team lead since her junior year, working two shifts a week taking care of all of the avians. To care for these animals, VanLew helps train behaviors in the birds, does checkups with them, trims nails, tracks their weight, and assists with veterinarian visits. 

One of VanLew’s favorite things about the zoo program is the faculty, and relationships she has developed with them. 

“[The faculty] are so personable, and I would feel comfortable walking in their office and asking them questions about life and getting advice,” VanLew said. She also values the relationships she has developed with other students in the program. 

“I feel like we have a really good family in the zoo and you get to know people,” VanLew said. “The other co-leads and I go out to dinner often, and like doing social activities together outside of class.” VanLew encourages anyone interested in animals to join the zoo team.

In order to be considered to work for the zoo team, students must major in zoo wildlife biology or another related field. Students must complete two courses, Animal Husbandry One (BIOL 111) and Animal Husbandry Two (BIOL 112).

If students are not in a related field, they can still become part of the zoo program through the educational outreach team. Beck encourages students of all majors who love to join the educational outreach team.

Two students lead the educational outreach program and the team visits various locations in the community, including high schools, nursing homes, and churches. 

Molly St. John, a junior zoo and wildlife biology major, is a team leader in training for the educational outreach program.

The outreach team mostly engages in a conservation message in the community. They demonstrate how to take care of animals, facts about each species, and answer audience questions in larger groups while showing the animals. 

St. John came to Malone because she was interested in taking care of animals in a capacity other than being a veterinarian. She eventually chose Malone because it would offer her such a broad understanding of animals, and integrated faith. 

“Something that is really unique to Christian schools, especially in the science fields, is that in your schooling you get to learn all of these amazing facts about animals that really highlight God’s glory,” St. John said.

“It’s amazing to see how powerful God is that He orchestrates unity and the order of this world,” St. John said. “It is great having that foundation before moving out into the science community where people have many beliefs about creation.”St John encourages students and staff interested in viewing the zoo to schedule an informal tour which can also be set up by emailing Beck at kbeck@malone.edu. Students interested in joining St. John on the educational outreach team can also reach out to Beck at this email.

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