Linda Crowe works fulltime in the executive offices of Bank One Texas, but spends her leisure time with the animals.

For more than five years, the East Dallas resident has volunteered at the Dallas Zoo. Crowe says she enjoys her volunteer work because it allows her to make a difference in a field that is important to her: wildlife preservation.

“If you’re concerned about conservation and habitat destruction, what can you do as an individual but donate money?” Crowe says. “The only way I can make any kind of impact is by sharing what I believe with other people. If enough people believe, we can begin to make some changes.”

Her love of animals and a desire to preserve wildlife is what led Crowe to her volunteer activities at the zoo. She owns many cats and first worked with a group that cares for squirrels, birds and other wildlife that are injured or orphaned. She met many people who worked with the zoo and decided to get involved.

Crowe first worked in the gift shop, later became a zoo docent and has served as a gorilla guide for two years. She has received many hours of training in both general zoology and her specialty, gorillas.

As a gorilla guide, Crowe stands in the Gorilla Research Station in the Wilds of Africa exhibit and answers questions from visitors. She gives them background information on the gorillas and explains why these animals are endangered.

The most common question Crowe is asked is: “Where exactly are the gorillas? We don’t see them.”

“People can look right at the gorillas and not see them,” Crowe says. She lets visitors look for awhile, and then she points to a bush or tree to set them in the right direction. Crowe explains that visitors have to learn how to properly focus on the scene in order to see the animals.

“We try to promote an appreciation of wildlife and show people that these animals are worthy of being saved from extinction,” Crowe says. “We want to teach them something and make it fun.”

While Crowe enjoys sharing information with zoo visitors, she also likes learning new things, herself. She and other volunteers sometimes assist staff members with research projects. She recently participated in a project studying the mother and calf behavior of the okapi.

“Volunteering for the Dallas Zoo is wonderful because you get to know the staff, the keepers, the people who work with these animals on a daily basis,” Crowe says. “Everyone is generous with their time and information, so I learn things I would never know otherwise.”

Volunteer Opportunities at the Zoo

LouAnne Smith, volunteer coordinator for the Dallas Zoo and the Aquarium says she needs more dedicated volunteers, with a special need for educational volunteers and docents. Individuals who like working with people will enjoy these positions, teaching visitors about the animals.

Volunteers also are needed to serve as keeper aides, helping staff feed and care for the animals. A volunteer orientation will be Feb. 27. For information, call the zoo at 943-3110.

For more information on volunteer positions available at the zoo and other nonprofit agencies, call the Volunteer Center of Dallas at 826-6767.