She always loved animals. In high school, she volunteered at Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk. She volunteered with no pay during the summers of 2012 and 2013. She was able to work closely with the public and educate them about various animals: Sharks, sting rays, seals, crabs and shell fish. “My favorite were the seals” said Rachel.
A high school senior in 2014, her school required she choose a topic to write about and do 20 hours of field work. She chose Zookeeping, and completed her field work at Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport. She shadowed a mentor working with fundraising and events. This provided her with knowledge about how a zoo is run, and how they acquire the funding to provide for the animals. “I remember being able to weigh and tag the baby otters that were born at the zoo” said Rachel.
These two earlier field work positions prepared her for an adventure overseas. In July 2014, she paid for herself to go to South Africa to live on a Game Reserve. Where did she get the money to travel? She worked and saved her money. At the Game Reserve, she volunteered for CARE (Center of Animal RehabilitationEducation). Their focus was on the more than 500 Chacma Baboons, making sure their lives were enhanced with enrichment: Helping the baboons live better with safety and cleanliness. In South Africa, there are no laws protecting the baboons. All of the money going toward CARE are for the baboons, and for the volunteers’ room and board and food. “Baby baboons are provided a surrogate ’human’ mom until a baboon mom is willing to adopt the baby” said Rachel.
Her next adventure will be in June of 2015. She is paying her own way to Bolivia to volunteer at an animal refuge, called Lasenda Verde. They rescue animals from trafficking. There are many different species of animals they rescue: monkeys, bears, birds, and reptiles. Rachel plans to be a “long-term volunteer”. Short-term volunteers will work with monkeys, birds, turtles, cats and bears on a rotational basis. Long-term volunteers (1 month or more) will have the opportunity to become a surrogate mother for a baby monkey or to work more closely with the Andean bears.
Housatonic Community College is the first stepping stone to make her dream a reality. This is Rachel’s first semester at HCC, majoring in General Studies. Rachel plans to obtain her General Studies degree from HCC, and then transfer to the University of Florida, where she will pursue a bachelor degree in Biology. A Biology degree provides universality in Animal Science. Then, she plans to pursue a master degree in Zoology. Her field experience has led her to disagree with keeping animals in captivity. Although she disagrees with captivity, she does view captivity as an important temporary need in order to offer animals a safe place to receive help and care. HCC has opened the door for her to research and study her views on captivity and releasing back into the wild. Soon Rachel hopes to do an independent study for HCC, to research the behavioral difference between the primates in the enclosures versus the ones living free range on the property.