Thank you for your interest in joining the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute's Elephant Trails Volunteer Interpreter program. The Elephant Trails exhibit is home to seven Asian elephants. Along the trail, visitors experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the multi-generational herd that is the cornerstone of the campaign to save this endangered species from extinction. Scientists at the Zoo and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute are working to create a comprehensive view of Asian elephant biology, behavior, reproduction, genetics, migration, elephant endotheliotropic herpesviruses (EEHV) and the challenges surrounding human-elephant conflict.

Our herd of seven share an exhibit designed to encourage and enable the animals' natural behavior. Visitors can see Asian elephants interacting with enrichment items, taking a dip in a pool, having a snack in the Elephant Community Center, or spending time with each other in the large outdoor yards.  As a volunteer, your primary role will be to welcome visitors to the National Zoo and introduce them to the exhibit. Volunteers will learn about the Elephant Trails exhibit through a series of online training courses, and will also be given in-person training that covers interpretive technique, or how to share information with Zoo guests, general information about the Zoo, and an overview of volunteer policies and procedures.

This is a year-round volunteer opportunity with training beginning in March 2020. Volunteers must be able to attend all training sessions. Volunteers are asked to work at least three three-hour shift each month. To be eligible, volunteers must be at least 18 years old, and should be comfortable spending time outside for the shifts.

Please note: These positions are highly competitive and there are limited spaces available. Submission of an application is not a guarantee of placement. Selected applicants will be interviewed, and those who are provisionally accepted will be fingerprinted and must pass a Smithsonian background check for any convictions directly related to the volunteer's duties and responsibilities. Only job-related convictions will be considered and will not automatically disqualify the candidate. Please fill this form out completely. Questions? Call at 202-633-3057 or email Caroline Winslow at

FONZ Elephant Trails Volunteer Application

Basic Information
Home Address
We do not discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression. In order to track the effectiveness of our recruiting efforts and to ensure we consider the needs of all our volunteers and employees, please tell us what your gender is (optional).
Emergency Contact
Check the boxes to indicate "yes"

Please provide the names and contact information for two references, one personal, and one professional.

Please take a moment to verify your availability for this program.

I understand I must attend all four in-person training sessions (check to indicate you will be available).
Do you prefer to work mornings or afternoons? For our planning, it would be helpful to know what shift time would be best for you.  Please note: new volunteers will be expected to work at least one afternoon shift each month for the first year.