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Getting a kiss from a giraffe was just a perk of the job for Katherine Horigan ’04 (Minot, Mass.) this summer.

Horigan gained valuable experience in working with animals and made progress in achieving her dream of becoming a veterinarian during a nine-week internship at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, R.I.

‘’I was also given the invaluable opportunity to prove to myself that this field is really the one I wish to pursue. It was a wonderful experience that I’ll certainly never forget,” says Horigan, a biology major, who also credits her Lafayette experience with giving her ‘’crucial” preparation for veterinary school.

‘’My advisers and professors have been more than helpful in aiding and guiding the pathway towards reaching my goal,” she says. ‘’Because there are such small classes, and the campus is so close-knit, professors and advisers are extremely personal and will go out of their way to help you.”

Working full workdays from Tuesday through Friday, Horigan rotated through different areas of the zoo: Tropics, Africa, Australasia, North America, and Commissary. In fulfilling her responsibilities, Horigan was encouraged to interact with many of the species, she says. She also gained exposure to various medical procedures, research projects, training techniques, and ‘’animal enrichment” methods.

Horigan says she could spend hours telling stories about her interaction with the animals.

‘’While I was at the elephant and giraffe barn, I was lucky enough to give ‘Ginny’ — one of the three female elephants — a bath and draw a blood sample from her ear,” she recalls. ‘’I also got my first giraffe kiss from Griffy, the only male giraffe, who loved all the human attention he could get. At Tropics, I was able to actually go into the Saki and Tamarin (primates) exhibits to feed and interact with them. My favorite Saki would jump on my shoulders and try to steal the peanuts hidden in my pockets. The gibbon exhibit at Australasia was another favorite, as Gloria, the mother, would often request back scratches and would get quite jealous if you paid any attention to the others.”

Having previously worked only with domestic animals, Horigan enjoyed the transition to exotic species. She was fascinated by the similarities between the wild creatures and a household dog or cat, she says.

‘’Getting to know all of the animals, by names and personalities, emphasized just how important and special these creatures really are,” she notes. ‘’Hours of observations and interaction with the animals and zookeepers allowed me to apply what I had learned in the classroom to the real biological world. Also, the internship gave me a sort of ‘backstage pass’ to view how the zoo works from the other side of the exhibit walls. I think most of all, the internship was a positive reinforcement, knowing that there are many other individuals out there who are willing to dedicate their entire lives to the non-human world.”

Horigan, who worked at an animal hospital for four years, hopes to specialize in exotic animals in veterinary school and eventually participate in primate field research in Africa.

A resident of Lafayette’s volunteer living floor since her sophomore year, Horigan is resident adviser of the service group this year. In her first year of college, she lived on another special-interest floor, which stressed a lifestyle free of alcohol and illegal drugs. She has volunteered at Warren Hospital in Phillipsburg, N.J., and Gracedale Nursing Home in Nazareth, Pa. Horigan also is in her third year as a DJ for WJRH, the campus radio station. This January, she will travel to Kenya and Tanzania for a three-week Lafayette interim session course.

Categorized in: Academic News