Unifying commitment: Staff, volunteers function as close-knit team

By Jordan Carey
Times-News correspondent 

Ra the lion. / Kathy Patterson, Special to the Times-News

Lions, tigers, foxes, leopards, coyotes, lemurs and many other species — the Conservators Center of Burlington has it all. One thing you might overlook when you go there is how many dedicated volunteers it has.
Volunteer jobs at the center range from leading group tours to feeding the animals. About 80 animals are housed at the Conservators Center, and more than 20 different species. Most of these animals came from previous locations simply because they needed a different environment.
Tour guides for the center interact with the animals as they explain to visitors interesting facts about the creatures. Everywhere along the tour, volunteers can be seen caring for the animals, such as their famous white tiger, Arthur, or the pair of tiny fennec foxes. Each animal has a story, which the volunteers will gladly share with you.
Even though the Conservators Center is in rural Caswell County, they have no shortage of volunteers and visitors. More than 80 active volunteers work at the center. They spend at least two days a month volunteering, which helps them remember all the information they learned while training. For safety reasons, only people 18 and older are allowed to volunteer.

   The Conservators Center was built in 1999 by Mindy Stinner and Doug Evans, and moved to their current location in 2001. Full-time volunteer Kathy Patterson said that the animal residents “serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts.”
The animals bring wildlife closer to people like nothing can, by introducing visitors to rare, endangered, and threatened species.
While volunteers certainly work hard at the center to keep it running smoothly, it is so much more than just feeding the animals and leading tours.
After working with the animals for a long time, the volunteers become close to them.
“You’re not just preparing food for a lemur,” Patterson said. “You get to know the individual animals — where they came from, their likes and dislikes, their funny habits. Relationships build throughout time with some of the animals. The volunteers and staff function as a close-knit team and we couldn’t do it so successfully without the unifying commitment to the animals. The human and animal relationships are fulfilling and unlike any other place I have encountered.”
To learn more about the Conservators Center, and about planning a tour, you can visit www.conservatorscenter.org or call at 888-650-1139.

Jordan Carey is a ninth-grade home-schooler and a Teens & 20s writer.

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