Zookeepers bring reptiles to retirement home  

Santa Fe students Tina and Kyle show off the zoo's prehensile-tailed skink.
Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo students Tina and Kyle show off the zoo's prehensile-tailed skink at the Oak Hammock retirement community on Wednesday. (Photo by Taryn Ashby)

The Oak Hammock retirement community hosted a few unique visitors on Wednesday.

A red-footed tortoise, a prehensile-tailed skink, and a ball python, to be exact.

Santa Fe College zookeepers and other zoo residents presented an informative slideshow about their experiences and knowledge of wildlife and showed off some of their scaly friends.

“Going out and spreading knowledge about what we zookeepers do is part of our mission. We feel like we are making a difference for wildlife,” said Jade Salamone, the SF College Teaching Zoo Conservation Education Curator, in an interview. “Also, it enriches our students. They won’t get this practical experience without community members inviting us in. I am very grateful.”

This ball python was found abandoned in an apartment complex in 1989.
Photo by Taryn Ashby This ball python was found abandoned in an apartment complex in 1989.

SF College Teaching Zoo encompasses 10 acres with over 70 species and roughly 200 individual animals. The Zoo Animal Technology program is a two-year program that allows students to receive an associate degree in science.

The teaching zoo at Santa Fe is the only college zookeeper training facility in the U.S. with its own Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoo on its grounds. AZA is the highest animal welfare, community education, and conservation standard.

“Having the AZA standard is important for our students going out and finding jobs in the field,” Salamone said.

The Oak Hammock residents looked excited to listen and learn during the presentation. Many individuals asked questions about the animals’ names, ages, diets, and habitats.

A handful of residents even walked up to touch and see the ball python up close. 

“I was absolutely excited,” said Oak Hammock resident Lori Hoopes. “I had a meeting scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and quickly moved it back to 9:30 a.m. so that everyone attending that meeting (could) also come to see the animals.

“When we moved here, we didn’t know much about the area or Santa Fe, so learning about the program today was wonderful.”

When the presentation concluded, Katherine Osman, the Oak Hammock Director of Community Services, announced that in early October the residents would take a bus to the zoo so that they could venture out into the community. She believes getting people out and about to new places is essential, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jade Salamone begins the presentation by explaining Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo's mission statement.
Photo by Taryn Ashby Jade Salamone begins the presentation by explaining Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo’s mission statement.
Santa Fe student Kyle shows Oak Hammock residents a turtle.
Photo by Taryn Ashby Santa Fe College student Kyle shows Oak Hammock residents a turtle.
Oak Hammock's residents gather for the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo's presentation.
Photo by Taryn Ashby Oak Hammock’s residents gather for the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo’s presentation on Wednesday.
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