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Keeping it cool

maria arreola

Meet Maria Arreola, a zookeeper at Zoo Miami, part of the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department. Arreola trains and supports sloth bears at Zoo Miami.

A native of Texas, Arreola started her career as an intern for the Fort Worth Zoo. She was completing her biology degree when she came across the internship opportunity. She worked with various animals in their ambassador program for seven years.

"It was so much fun to develop relationships with the animals and bring them out to engage with visitors," Arreola said. "There was never a dull moment learning their personalities and how to best present them to young and old alike."

In consideration of the summer heat and in an effort to ensure the animals are safe, hydrated and cool, the team at Zoo Miami came up with an extraordinary and innovative solution. They assembled a giant five-layer popsicle. The sloth bears enjoyed licking the popsicle when heat and humidity were high.

"Animals can feel your energy and respond accordingly," Arreola explained. "I enjoy working with the sloth bears. They are like primates. They are brilliant and intuitive. I enjoy the challenge they present."

"We use a whistle for our training," Arreola added. "Blow the whistle, and they prepare for a treat. I must communicate well while watching their body language and change my technique and approach as needed."

Arreola feels fortunate to be working at Zoo Miami with a customer-focused team that wants all its members to feel appreciated and enjoy coming to work.

"I would like everyone who visits Zoo Miami to develop a passion for animals, our mission of environmental stewardship and care about our environment. Maybe even inspire someone to become a zookeeper one day."

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