Knobby, the Zoo’s giant Galápagos tortoise (l) and Saramae Parker (r)


Where are They Now?

Saramae Parker, MHS Alumni on Her Own Adventure
By Alejandra Galindo, Communications Technician

Have you ever wanted to meet a sloth or a rhino? Fresno Chaffee Zoo’s Adventure Guide, Saramae Parker, is the one that introduces you to these and other awesome creatures. She leads Behind the Scenes tours, provides wildlife education, and facilitates interactions between guests and animals.

Parker grew up in Madera, CA, and attended Madera Unified School District for most of her academic career. Parker graduated from Madera High School in 2013 and continued her education at Madera Center and Fresno City, and received her Associate’s degree in Biological Sciences. She transferred to Fresno State and obtained her Bachelor’s of Science in Biology in Spring 2020.

Since a child, she has had a passion for wildlife conservation and remembers that she wanted to work with animals in some capacity at a very young age. Parker remembers visiting the Fresno Chaffee Zoo with her family and knowing this place had a very special impact on her.

Her journey at the Zoo began in March of 2016 as a Conservation Interpreter. This job entailed facilitating safe and educational interactions between guests and animals at the Giraffe Feeding and the Stingray Bay touch pool. She is now an Adventure Guide and teaches guests about the animals they’ve come to meet and how they can help conserve the species in the wild. Her favorite part about her job is seeing the excitement on guests’ faces when they get to meet their favorite animal for the first time. She believes that giving guests an unforgettable up-close opportunity with animals opens the door to understanding, appreciating, and respecting nature.

Parker said as an adventure guide, “every day is exciting!” She shared the wildest days are when she had multiple encounters in a day, back-to-back. Although they have the same animal encounters multiple times a week, it doesn’t get repetitive or boring. She gets to meet new people that sometimes have traveled hours, or even from out of state, to come to our zoo and do our animal encounters.

Parker shared a few challenges that have come along the way due to COVID-19, which led to the zoo closing twice during the pandemic. Since her position involved interacting with the public regularly, she had to adjust her role. The Education team partnered with local districts Madera Unified and Fresno Unified to virtually bring the Zoo to the kids. Fresno Chaffee Zoo was excited to welcome back in-person guests in June 2020, and she has returned to providing them life-changing experience. They have continued to offer virtual programs to the local districts, so her position also includes helping run those programs.

Parker has worked tirelessly to get where she is now. She shared that while attending school, at one point, she was working three part-time jobs while attending college full-time. She states, “it was a challenge, but my determination to get my degree and the support from family and friends helped me persevere.” She is living proof that dreams do come true! Parker said, “don’t give up on your dreams, whatever they may be! You might be in a rough patch at the moment, but it WILL eventually get better, and you WILL succeed. It took me six and a half years to get my 4-year degree, but I did it, and you can too.”


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