Lionshare Zoo Founder Brings Internship Opportunities to SHU

News Story: January 17, 2013

Marcella Leone came to the campus of Sacred Heart University on April 28 accompanied by three ambassadors from Lionshare, the zoological education center she runs in Greenwich. Her guests included a six week-old baby porcupine, four month-old red kangaroo, and a one year-old gibbon, a type of ape. Everyone, it seems, loves baby animals, and these three drew oohs and aahs wherever they went.

Leone, founder of the 100-acre preserve on the Greenwich-Stamford line, was a guest lecturer in two undergraduate biology classes taught by Dr. Jennifer H. Mattei, chair of the University’s Biology Department.  She described Lionshare’s work and introduced two SHU student interns, who also discussed their involvement and encouraged others to become involved. The students were Erik Robinson, a senior biology major who expects to apply to vet schools next year, and Tiffany Falcone, a sophomore biology major.

Rather than a public zoo, Lionshare is an educational center for the care and study of wild animals. Its residents include warthogs, guinea hens and giraffes, as well as the three ambassadors Leone brought with her. Interestingly, the center has no lions, at least not yet, and the name is a play on Leone’s own last name. It does have affiliations with other, more established, zoological parks and participates in animal rescue and breeding programs.

She told the students that they were in the perfect position to complement their classroom education in biology and related disciplines with practical hands-on experience. “I wish I had had that opportunity when I was in your place,” she said. Internship options are available in animal care and the studies of animal behavior. As young animals mature, for example, students can track their growth with computer programs. Others may monitor the progress of attempts at breeding or participate in health care.

“We like students – and all our staff – to get a complete sense of the actual lived experience here. For too long, we were concerned about an endangered species, for example, without taking into full consideration their endangered habitat. Interns who start by helping with maintenance can begin to realize what attracts or repels birds, what foods which animals prefer, and so on.

“Our motto,” she explained, “is Learn, Care, Act. We are not a zoo in that people don’t buy tickets to come view the animals. Instead, we are an educational center where the animals are well cared for and handled in a safe and healthy environment.”

Those interested in potential volunteer opportunities may contact Professor Jennifer Mattei at 203-365-7577 or matteij@sacredheart.edu or Erik Robinson at 407-592-0166 or robinsone@sacredheart.edu.