Interview with Steffi John, MCBT Education Officer

For many people, working with animals all day is a dream job. Only a few get to actually live this amazing experience though! I interviewed my AIF Clinton Fellowship mentor Steffi John (via email) to share more about her experience as the Education Officer at the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology. If you love reptiles, this could be your job one day!

N: How did you get involved with the Croc Bank?
S: I just applied for the Education Officer position.

N: What does your job entail?
S: Park talks, guided tours, awareness talks, educational presentations, night safaris, planning event itineraries, conducting activities, preparing promotional materials for zoo programs, hosting camps, developing and implementing educational programs, evaluating and updating programs regularly, handling animals for educational purposes

N: What’s your favorite part of working at the Croc Bank?
S: Handling animals and giving snake talks

N: What’s your least favorite part of working at the Croc Bank?
S: Writing reports

N: What’s your favorite animal at the Croc Bank?
S: The Indian rock python and the chameleons

N: What do you think education programs at Croc Bank will look like in the future? What are you most excited about?
S: We’re trying to create webinars on things such as giving virtual tours, showing feeding sessions and (the part I am most excited about) conducting zoo educator programs in the future!

N: What do you think is the greatest threat to reptiles? How is the Croc Bank addressing it?
S: Humans are the biggest threat to any species. We give educational talks with our reptiles and especially with snakes because people tend to believe mythical stories that have been passed on generation after generation. So busting myths and getting a reaction from their face is the best part.

N: How has the work of Croc Bank brought about direct change?
S: As a reptile-centric zoo for the past 44 years, I am very positive that we have created a change in people’s perspectives towards reptiles from “ew that’s gross” to “WOW that is fascinating”!

N: What would you say to someone who wants to get involved in this type of work?
S: Love for animals is good but learning to respect them is an obligation.

N: Lastly, why did you decide to get involved with the AIF Clinton Fellowship as a mentor?
S: Opportunities for cultural exposure, building relationships, creating effective ideas, sharing work ethics, and a healthy partnership between prominent organizations.

Thank you Steffi for your dedication and all the hard work that you do!

Two girls standing on a stairwell with a pond and crocodiles in the background
Naomi Tsai (left) and Steffi John (right) on the steps of the education building at MCBT.

Naomi is serving as an American India Foundation (AIF) Clinton Fellow with the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (Croc Bank) in Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu. For her Fellowship project, she is designing educational material and activities for youth and adults to learn about India’s ecosystem and to promote the conservation of endangered species in their natural habitats. Born in Taipei, Taiwan, and raised in Portland, Oregon, Naomi recently graduated with a degree in organismal biology and ecology. While at Colorado College, Naomi worked for the Office of Sustainability, overseeing various green certification programs and serving on the Campus Sustainability Council. She also worked as a lab technician in the GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Lab and as a resident advisor. She completed over 300 service hours through the Community Engaged Scholars program, was a backcountry trip leader for the Outdoor Recreation Committee, and a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. Most recently, Naomi worked as a kayak instructor at Trackers Earth, an outdoor education camp in Portland. Naomi is excited to join the AIF Clinton Fellowship and to immerse herself in the local community and culture through service.

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