Ignite Your Passion for Wildlife! Become a SF Zoo Docent

What is a Docent

A docent is a trained volunteer who guides and teaches at the Zoo. The word “docent” comes from the Latin word meaning “to teach” and is frequently used to identify trained volunteer educators in zoos, national parks, museums, and similar organizations.

The San Francisco Zoo’s Docent Council established the docent program in 1968. Over the past 50+ years, thousands of people have contributed their time and talent to the Zoo as Docents.

Docents support our mission by engaging guests in conservation education through informative talks, biofact presentations, and sharing the Zoo’s conservation initiatives while out at our exhibits. Speaking about our animals and their wild counterparts inspires our guests to celebrate our animal ambassadors, protect wildlife in their natural habitats, and engage in independent conservation action.


You can be a part of a vibrant community of volunteers who care about conserving wildlife. You’ll meet new friends and learn about animals from the Zoo staff.

Meet guests from every walk of life and from around the world and be an ambassador for wildlife and for San Francisco. Becoming a Docent is a great way to share your knowledge of and passion for wildlife and conservation. As a Docent, your enthusiasm and knowledge will help connect people with our animals, inspire conservation efforts, and enrich the experiences of all our guests.


Our Docents come from all walks of life and a wide range of ages! Some have a background in education; many do not. Some live close to the zoo; others live quite some distance. Their passion for animals and wildlife drives them to volunteer at the Zoo. If you love talking about animals, nature, and conservation and are a lifelong learner, the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens has a Docent volunteer program for you!


  • To be a docent, you must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Attend a Docent Orientation to understand the Docent and the Biofact Interpreter (“Intro to Docenting”) programs and Docent responsibilities better.
  • You must complete our annual training program. This 10-week comprehensive course covers conservation messages, Zoo history and operation, animal wellness, ecology, biological adaptations, and communication skills.
  • Docents volunteer 10 hours per month and self-schedule their hours


Laura Gross, Docent, 7+ years

“I LOVE animals and care deeply about animal conservation. I once heard, “You can’t protect what you don’t love. And you can’t love what you don’t know. ” This is why I’m a docent. Because oftentimes people don’t know what’s going on in the animal world, and we, as docents, are given the opportunity to teach and connect with the guests so they can learn, love, and protect our animals too.”

 Beth Anderson Docent, 52+ years

“My love of animals and of educating people keeps me coming back to the Zoo year after year.”

Is the time right for you to join the Docent Program? We hope so!

Contact us to learn how to get involved before the next training class, ask questions, or learn more about our Docent Program. 

Contact us via E-mail [email protected]


Docent Program Dates 2024-2025

Docent Program Informational Events (Or Docent Orientation)

Learn more about becoming a Zoo Docent. Enjoy presentations, a Zoo tour, a hands-on biofact cart demonstration, plus light refreshments. The Informational Events are in the Lurie Education Building. Zoo parking passes will be provided.

    • Sunday, July 21st, 2024, 10 am – 12 pm
    • Sunday, August 25, 2024, 1 pm – 3 pm

Space is limited, so reserve your spot today! RSVP to [email protected].

Biofact Interpreter Training (“Intro to Docenting”) begins:

    • Late August – early September 2024 

Docent 2025 Training Class

    •  Starts Feb. 2025 – 10 weeks – Sundays

For additional information, please email: [email protected]