Get Ready for a Wild Encounter:

Poolside with Penguins

Being a zookeeper takes careful preparation. Here are some things you need to know so that you can be prepared to work side by side with your Poolside with Penguins zoo crew:
  1. You will be spending time near deep water during the program. Although you won't be swimming, it is important that you are safe and comfortable. We recommend that you have basic swimming ability and can keep yourself safe in deep water.
  2. Participants must be in relatively good physical condition. It is important that you are able to go up and down stairways at a moderate pace and are able to kneel for up to 15 minutes at a time.
  3. Communication between you and the rest of the Poolside with Penguins zoo crew is crucial. You must be able to read, speak, and understand English without the use of an interpreter.
  4. You must be attentive. Although our penguins, sharks, degus, chinchillas, and other exhibit animals are comfortable working with their human caregivers, they are still wild animals and their behavior is unpredictable. It is important that you pay close attention to the guidance and instructions of the zoo crew.
Please also note the following precautions:
All participants are required to complete a signed liability waiver.
You cannot participate in this program if you are pregnant.
Not all portions of Poolside with Penguins are fully accessible. Guests with disabilities: please call (708) 688-8338, for accessibility information.


Who can register for Poolside with Penguins?
  • Adults
  • Youth ages 12 to 17 who must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian who pays no additional fee.
Can my family or friends watch me participate in this program?
To ensure the safety of all involved, only the registered program participants will be allowed in the areas where the program is taking place. However, The Living Coast building opens at 10:00 a.m. and you may be seen by family or friends when you participate in the penguin feeding on Rocky Shores at approximately 10:10 a.m.

What should I wear?
As part of the program, you will be indoors in warmly heated areas. Please wear long pants. There is the chance that your clothing will come in contact with salt water, so you may want to bring a change of clothes also. We will provide you with waterproof work boots, so be sure to wear or bring socks. You will be asked to remove all jewelry other than smooth wedding bands (no stones). Because you will be in front of the public during various feeding sessions, we ask that you wear something presentable without holes or noticeable wear.

Will there be a place to store my personal items?
Yes. We will provide you with a secure place to keep your personal items while you participate in your Wild Encounters program.

Can I take pictures during the program?
To keep the animals comfortable, we do not allow camera or cell phone use during Wild Encounters.

Where do we meet?
A keeper will meet you at the public exit of The Living Coast building (at the door marked: “Living Coast Keeper For A Day Meets Here”) promptly at 9:00 a.m. If you are parking your car for the length of the program, please park at the South Gate and walk down to the door. Since this is prior to zoo regular opening hours, please do not visit any other parts of the park.

What if I’m late?
If you are more than 15 minutes late, please call (708) 688-8236 and the keeper will meet you as soon as they are able. If you arrive late, the length of the program cannot be extended.

What if I need to cancel?
Wild Encounters, Windows into the Zoo, Hamill Family Play Zoo Classes, Adult Classes prices included a non-refundable deposit equal to 25% of program cost. Cancellations require advance notice of seven working days.

What if I need to reschedule?
Please follow the cancellation process outlined above. Once you have completed your cancellation, you are welcome to register for any available Wild Encounters program. Due to limited availability, we cannot guarantee program registration.

What do I need to know about working with the animals?
Although our penguins, are comfortable working with their human caregivers, they are still wild animals and their behavior is unpredictable. It is important that you pay close attention to the guidance and instructions of the keeper you are spending the morning with. Never enter any animal area without direction from the keeper. Always wait for instructions and authorization from the keeper before approaching any of the animals while participating in training and feeding sessions.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please email