Stepping up Featured

8:00pm EDT May 26, 2009

Luverne Skillicorn had been looking forward to this day for months. She was about to meet the Siberian tiger her family had adopted on her behalf at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

The only problem was at 94, Skillicorn was confined to a wheelchair. The zoo tram did not go to the Northern Trek, and the long journey taken by foot would be too much for Skillicorn. It seemed as though Skillicorn’s dream was about to be dashed. But just when all seemed lost, two zoo employees appeared on a first aid cart and offered to transport Skillicorn to see her tiger.

“They are our heroes because we could not have left the zoo without getting Mom to the tigers,” wrote Ruth Skillicorn, Luverne’s daughter, in a letter to the zoo. “They went out of their way not only to get us there but to do everything they could to make Mom’s ride comfortable.”

It’s that philosophy of going above and beyond the call of duty to assist visitors to the zoo that Director Steve Taylor hopes to instill in each of his employees from the moment they come to work at the zoo.

The goal is actually to identify zoo visitors who have a need and assist them before they even ask for help. Employees are trained on facts and information about the zoo and also on how to deliver that information.

They learn about body language, tone of voice, attitude and concentration, and the importance of using each of those in such a way that it enhances the experience of zoo guests. Each aspect of the training is conveyed face to face and in a handbook that helps to reinforce the knowledge. It all culminates in a tour of the zoo that helps employees take all that they have learned and prepare to apply it in practice.

How to reach: Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, (216) 661-6500 or