Two Ocean Aquarium Internship

Krystal Gilbert

11 March 2016

Two Ocean Aquarium internship

Cape Town South Africa



As a student majoring in Fisheries and Wildlife; I believe that the importance of resources is a main concern to many countries now days. We all know that the lack of resources in another country could cause chaos via economics, cultural clashes, disease, and etc. Resources are sometimes why political arguments are made to justify unmoral action. The fact of the matter is that at least 40 percent of the world’s economy and almost 80 percent of people in poverty needs are derived from biological resources. In addition, the richer the diversity of life, the greater the opportunity for medical discoveries, economic development, and adaptive responses to such new challenges as climate change.

The importance of resources via global perspective is biodiversity which is basically the number of species of plants, animals, and microorganisms that lives in certain ecosystems. In terms biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity by ensuring natural sustainability for all animals and ecosystems in good condition can withstand and recover from a variety of disasters. In other words, biodiversity provides a natural service which are biological resources, ecosystem services and social benefits. At the Two Ocean Aquarium we are helping to improve South Africa’s resources’ by using social benefits.

Social benefits is define by the use research, education, monitoring, recreation, tourism, and cultural values.  The aquarium gives daily lecture to adults and children on endanger species like African penguin and teach people why we must ban plastics in local communities. There is recreational diving where a person can dive in the predator pool to see the loggerhead turtle Yoshi and our female ragged toothed sharks also known as tiger shark. Every fish that resides in the aquarium is native to the South African’s coast so each species has a cultural value.  The Two Ocean Aquarium value teaching children about sustainably methods and the negative outcome of not overconsumption of fish and toxin that seep into our oceans. The next generation of South African’s will have more understanding of what needs to be done to maintain health vibrant biodiversity within their country.


For the last two months, I have been an intern at Two Ocean Aquarium in Cape town, South Africa; I have gain many wonderful experiences throughout my stay. The staff: education, aquarist, volunteers, interns, and workshop are like a second family because the atmosphere is relax. I help clean tanks, feed penguins, and prepare the food in the kitchen; I basically shadow different aquarists. I have come to learn that there are three major skills necessary to ensure all animals well taken care of in the aquarium. Communication, knowledge, and sanitation are three skill that needs to be enforce while working with animals.


Communication with coworkers allows you to know what action is currently happening and what we must do. Example of me using the skills was when I had to constantly keep in touch with my staff as we currently dealing with acidic water from overabundance of isopods in the harbor.  The fishes could not feed for about two weeks since the sea water in the tanks came from that exact harbor. For those two weeks, I learn that effective communication is needed especially since rare events like isopod bloom may happened which could put the animals species were protection at risk.


Knowledge is needed to work with animals like the African penguins to be able to know their history, how to identify them, disease that are found in this specie. The information that is known about each species allows the aquarist to be able to help keep the animals healthy. The picture above shows African penguins which resides at boulder beach, Simon town. The aquarium never get there penguins from this area because Boulder Beach is a protected area for the penguins as their population decline from many factor over the years. I learn to identify African penguins and Rock hopper penguins by their spots on their bellies and the behavior they present to their handlers.


I believe that sanitation is the most important fact when working with animals especially in captive animals. In the aquarium, we must make sure to siphon the takes with different pipes to not containment each tank. Equipment must be sterilized daily to make sure our species will become ill over time. The hardest part about sanitation is warning the public to not put their hands, camera, or etc in the water. It pretty hard to enforce rule when a bunch school kids wish to literally touch the water. The fun part about keeping animals health is getting to watch surgery done on a fish as shown in the picture above. two other intern and I help Nick and George clean tanks, change water, and catch the fish before surgery was done which last about 15- 20 minutes on each fish.


These three skill which I  learn at Two Ocean Aquarium have improve my understanding of why it is important to do certain things to ensure animals within my care is healthy and be able to live longer. I believe the skill are vital in Fisheries and Wildlife because we must speaker to the public and teach them why we must conserve/protect certain species. It also vital for animals that live in a control environment to have clean water, environment and fresh food. I can predict how these skill shall impact via future but I do know I want to learn as much as possible about different species and environment in the future.




South Africa is known for its cultural diversity, I think there is 10-11 official languages Afrikaans, English, and Xhosa are the three main spoken languages in the country. I was not overwhelmed by the cultural difference since it was too many cultures to actual give thought to my own difference. There were time when some man or woman asked was I married or have children when I apply no they would tell me I am old enough now that I should be married. Thankful not everyone is like that and I cannot judge entire nation or culture on another personal’s opinion.  I did however notice that there are some area in Cape Town were communities still separate by race. The only major difference I really took notice is the pronunciation if certain words which is different from American English vs queen English, difference in traffic lights, cars, measurements, and crime.

I honestly love talking to South Africans about their culture their food, tradition, vacation spots. It was for me to accept the cultural difference because I accepted their culture regardless of my liking or disliking of that culture. I did not belittle or wished that I was still in America; I asked question which they answer I am truly grateful to all the people that handle my annoying questions with ease.  I believe that asking question and listen to other stories has help me improve my relationship towards the staff.


My international internship has allow me to pet a cheetah, fox, and a meerkat.  I have always wanted to travel to see other countries and see other culture. I have meet some the most awesome people in the world and I hope I will get to travel more once I graduate from college. I will join the peacecorp before applying to graduated school to gain more experience while preparing to study zoonosis disease and other potentially disease that may spread to human in the future. I am having a wonderful time in Cape Town and I will missed my aqua buddies at the aquarium.