“All creatures great and small” is more than a line from a poem to Michael Clifford. It’s a career.
Clifford, a senior in zoo science at Friends University, has worked with more than 300 of those creatures across the globe. Some of his experiences have included spending three months in South Africa during the summer where he worked with capture teams to locate and humanely capture thousands of animals for transport to southern Africa.
“It was amazing to see true wild herds of animals stampeding by me as I hide behind a bush, or the rush of running to tackle an antelope as it darts by,” Clifford said. “I got to work with a number of zoos in South Africa. I had the privilege of learning how African zoos are run and operated. I got to learn from them as well as share my knowledge of zoos and animal husbandry that I learned from my experiences in U.S. zoos and at Friends University.”
Additionally, Clifford worked with conservation teams to see how they preserve territories, helped with anti-poaching operations and had the opportunity to work with animals that had never seen people before.
“After I finished my work, they were eating right out of my hand. It was incredible,” he said.
Besides South Africa, Clifford also worked as a seasonal keeper for Cleveland Metroparks Zoo for two years after volunteering for two years. He also spent more than three months working for the White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, Florida.
Clifford’s journey across the globe started at Friends University, which he chose specifically for the University’s reputable and unique Zoo Science program.
“Once here, I became enveloped in the community here, and it has become home for me,” he said.
Friends University’s Zoo Science program is one of only three schools in the United States that have a hands-on four-year degree program. Students take more than 10 of their classes at the Sedgwick County Zoo, learning from professionals in the animal-care field.
After he finishes his undergraduate degree, Clifford said he would like to earn a master’s degree in business and pursue a career as a zoo manager or curator.
In addition to the academic opportunities at Friends University, Clifford has completely embraced the University’s Christ-centered environment.
“This place has taught me that I am less interested in what I do, but more interested in how I do whatever it is that I do,” he said. “I am blessed to have lots of opportunities to pursue post graduation and I have come to be OK with whatever God has in store for me.
“My hope is to treat all people that come across my path with sincere love and compassion and to believe in them the way I know Christ believes in me. Friends University is about more than just learning your courses and materials. For me, it is about learning how to care for people.”