Creature Connections provides patients and their families with one of a kind animal encounters at the Cincinnati Zoo in order to create cherished experiences and lasting memories through the human-animal bond.
Creature connections is a collaborative partnership between Pets for Patients, the Cincinnati Zoo and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Frequently Asked Questions
What animals will I meet?
We try to accommodate any requests you may have, but animals have the choice to participate, and there may be things beyond the program’s control.
Animals include: Sloth, rabbit, snakes, owls, lizards, and more!
You are also welcome to walk around the zoo until closing, following your encounter to see some of our non-ambassador animals.
What should I wear?
Your encounter will be held indoors, but please note you may have to travel a short distance within the zoo.
Please wear closed-toed shoes!
You may be required to wear gloves to touch some of our animals. Gloves will be provided by the zoo staff.
Can I take pictures during the program?
Yes! When you are greeted by a Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden employee, they will let you know when photography will be permitted. We try our best to create experiences that will allow you to take lots of photos!
Are there any additional resources for individuals with developmental disabilities?
Please note any special accommodations you need to your social worker. They will fill out a form that can help the zoo better deliver a supportive and safe environment!
There is a social story available for this specific experience, as well as general Access For All information available on the Cincinnati Zoo’s website!
What are zoo hours?
Zoo hours can be found on the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s website, and vary seasonally
After you have been selected to participate you will need to complete the following form:
*If you need a printed form please contact your social worker at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
Meet the Staff at the Cincinnati Zoo
These woman help make Creature Connections possible.
Meredith Hughes has served with the Cincinnati Zoo for over five years and my work has been focused on connecting children and adults to wildlife and nature. One of my favorite animals at our Zoo would be our vultures, as I find them fascinating to observe and they play an important role in many ecosystems throughout the world. I am a mom of a 6 month old baby who has brightened my world and motivates me to be the best I can be for my family and my community.
Keri Ann Bolerjack:
My name is Keri Ann, I’m a mom to a set of 1 ½ year old twin girls, and a 6 year old son. This is the start of my 5th year here at the Cincinnati zoo. Currently, I am a Supervisor in the Wild Encounters team, but I have also worked in the Bird Show. My favorite animals are, you guessed it, Birds! I will always love to talk about them! Outside of work, I enjoy painting and reading!
My name is Erin O’Brien and I’m the head keeper of the Interpretive Department here at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. I’m originally from Boston, Massachusetts and have been living in Cincinnati for the past 3 years. My main job here at the CZBG is to take care of the ambassador animal family and make sure our animals and keeper staff are happy, healthy and safe. My favorite animal to work with is Rico Suave, the prehensile tailed porcupine. I like him because, like me, he can be prickly on the outside but is very soft and squishy on the inside.
Myra Bhatnagar has been a registered nurse for 15 years. She specializes in critical care and currently works in the cardiovascular ICU at University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Myra is also a volunteer animal handler at the Cincinnati Zoo. This is her 7th year working with the zoo’s animal ambassadors. She loves watching the connections the animals inspire all over Cincinnati. When not at the hospital or the zoo, Myra can be often be found at one of her husband’s restaurants eating pizza.
Tami Ware has been with The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens for over 4 years after working at various other zoos and aquariums. I am currently a keeper in the Interpretive Department where I get to work with a variety of animals that I adore, including the Sloth, rabbits, birds, reptiles and so much more. I have also had the pleasure of helping to raise Fiona the premature hippo, an experience that will never be forgotten. I am so proud to be a part of this Creature Connections team where I can bring animals and families together for amazing experiences.
Morgan has been at the zoo since 2015, and is currently a supervisor in Wild Encounters! Her favorite animal to work with at the zoo is a goat named Wilbur, but she also loves working with snakes and teaching people how awesome they are! At home, Morgan has two dogs, three cats, and a hedgehog!
Sarah Dapper Swanson:
Sarah Dapper Swanson has been with the Cincinnati Zoo for roughly 18 years in various departments and roles. Today she is Team Lead of the Interpretive Department. She helped start the Children’s Hospital Creature Connection and is heavily involved with all aspects of it today. She thoroughly enjoys being a part of this team. Her favorite animal to show off is Moe the sloth. She is very passionate about her involvement with The Sloth Institute in Costa Rica and making a difference in the life of the wild sloths.