Morristown, N.J. (January 6, 2017) – Junior Shiann Hernandez has the best job ever; since May 2016, she's been volunteering at Highland Airs Alpaca Ranch in Hackettstown, N.J.
Being a biology major with the intention of going into veterinary work, the volunteer opportunity helps her to gain necessary experience. Her academic advisor, Dr. Donna Howell, suggested the program to give Shiann a better overall understanding of working with large animals, and the ability to stand out when applying for veterinary schools and future jobs.
On a typical Sunday at the 30-acre Highland Airs Ranch, Shiann arrives an hour before opening to clean the barns, feed the alpacas, and help to give medication to the animals. On the ranch, there are 30 alpacas and they're said to be some of the friendliest animals you could hope to meet.
The ranch offers free tours during the spring/summer season, running every 30 minutes starting from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., and also allows guests the freedom to explore the property and witness the alpacas first hand.
During the winter months, tours are not offered, but the ranch's gift shop is open on the weekends from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. While there may not be formal tours, visitors to the gift shop are permitted to walk the grounds and take pictures; full alpaca ranch tours will resume in March.
"The best part of this experience is giving tours and watching the people get excited when the alpacas interact with them," said Shiann. "But, I think, in general what gives me the greatest pleasure is spending time with these beautiful animals and learning about them, and from them."