Working in a Zoo is a special type of lifestyle. You are a devoted keeper taking care of the animals you work with. Zookeepers work day and night if necessary, they work any day of the week to give the highest standard of care to the species on their sections. When animals are sick the zookeepers are there to give them that special care no matter the day or time. Zookeepers have a mission and that mission all comes together through protecting species through educating families and give them a lifelong experience about the nature we have to protect.
1: Diplomas and Courses
Did you know that many zookeepers have multiple degrees such as Zoology, Psychology, Welfare Science, and Biology etc. It takes quite some courses and experience to be a great zookeeper. We never stop learning and there for many of us are a member of organizations such as EAZA, WAZA, IMATA, ABMA, etc etc. This helps to get better in what we do. We share stories with each other not only because it’s fun but mainly to connect and learn from each other to look for better ways of care all the time. Some of us are even in the board of directors or have another job to do in such organization’s and yes this all happens next to their busy schedule taking care of the animals.
2: Research Projects
Many of us are connected to so called foundations, research centers, scientific projects or even universities that conduct the research together with the keepers. Zookeepers help scientist to get baseline data for the wild counterparts. This gives the scientists a foundation to work from. Some research can only be done in zoological facilities. This is where zookeepers are an important asset in the road to peer review articles based on science.
They are experts in animal behavior and modifying behaviour. They train their animals for many different behaviours that lifts up the welfare of the animals. Animal Training is a science on its own and with the techniques Sir. Thorndike, Pavlov and Skinner discovered we can reach very high grounds in working together with our animals. There are many reasons we train our animals:
Health and Safety
Support Conservation Programmes
They must all have one thing in common: to provide a net welfare benefit to the animal
4: We Have the Best Relationships
We build relationships with the animals we work with. This gives us a better understanding how those animals work and we can even educate the audience better about those species. Who doesn’t like to hear stories from a keeper that has a great relationship with their animals? When people can come closer they start to love the animal more, when they love the animal they want to care for it and when they want to care for it they want to protect it.
Zookeepers are the best poop-handlers I know. We have to take this stuff away everyday but it doesn’t end there. 75% of our day is making sure the areas where the animals live are clean from anything and everything. Believe it or not we find a lot of odd objects in the exhibits. We take care of it so our animals won’t hurt themselves. This sometimes goes very far. The bad side of a good cleaner is… We Smell! Sorry people in the restaurant but whatever the number of showers we take, we just smell. We work with animals, we breath animal and we smell animal and so far there hasn’t been a deodorant who can battle against this odor.
6: We are Creative
They are creative in giving the animals the best lives possible. They do this to all the above points but there is one where the creativity really stands out and that is enrichment. Enrichment gives the animals challenges and stimulation they need. We can even go that far that there are many research topics done by enrichment programs for the animals.
Zookeepers are nonstop busy educating the audience about the animals and their wild counterparts. A big topic is conservation what covers many sub topics. We as keepers need to know all the ins and outs to give the general public the knowledge they need how to be part of this. Many Zoos have projects in other places around the world. They connect with organization’s who conduct research and protection for the animals we care for. Zoos support many conservation projects.
8: The Personal Coach:
We understand more about nutrition for specific species than the local gym coach. We study this all the time and always trying to look for what’s best for our animals. We make documents what the nutritional values are and how we can give the right amount of kcal to our animals. We look up what values there are in grass and leaf types and find ways to get each induvial the nutrition they need. We are kind of personal coaches.
When there is a bit of time left over we observe our animals. Keepers can see problems coming and act accordingly. Zookeepers do assessments about the behaviors they see in their animals what gives them a better understanding. As a zookeeper you want to know, who likes to be with who, who doesn’t like each other and who has abnormal behavior. We want to know if they eat enough and why they wouldn’t. We want to know the overall wellbeing of our animals and one important way of doing this is proper observation.
10: IT Specialists
We do a lot of record keeping, we fill in form after form after form just to get data about our animals we work with. Through record keeping we can act to behavior, we can see trends in behavior but we can also see how much the animal has been eating in a day and how their overall well-being is. Record keeping is important. We fill in our enrichment schedules to give our animals ultimate variety in their day and this is all recorded in the computer.
As you can see zookeepers need to be the best at everything all for the well-being of the species we work with. I’m sure I have forgotten a couple. Zookeepers are dedicated, devoted, knowledgeable and mindful teachers towards the general public. We can’t forget how important the modern zookeeper is, because of them we know more about nature, animals and all other environmental challenges we have in the world!