NATIONAL ZOOKEEPER WEEK
- A. The American Association of Zookeepers celebrates National Zookeeper Week every year. The mission of AAZK is “to advance excellence in the animal keeping profession, foster effective communication beneficial to animal care, support deserving conservation projects, and promote the preservation of our natural resources and animal life.”
Have you heard of National Zookeeper week? We celebrate our keepers this week every year! Why do we participate? It is all about celebrating the community of animal care professionals and being grateful for the amazing job that we have that allows us to make a difference in the lives of so many animals, support conservation, and educate the public. Our amazing Zoo staff really does a lot to make the keepers feel appreciated, and not just during NZKW! Being a zookeeper isn’t all glamorous photo opportunities and playing with animals all day. A lot of it is very physical, dirty, and smelly! Keepers work outside in all weather conditions from blizzards, pouring rain, 100+degree days and everything in-between! Here’s a look at some of the behind-the-scenes things you probably didn’t know about becoming a keeper, our keeper staff here at the Zoo, and how we celebrate our animal care staff during National Zoo Keeper Week!
- B. This word cloud developed by AAZK shows just how many roles animal care professionals take on during the course of their careers, and even their days.
The road to becoming a keeper:
Getting to be a keeper is NOT easy. It is a highly-competitive field that requires a lot of qualifications and experience. Most keepers start out as volunteers at their local zoo, animal shelter, or wildlife rehabilitation center. Then, they apply for internships, whether they are still in college or have their Bachelor’s degree already. Side note: A Bachelor’s degree is basically a standard requirement for this field. The degree can be in pretty much any of the natural sciences: biology, psychology, zoology, animal science, etc. Some people choose to do their internships while they are in college, some choose to wait until after. Animal care internships are typically not paid, and housing is typically not provided. This is not the case for every internship, but it is for the large majority of them. Here’s the info on our internship program. After doing an internship(s), then sometimes aspiring-keepers can get hired in an-entry level keeper position, but other times they must take seasonal positions at a zoo/aquarium or part-time positions to get the experience that facilities are looking for before they will hire someone into a full-time, permanent keeper.
Meet our keepers
We are a smaller zoo, but our keeper staff is like a family! Making up our Animal Collections Department is Julia, the Supervisor, two Lead keepers: Sarah and Mia, an Ambassador Animal Lead keeper: Maria, an Ambassador Animal Keeper: Olivia, and 6 Keepers: Joe, Marci, Ashley B., Ashley S., Jess, and Megan! The Zoo is broken up into five sections of animals, and each keeper is trained in anywhere from one section to all five of them!
- C. It’s hard to get a photo of all the keepers together! They are hard at work, and all have different days off, here are just a few of our wonderful keeper staff!
Fun celebrations of NZKW
The American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) released the theme of NZKW2018: Keeping it Together: Teamwork, Collaboration and Support. This year, we are celebrating keepers everywhere from July 15-21. AAZK is encouraging keepers celebrating to explore what teamwork means to them and to their facility. You can follow all the fun and shenanigans with the social media hashtag #NZKW2018. Last year, our keepers participated in the Zookeeper Olympics! This included many zookeeper-themed games, such as identifying keys blindfolded, guessing the weights of different animal food items, and an all-out zookeeper obstacle course with events such as coiling hoses, finding keys in animal enrichment items, and catching poop in a bucket! If you stop by the Zoo during NZKW, be sure to thank a keeper, but also ask them what fun activities they have in store for that day to celebrate!
- D. Zookeeper Olympics from 2017.
- E. This word cloud put out by AAZK promotes the theme of NZKW2018. Animal care professionals largely work as a team to accomplish their daily tasks, goals, and provide the highest quality of care to the animals they are responsible for.
Visit the Zoo this week and join us in saying THANK YOU to our keeper staff! We are open from 10am-5pm daily!