Keeper Chat

A friendly resource for prospective zoo professionals, as well as curious passers-by.

Anonymous asked: Hello, I love your site. I am curious to know, when you say you have worked at several institutions, both paid and unpaid, does that mean you traveled away from your home, out of state, for unpaid internships? How did you handle the cost of living during these times? I am interested in the finer details of your journey.

Hi!
My first real internship was unpaid and lasted three months (over the summer between my junior and senior years of college).  It was about a 45-minute drive from my parents’ house, where I was able to live for free at the time, so basically my only expense that summer was gas (which I paid for via a combination of local babysitting/pet-sitting/house-sitting).

Then I worked all through my senior year of college and got a retail job as soon as I could after graduation, so that I could be constantly saving money while applying to zoos (again, I was living at home and not paying rent, which I realize is not a possibility for everyone — I acknowledge that I was very fortunate, and I did contribute in other ways, like cooking and cleaning and whatnot).  And that definitely helped me out in the long run, because nine months after I graduated I got my first paid zoo job, which was across the country and technically just a minimum-wage temporary keeper position in an expensive city.  While I had that job, my paychecks were barely covering my rent, so I needed those savings to pay for things like utilities, food, etc.  I would not have been able to afford to take an unpaid position at that time.

After about a year of that, I got my current full-time job and since then I’ve been able to stabilize my finances.

My advice to anyone would be: start saving as much as you can, as soon as you can, because the easiest way to break into this field is to go for the unpaid bottom-of-the-ladder positions and work your way up.

Why Become a Zookeeper - from the Kansas City Zoo, Kansas City, MO

Anonymous asked: Hi, I have seen things like this posted in elephant care positions and am curious about what it means: "The Fort Worth Zoo is an elephant breeding facility with 3.4 Asian elephants." I saw another one with 1.1 as the number. I am wondering what the numbers mean?

Good question, quick answer!

Male.Female.Unknown Sex

So, for example:

3.4 = 3 males, 4 females

1.1 = 1 male, 1 female

0.1.2 = 0 males, 1 female, 2 unknown sex (for example, babies)

This applies not only to elephants, but to all zoo animals in a collection, species-by-species.  So if you had 10 male zebras and 4 female zebras and then 1 male kudu and 3 female kudu, it wouldn’t be 11.7, it would be 10.4 zebra and 1.3 kudu.

700 Followers!!!!

It’s a National Zookeeper Week miracle!



A heartfelt thank you to every single one of my followers.  Y’all are gorgeous.

This blog has been around for about 2 years, and I’m really impressed and humbled by what it’s become. 

Thanks for sticking around — here’s to the next hundred!

HAPPY NATIONAL ZOO KEEPER WEEK!!!From the AAZK website:”National Zoo Keeper Week Proclamation
WHEREAS, worldwide animal populations are declining at an alarming rate with many facing extinction; and
WHEREAS, zoological institutions have become the final hope for many endangered species recovery programs through conservation research, release programs, and by being a portal through which the general public can view and appreciate disappearing wildlife; and
WHEREAS, zoological institutions are also population managers of keystone and cornerstone species, emphasizing the restoration of not just the endangered species, but a restoration of the delicate balance of nature; and
WHEREAS, zoo keepers are the frontline soldiers for conservation, participating in the battle for species survival and preservation of the natural homelands of the animals they care for through public awareness, education, and exhibition; and
WHEREAS, zoo keepers have become animal caretakers devoting their lives to caring for these animals; and
WHEREAS, zoo keepers have become the spokespersons for vanishing wildlife, carrying the conservation message of habitat loss, endangered species, and preservation of nature’s threatened wildlands to the public; and
WHEREAS, zoo keepers have become animal specialists, as educators, choreographers of animal behaviors through enrichment, behavior managers through operant conditioning, and reproductive specialists through improved observations and husbandry; and
WHEREAS, to help increase public awareness about the need to preserve our precious habitats and the animals which inhabit them and to recognize the roles that zookeepers play in animal conservation and education, The American Association of Zoo Keepers invites all AAZK chapters to participate in National Zoo Keeper Week.”

HAPPY NATIONAL ZOO KEEPER WEEK!!!

From the AAZK website:

National Zoo Keeper Week Proclamation

WHEREAS, worldwide animal populations are declining at an alarming rate with many facing extinction; and

WHEREAS, zoological institutions have become the final hope for many endangered species recovery programs through conservation research, release programs, and by being a portal through which the general public can view and appreciate disappearing wildlife; and

WHEREAS, zoological institutions are also population managers of keystone and cornerstone species, emphasizing the restoration of not just the endangered species, but a restoration of the delicate balance of nature; and

WHEREAS, zoo keepers are the frontline soldiers for conservation, participating in the battle for species survival and preservation of the natural homelands of the animals they care for through public awareness, education, and exhibition; and

WHEREAS, zoo keepers have become animal caretakers devoting their lives to caring for these animals; and

WHEREAS, zoo keepers have become the spokespersons for vanishing wildlife, carrying the conservation message of habitat loss, endangered species, and preservation of nature’s threatened wildlands to the public; and

WHEREAS, zoo keepers have become animal specialists, as educators, choreographers of animal behaviors through enrichment, behavior managers through operant conditioning, and reproductive specialists through improved observations and husbandry; and

WHEREAS, to help increase public awareness about the need to preserve our precious habitats and the animals which inhabit them and to recognize the roles that zookeepers play in animal conservation and education, The American Association of Zoo Keepers invites all AAZK chapters to participate in National Zoo Keeper Week.”

veganprimatologist asked: I've noticed that many zookeeping jobs want applicants to have one year of paid work experience. Does a stipend count as pay?

I think it would depend on your technical job title (keeper vs. intern).  Beyond that, I’d guess that some institutions would have stricter standards than others, but you’ll never know until you apply — so don’t rule anything out!

(Also, just so you know — I got your other Asks and am working on answering them!  Sorry for the delay, just want to make sure I give them a thoughtful response.)

Anonymous asked: hi:D ive been volunteering at a local zoo for around three years, and i want to be zookeeper so bad, but like through research ive found that zookeepers make hella poor money! :'( i just love zookeeping and i really want to do it, but in your experience do zookeepers make very little????????? thanks so much:D

Hey there!
I think this post is relevant to your inquiry. 

P.S. If you love it, it’s worth it.

Anonymous asked: what is the hardest part of your job

Check out this old post: The Difficulties of Being a Zookeeper, wherein I elaborate on the top 3 hardest parts of my job: conflicts of interest, misunderstandings, and helplessness.

phoenixzoo:

We are excited to announce the birth of 18 narrow-headed garersnakes at our Conservation Center, the first ever born at the Phoenix Zoo! This significant birth comes at a critical time since on July 7, 2014 the species was listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Learn more about the baby snakes in the latest blog entry on our website at phoenixzoo.org

phoenixzoo:

We are excited to announce the birth of 18 narrow-headed garersnakes at our Conservation Center, the first ever born at the Phoenix Zoo! This significant birth comes at a critical time since on July 7, 2014 the species was listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Learn more about the baby snakes in the latest blog entry on our website at phoenixzoo.org