Anonymous asked: I'm interested in being a zookeeper someday and I was wondering how often one has the opportunity to work with other groups of animals in a zoo. I know typically you're working with one specific group, but in your experience is there many opportunities to work with animals outside your specified group? I'd like to experience working with as many different kinds of animals as possible.
This is going to vary A LOT. To a certain extent, you can customize your personal experience to your liking, but a lot of it is still going to depend on the size of the zoo, the way the animal collection is divided, the other keepers you’re working with, and a number of other factors, including good old-fashioned chance.
For instance, I’m a carnivore person (as in, I like working with carnivores, not that I’m a person who is carnivorous… although…), and I currently work with lots of carnivores, including big cats. But I have also worked with (and currently work with) birds, hoofstock, reptiles, and rhinos. This is because the jobs I have accepted (including my current job) all just happened to be the right choice for me at the time.
I think there are pros and cons to either choice, whether you specialize in one taxon right off the bat, or rack up experience with a big variety of species. And like I said, sometimes you’ll be able to steer yourself in the direction you prefer, but other times it’s wiser to just take what you can get, particularly when you’re just starting out.
In general, bigger zoos are more likely to have more specific divisions (i.e. a Bird Department, Primate Department, etc., where the keepers stick to one area). Smaller zoos are more likely to have keepers who are kind of jacks-of-all-trades, floating around between areas and/or working areas that encompass a wider variety of animals. There are exceptions, though, and it will also depend on how the animal collection is distributed throughout the zoo. You’ve got your more traditional zoo setup where the cats are with the cats, the snakes are with the snakes, the monkeys are with the monkeys… and then you’ve got the geographical setup, where you might find the same keepers caring for both Sumatran tigers and orangutans because both are Asian, or caring for both Brazilian tapirs and maned wolves because both are South American… and then there’s the ecosystem setup, where you might have a “tropical rainforest” or “desert” section which includes all types of animals from that particular ecosystem from all over the world. And the only way to find out which way a particular zoo works is to ask!
Hope that answers your question!