Week Eight: The Keepers

This week was really special. On Thursday we had an open panel with the Zoo’s head keepers to hear how they got to where they are. It was actually kind of reassuring; as long as you work hard for what you want and work your way up the ranks, being a keeper is possible. Our reptile keeper started here as a janitor, and now he is one of the lead crocodile authorities in the nation. It makes the future, with such a competitive position, look a little less bleak. I still wonder what will happen after I graduate, but it’s still far enough into the future that I don’t have to worry too much.

On Monday, we had a presentation from an animal behavior and well-being researcher, who attempts to measure animal “happiness” through behavioral analysis. Her work was vital for when the trail system was developed, and showed that animals really do “enjoy” being on the trails and willingly stay there. It was interesting to see the work we’ve been doing on our individual projects applied to a real-life situation such as the trail system, as well as the importance of simple observation.  Tuesday brought a presentation from the Zoo’s vets, who described their crazy work day and showed us the true scale of what they do for the animals here. From what I gathered, the zoo vet field is even more competitive than the zookeeper field, so I’m kind of glad that vet work is not where my interests lie.

I also had my behind-the-scenes encounter! We got a tour of our big cat facility, Big Cat Falls. It was really cool to see what it is like where the keepers go, and where the animals live on their off time. This tour, and this whole week, really helped to solidify my thoughts that I really do want to be a keeper and work with animals, even if it is a lot of cleaning and preparation. No one else has a deeper connection with the animals than their keepers, and that is something I would really love to have. Helping to conserve species and educate the public? Work with animals on a daily basis? What could be better?

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