Category: 

What Does a Zookeeper Do?

Zookeepers work with exotic animals in zoo or animal park.
Tending to the animals and maintaining exhibits are the main duties of zookeepers.
Zookeepers may specialize with different types of birds.
Employment opportunities for a herpetologist include working at a zoo.
Article Details
  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: Iso K° - Photography, Trubble, Jamdesign, Mauvries
  • Last Modified Date: 14 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
There is a volcano in Indonesia that pours out blue lava.  more...

August 23 ,  1927 :  American anarchists, Vanzetti and Sacco were executed for murder.  more...

A zookeeper is a person who takes care of animals in a zoo or wild animal park. By maintaining the exhibit, providing toys for enrichment, and tending to animals' needs, he or she can help keep animals safe and happy while providing public education about conservation and biology. People who perform this job often contribute to animal research and re-population efforts, and may form close bonds with their animal charges.

To become a zookeeper, a blend of education and practical experience is often required. Many animal workers attend several years of college, typically studying conservation, biology, or animal science. Some have training as veterinarians or have worked as veterinary assistants. Some start out volunteering at zoos when they are quite young, working their way to positions of greater responsibility that allow more contact with the animals.

A zookeeper may serve as a link between the animal park and the public, providing education about their animals to visitors. This important job allows keepers to instill love and respect for animals in visitors, which can be vitally important to the spread of conservation and the protection of wild animal species. Some also become animal trainers, teaching their charges tricks and stunts to entertain viewers. Training animals is somewhat controversial, but many people who do it suggest that animal shows help the species overall by making people care about the creatures.

Ad

Although this profession may sound like a perfect job for any animal lover, it is a difficult and sometimes heartbreaking occupation. Animals require constant care and feeding, which may mean that keepers must work overnight or on weekends. Large animals go to the bathroom quite a bit, meaning that cleaning up excrement is a major part of the daily job. Additionally, although animals in captivity often live longer than their wild counterparts, they are subject to illness and death, which can be greatly upsetting to a keeper who has raised them.

Even though the animals are captive, it is important for people to bear in mind that they are still wild animals. All animals can behave unpredictably, even wounding or killing individuals who have had a close relationship with them. It is important to remember that zoo animals are not pets; they are often quite dangerous and need to be respected and handled with care and caution.

Although the job can be messy, exhausting, and even dangerous, many zookeepers would not trade their unique job for anything else. The chance to work and care for animals is, for some, the job of a lifetime.

Ad

Discuss this Article

anon348477
Post 10

I love animals and think I would want to be a zookeeper. What do I need to know?

anon292681
Post 8

It would be great if I could do this as a career but it sounds all so hard. I hope I accomplish something like this one day. I guess I just have to keep trying.

Catapult
Post 6

@BambooForest- I think people also assume being a zookeeper is kind of like the people in children's picture books. It's not.

In real life, there are many people at each zoo with very restricted and specific jobs. There are trainers, tour guides, and people whose whole jobs are cleaning. To get the zoo keeping job you want, like working with your favorite type of animal, you may have to have several internships, plus several jobs at the same zoo, to be trusted to choose your desired field.

BambooForest
Post 5

Zoos also suffer from politics, like any workplace. One of my best friends had a few internships while considering being a zookeeper, and found that often people with more knowledge could be passed over for people who were more willing to just do what they were told. If you really care about animals, it might be hard to do what's best for them, even in a zoo.

Mae82
Post 4

When I was younger I always wanted to be a zookeeper because I loved animals and wanted to get up close with the big cats that you only see from afar. I looked up tons of zookeeper info and found that the job wasn't really what I thought it was.

While you do care for the animals, there is a lot of rough labor that goes into keeping a zoo running. You are responsible for cleaning cages, making sure the animals are healthy, and even doing a lot of customer service work at the part to make sure that visitors are happy. After doing research I decided that being a zookeeper just wasn't for me.

Sara007
Post 3

If you have kids that love animals you can get a lot of zookeeper information by participating in one of the zookeeper for a day programs that run at many zoos. For a fee your kids can work with the zookeepers and learn what it is really like to care for the creatures you see in the exhibits.

The last time my kids went for a day program at the zoo, they were able to help prepare meals for the monkeys and lemurs. They got up close with the animals and were able to feed them by hand. I think this kind of interaction with animals is a great way to teach kids about the importance of nature, and also how one of the most interesting jobs out there works.

SarahSon
Post 2

When we took a trip to Sea World our kids were completely fascinated with all the animals and how well they were trained.

I wonder how many zookeepers a place like that hires to make sure everything runs smoothly. In a place that large, I know there are a lot of staff members, but would think there would be several zookeepers as well.

I think it would be much easier to be a zookeeper in a warm climate than one where they have cold, snowy winters.

julies
Post 1

To enjoy a job as a zookeeper, you would certainly need to be an animal lover. Although there would be a lot of hard work involved, I think the rewards of working with the animals would be worth it.

I am a big animal lover and am impressed with how hard zookeepers work. If you have ever been to a big zoo or a place like Animal Kingdom at Disney World, you get an idea of how big a job it can be.

You need to have a lot of knowledge about the natural habitats and eating habits for each animal.

Animals that are kept in zoos are completely dependent on the zookeepers and their staff for their food, and this is no small task to keep up with on a daily basis.

I would expect a lot of hard work that goes along with this job, but I think the hardest part would be when the animals get sick or die.

This is hard enough when you have to go through it with your pet, but if you had a whole zoo full of animals, you would have to deal with this all the time.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email