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Zookeeper Duties and Responsibilities

The duties of a Zookeeper may vary depending on the type of organization one works for, but there are several primary duties that are universal for most Zookeepers. We reviewed job online listings to identify the following core tasks and responsibilities

Feed and Groom Animals Zookeepers prepare appropriate diets for the animals in their care, as well as create and adhere to feeding schedules. Ordering food supplies is generally part of this task as well. Bathing and general grooming also are the responsibility of Zookeepers.

Clean and Maintain Animal Areas Habitats, enclosures and any other spaces the animals spend time in, such as training areas or cages, must be cleaned multiple times daily. Zookeepers are also tasked with identifying any areas in the exhibits that may need maintenance due to wear or damage.

Observe and Interact with Animals A large part of the Zookeeper's day involves observing animals and their daily behaviors. They must know how to identify when a particular animal appears unwell or injured. In captivity, animals often live longer than those in the wild and may be more likely to get ill. Zookeepers will also interact with the animals in their care, often providing toys and other stimuli, ensuring they receive adequate exercise and attention.

Train and Handle Animals A Zookeeper is often responsible for training animals, either for educational shows and programs or, more commonly, for preparing the animals for medical and grooming procedures. Using hand signals, commands and other techniques, Zookeepers train animals to perform particular behaviors or activities. Wild animals can be unpredictable and, depending on the animal, this kind of interaction can be one of the more dangerous parts of the job.

Educate Visitors Zookeepers often interact with the people who visit their workplaces, educating them about the animals they care for. This can include impromptu conversation while the zookeeper is performing his or her duties or more formal presentations.


Zookeeper Skills

It takes more than just a love of animals to be a Zookeeper. Zookeepers must exercise judgment, be detailed and observant, and be able to communicate well with coworkers and the public. Employers look for people with these following core skills. Core skills: Based on job listings we looked at, employers want Zookeepers with these core skills. If you want to work as a Zookeeper, focus on the following.
  • Understanding animal behavior
  • Knowledge of animal handling and care techniques
  • Experience with common grooming techniques, including caring for coats, cleaning ears and clipping nails
  • Ability to meet the physical demands of the job, such as lifting heavy objects, bending and kneeling
Advanced skills: While most employers did not require the following skills, multiple job listings included them as preferred. Add these to your Zookeeper toolbox and broaden your career options.
    • Ability to give educational talks to the public
    • Experience administering basic health care and medical treatments for animals, such as injections
    • Background in animal conservation

Zookeeper Resources

We found some great resources on the Web for those interested in becoming Zookeepers. This list full of learning opportunities and ways to engage in the world of Zookeepers. On the Web

Adventures of a Zookeeper - Zookeeper, Elise Newman shares her day to day adventures as a Zookeeper.

Keeper Notes - This page on the San Diego Zoo's website is full of articles by Zookeepers. On Twitter

@ZooKeeperRick - San Diego Zookeeper Rick shares stories and information about his profession.

@ZookeeperProbs - A humorous account for Zookeepers to share the fun and challenging parts of the job.

@tozookeepers - The Toronto Zoo's Zookeepers update this page with daily photos and news about the zoo and animals. Industry Groups

American Association of Zoo Keepers - Founded in 1967, the AAZK now has over 2,800 members representing almost 250 animal facilities.

Association of Zoos & Aquariums - The AZA is a global association dedicated to animal welfare and conservation efforts. Their site is full of useful resources and information.

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