AAZK: By keepers, for keepers
Hi everyone! It’s Kelly from the Herpetology Team! As many of you know, zoos, as well as the career of professional animal care, have come a long way, even since I was a kid in the 80s! Although the ideals of wanting to provide the best care for the animals with as little stress or discomfort possible is not a new concept, the speed and ease with which these areas have grown and advanced over the last 30 years is remarkable! A lot of this can be contributed to the expansion and innovation in the field of technology, as well as the relatively easy access to information now at our fingertips. However, the best method I have found has been through collaboration and communication between animal care professionals.
One of my favorite things to do is visit other accredited zoos and aquariums and meet with other animal care team members or aquarists. It’s amazing how much you can learn just by a casual chat. Learning and seeing the successes, and sometimes failures, of others is invaluable in this field, and it’s always fascinating conversing with keepers of all taxa. Just because I work with reptiles and amphibians doesn’t mean I can’t learn from a primate or carnivore care professional and vice versa – especially now with the increased emphasis on training and enrichment, research, and conservation.
One resource that has been invaluable in the development and training of animal care staff is the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK), which was started in 1967 by keepers at the San Diego Zoo. Over 50 years later, AAZK is still a valuable resource and continues to hold annual conferences and workshops, as well as publishes articles and research about advances in zoo and aquarium disciplines.
Along with the national chapter, many zoos and aquariums host their own local chapters as well. Here at Zoo Atlanta, many of our animal care professionals are members of the Georgia AAZK Chapter, of which I have the privilege of being the Vice President. This is a place where animal care professionals can get together to help develop our skills, share ideas and information, and just generally have a good time. We also organize various fundraisers for conservation initiatives and provide grants and scholarships for keepers to attend meetings and conferences to further their growth. We hope that you, as part of our Zoo family, will take the time and join us at some of these fundraising events. We actually have two coming up within the next month!
The first is “Pizza for Pachyderms” in conjunction with Asian Elephant Support (AES) and California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) at Atlantic Station (264 19th St N.W., Ste. 2150, Atlanta, GA 30363) on Wednesday, April 27. Bring your friends and family to the CPK at Atlantic Station anytime during business hours (11 a.m. – 10 p.m.) and present this coupon. Not from Atlanta? No worries; click on the AES link here and find the nearest CPK to you!
Our second fundraiser is our Hellbender Happy Hour! Come out and celebrate Salamander Saturday at Independent Distilling Company in Decatur, GA (731 E. College Ave., Suite D, Decatur, GA 30030) on Saturday, May 14 from 5-8 p.m. — featuring their Hellbender spirits and signature salamander-themed cocktails! 20% of drink sales will benefit the Foundation for the Conservation of Salamanders (https://www.fcsal.org/).
Hope to see you all there! Until next time, stay slimy!
Lead Keeper, Herpetology