Advancing excellence in animal care
Not only do animal care professionals spend a lot of time with the animals in their care and working on conservation with Zoo Atlanta, but they can also join a nonprofit organization called AAZK (American Association of Zoo Keepers). The mission of AAZK is to advance excellence in the animal care profession, foster effective communication beneficial to animal care, support deserving conservation projects, and promote the preservation of our natural resources and animal life. I’ve been heavily involved with our Georgia Chapter for the last four years. I have been Secretary and currently, I am the Vice President of our chapter. I help organize fundraisers for conservation projects, such as Bowling for Rhinos, Brazilian Bingo and Surf and Turf Trivia for keeper development. We have money set aside for professional development. This means that if there is a workshop, class or conference a keeper wants to attend, they can apply for funding to go. I took advantage of our professional development for a Giraffe Care Workshop in 2017, and last year for the AAZK National Conference in Denver. I was able to attend this year’s conference in Indianapolis. What do a group of animal care professionals do at a conference, you might ask? It’s a great learning and networking tool. Peers from other institutions present on a variety of topics, ranging from medical issues to training behaviors that they have been doing with the animals in their care. I attended a Professional Certificate Course that focused on safety. This was a 12-hour course over a few days that we were required to take a test on (I passed!).
I’ve always enjoyed being a part of AAZK, and I wanted to learn more about the organization on a national level. National AAZK has many committees that animal care professionals can join, like the Safety Committee, Awards Committee and so many more. Back in January, I joined the Awards Committee. We meet by phone monthly to discuss the different awards that are given out and how to get the word out for nominations. It’s a lot of fun! I was able to meet some of my committee members at this year’s conference, and we coordinated the Awards Ceremony. There are many kinds of awards, from animal nutrition, to animal care, to habitat designs. Award recipients receive a certificate or a plaque and recognition from their peers. I am thankful to have been able to join and be a part of a great committee!
Keeper III, Mammals