As any regular reader of keeper stories knows, there is no such thing as a typical day as a zookeeper. There are a multitude of projects, big and small, that take up our time when we aren’t with the animals. Some projects are so large that they require all hands on deck, so the Bird Team comes together to work as a group. One such group activity is climbing up onto the roof of The Living Treehouse to clean off all of the leaves that have piled up throughout the year. As anyone who has ever cleaned out their gutters knows, rooftop leaf removal is not exactly a day at the beach. For one thing, shoving your hands into a pile of wet, dirty leaves is a less than pleasant experience. Also, you can’t just sweep them off the roof; you have to load them into buckets and carefully dispose of them on a slanted surface while following safety procedures. Although the job itself is tedious and more than a little gross, working as a team makes it much more bearable and, dare I say, a little fun. And the view from the roofline is very cool. The three lions lay onto top of the rocks and watched us working up there the entire time!
Another group activity is the semi-regular Home Depot run. Although our Maintenance Department helps us with larger construction and repair jobs, we usually take care of smaller repairs and construction ourselves. This means that we need a supply of lumber, hardware, tools, etc. to keep on hand. Every couple of months, we usually have a long list of supplies that we need so our Curator, James, organizes a group field trip. Traditionally, we go out and eat far too much Mexican food at Willy’s for lunch…which is always a mistake, but nevertheless one we insist on repeating. Then it’s time to head over to Home Depot, line up a small armada of shopping carts, and start shopping! The real trick isn’t piling everything into the shopping carts, however; it’s arranging it so that it fits in the bed of the maintenance truck so that we can get it all back to the Zoo. On a typical trip we might get 60 bags of mulch, 30 pieces of 8’ lumber, some sheets of heavy and cumbersome plywood, batteries, duct tape, screws, drill bits, wire cutters, and electric ties which we use by the hundreds … you get the picture. I’m sure I would dread Home Depot runs if I were the only one doing them, but I actually look forward to these trips and I know that other bird keepers will tell you the same.
I love my job because of the animals with whom I get to work—including the humans. Next time you’re at the Zoo and you see some zookeepers having just a little bit too much fun shoveling poop, keep in mind that sometimes it’s less about what you’re doing and more about with whom you’re doing it.
Keeper I, Birds and Program Animals