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Keeper Stories – Tuesday, May 2

Hi everyone! I’m baaaack, and I’ve made the move from gorillas to goats! My name is Ashley, and I used to be a Seasonal Keeper in our Primate Department, but now I am a full time Keeper I in Outback Station. Outback Station is home to a wide variety of goats and sheep, two Kunekune pigs, four red kangaroos, a bush dog, two tanuki, and 30 naked mole rats. So what’s the difference between caring for 21 gorillas and caring for goats? Let me be the first one to tell you there is a HUGE difference, which I’m sure you all could have guessed. I never had to trim any hooves in gorillas, that’s for sure.

One of the biggest differences between Outback Station and the Primate Department here at Zoo Atlanta is that keepers work with our primates in what’s called a protected contact environment. This means that there is always some sort of barrier between us and the animals for our safety and theirs. However, we are able to work with all the animals in Outback Station in a free-contact environment, with the exception of our bush dog who is also a protected contact animal. This means that there is nothing separating us and the animals. We can share the same space as they do, but that doesn’t always mean we are touching them. When we work with our tanuki, we do not touch them, and we try not to touch the naked mole rats so that their colony scent stays intact. The goats, sheep, and pigs are part of our petting zoo, so they are always being touched and loved on by the keepers and guests.

I have enjoyed learning all about my new area and the animals I now get to take care of. I think I have loved the goat cuddles most of all! There is definitely something to be said for getting the chance to reach out and physically show the animals love and affection. I think it creates such a strong bond with animals and their caretakers. Getting to work hands-on with some of the animals can also help us during training, and it can help us take better care of the animals’ bodies because we can get a better look at them. It’s warming up now so I hope to see you all come out to the petting zoo soon and show our animals some lovin’!
Ashley Webb
Keeper I, Mammals

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl