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The many hats of an animal care professional

I often hear from guests, friends, and family that being an animal care professional must be the best job ever, and it is! We spend our days with a variety of furry, feathered, scaly, or even slimy friends. But what many people may not realize is how many different “hats” a keeper will wear to ensure all these animals are well taken care of. No two days are alike, and I find myself wearing a variety of “hats” to get the job done.

We wear a chef’s hat when chopping, slicing, and weighing the animals’ diets for the day. We often are electricians when arranging heating elements to keep all our animals toasty warm. If a new animal comes under our care, keepers are carpenters, architects, and interior designers, creating the best habitat for them. It can be quite the puzzle trying to fit perches into a habitat that is appropriate for the species, as well as aesthetically pleasing to look at.

We are also inventors! Or maybe “repurpose-er” is a better word. A lot of our animal enrichment comes from objects that was made for something else, such as a PVC pipe or sock drying hanger becoming foraging tools. Enrichment is often only limited by the imagination of the keeper creating it. One of the biggest hats we wear is that of an animal trainer. All the animals participate in positive reinforcement training in some capacity, even snakes! It helps us take care of the animals, as well as ensure their well-being.

Lastly, we are all educators in some capacity, teaching guests about all the animals who call Zoo Atlanta home. For me, this goes even further with our scripted animal presentations, where I become a bona fide actor! This is one of the newest hats that I have added to my collection. So if you want to see me make my summer debut, check out our Amy’s Tree Theater schedule on the website. Every day we are learning new skills and adding new hats to our collection, allowing us to be the best keepers possible.

Mel S.
Keeper I, Ambassador Animals

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl