The Art of Zookeeping

Our zookeepers are a highly talented group of people.  There is so much more than meets the eye when it comes to their daily duties.  In short, I couldn't even imagine doing my job without them!  

Yes, zookeepers do feed the animals and clean their exhibits.  But feeding actually means weighing out each portion of the animal's diet, dicing the food and preparing it just the way the animal likes or needs it.  They also clean out the exhibits and then add to them with enrichment items or bedding, or other items for the animal to explore and to play and interact with.  Both tasks are critical to the animal care here at Potter Park Zoo.

Yet there is much more to this whole process than feeding and cleaning, and there is much more to the zookeepers!  Many of our zookeepers have a bachelor's degree in zoology, zoo and aquarium science, animal science, or other degree and several even have master's degrees in zoo and aquarium science!  They have studied the natural history of the animals that they care for, they know how they are supposed to act in the wild, what they do in the wild, which helps them determine appropriate exhibit "furniture" (stuff in the exhibits) and assist in exhibit design.  

All of these are quite amazing feats, but there is more!  They are my eyes, ears and noses in the "field."  It’s not possible for me to know the individual behavior of each of our 400+ animals here at the Zoo without help.  The keepers know everything about the animals they care for.  How much they eat, what they like to eat, how much they sleep, where they sleep, where they go the bathroom and what it normally looks like!  OK, so some of this may seem disgusting or why should we care, but it is actually very important.  Any deviation from any of those behaviors could mean something is drastically wrong with our animals.  You see, these animals are experts at pretending they are not sick, because if they act weak in the wild they could end up someone's lunch or dinner!  So the zookeepers watch for any of these little clues and then let me know what the animal is doing.  That is another trick the animals perform, much like some children, they are instantly "better" the second the Dr. comes around, for who wants to get a shot!  So I trust our zookeepers quite a bit and rely on them to sometimes even diagnose an animal's problem without ever seeing the animal act sick.  Without their help, I would be blind and wouldn't be able to do this.  

Our zookeepers are amazing.  They are incredibly hard-working in all types of weather and they make an excellent team.  I hope that you see them around on your next visit to the zoo, and like me, say "thank you" to them for the great job they do in keeping our animals happy and healthy!