Zoo-keeping is not the most glamorous job in the world, yet most keepers wouldn't trade their job for anything! This summer I have gotten a true taste of what a 40 hour work week looks like at a zoo. Here is what I have learned:
1. How to Wash Hands Like a Surgeon
Let me tell you, there is nothing like the fear of primate poo under your fingernails. When you see zookeepers washing their hands before break time, they have soap up to their elbows scrubbing like they are about to enter an OR. On the flip side, normal gross stuff has become nothing. Food drops on the floor? Oh well, it won't kill me.
*disclaimer: depending on animal area hand-washing frequency and duration may vary.
2. How to Unclog a Drain
Between the hay, dropped food and primate biscuits, oh, and of course fecal matter, drains get clogged all the time. In fact, we have a long wire with a hook at the end designated to unclog our hippo drain. Drano is for the weaklings, ya gotta reach your hand down there to really do the trick.
3. Patience, Patience and more Patience
Patience is an essential trait of an excellent trainer. Sometimes, animals don't feel like going out onto exhibit, or maybe they don't want to come inside. Keepers have to build trust and positive relationships with the animals so that they will happily cooperate. Training is so important for maintaining the health of our animals. We can take weights, examine teeth, do ultrasounds and treat wounds all through proper training techniques.
4. How to Effectively Hose Anything, Anywhere, Anytime
A hose may be a zookeeper's most used item on any particular day, and it always causes a little anxiety when a keeper watches a new intern or volunteer hose in an improper fashion.
5. How to Pay Attention to Detail
A keeper can tell you the names of all the animals in their care when they look exactly the same to a visitor. They are the first to notice if an animal is injured, in a bad mood or feeling sick. We have been trained to triple check all locks, and then check again. Better safe than sorry!
6. You Become a Super Duper Pooper Scooper
I think this is self-explanatory.
7. Stain Removal
Just kidding, we know our uniforms will just get dirty again, why waste extra time scrubbing before we wash?
8. How to make something Awesome out of Rope and PVC
Creativity is key! We are on a mission to stump our animal friends who happen to be a lot smarter than we give them credit for. Zookeepers should win a prize for putting meaning to "reduce, reuse, recycle." To a normal person our enrichment area looks like a junkyard, but to us, it's a gold mine.
9. How to talk to our Best Friends
It's like how normal people talk to babies... but it's to our furry (or feathered, or scaled) friends. They are pretty much our babies after all. Did I mention our overall people skills may not be the best?