My name is AJ, and I am a member of the Hoofstock Animal Care Team! Last time I wrote, we discussed the importance of operant conditioning training for all of the animals we care for. For this, I wanted to take the time to answer one of the most common questions I get as an animal care professional: “How do I become a keeper?”
The answer is that there are a lot of different avenues someone can take in the field. A good majority of professionals in the field have post-secondary education in biology, zoology, environmental sciences, or the like, which is important to have the necessary knowledge and understanding of animal biology/animal care management. Just as important as education, however, is experience. To lightly touch on my experience, I began volunteering at my local zoo in high school as a teen volunteer, pursued a two-year course in zoology, and completed an animal care internship before being hired as an animal care assistant. This then led me to a couple more positions before I was hired at Zoo Atlanta as a Hoofstock Keeper!
For anyone interested in this field, which doesn’t just entail animal husbandry, but also facilities maintenance, administration, security, and many more areas, I encourage you to spend some time volunteering at your local zoo to see if this is a fit for you! This is not always a glamourous job, with lots of cleaning, long hours, and a lot of sweat! But, for all of that, the field can be extremely rewarding when you realize the role accredited zoos like Zoo Atlanta have in the conservation of countless species, both native and non-native.
Keeper II, Mammals