July 20, 2015
Journey to Zookeeping
- as seen by -Daphne Revie
I love animals.
Growing up, I always relished trips to the zoo and enjoyed learning all that I could about the animals. From insects, to big jungle cats, to little frogs, they were all equally interesting to me, and I wanted to learn about them. What I was most engrossed by was the animals’ behavior rather than their physiology. I decided I wanted to be a zookeeper – a job where I could take care of animals and observe their behavior.
In high school, I volunteered at my local animal shelter walking dogs and socializing cats. At the time, I didn’t know that many zoos and aquariums offer many different internships and volunteer opportunities. When it came time to choose a university, I sought out schools that offered four-year degrees in zoology. Unlike anthropology (primates) or marine biology (aquatic animals), a zoology degree would make me a generalist and qualify me to work with the widest variety of animals.
While in college, I interned and volunteered at nature centers, wildlife rescues, and zoos. I worked at a pet store. I did anything to gain experience working with animals. Upon graduation, I had a hard time finding a job. Having lived a majority of my life in New York, I was afraid to look for work out of state. Zookeepers frequently move throughout the country and around the world for zookeeping jobs.
I was fortunate that I lived near the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo, the largest urban zoo in the United States. After interning at a small zoo in New Jersey, I applied to the Bronx Zoo. Day to day, I work in JungleWorld, which has a wide diversity of animals. Here, I learned that Barlett’s bleeding heart doves enjoy being misted, that Malayan tapirs urinate backwards, and that white-cheeked gibbons like to juggle their food before they eat it.
I got to realize my childhood dream of working with and caring for animals.
Editor’s Note: Salute zoo keepers and the wildlife they protect. Stop by one of our keeper chats throughout the week of July 19-25 at the Bronx Zoo.