Senior Animal Caretaker, Reptile & Amphibian Department
I care for and maintain a diverse collection of reptiles and amphibians at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
My work combines:
Day to Day
My areas of primary care include reptiles and amphibians. In one day at the zoo, I’ll generally care for frogs as tiny as your thumbnail and giant tortoises that weigh upwards of 450lbs. Among many other things, I have to know and understand the natural history, native habitat, dietary and enrichment needs of the animals I care for. We have to understand the natural behaviors and patterns of our animals to better provide them with everything they need to live happy and healthy lives.
Skills & Qualities Beyond School
You need a technical and mechanical skill-set, this can include habitat construction and building enrichment items. The other set of skills is more of an art than it is a science. Animal care and husbandry involves being able to understand the physical, environmental, and sometimes emotional needs of an animal. It takes a great deal of time and it's something that I am still learning on a day to day basis. It takes a lot of time, patience and understanding to hone one's skills in this area.
Advice for Getting Started
Here's the first step for college students
While the biology aspect of college was a great foundation, unfortunately very few if any college courses teach you how to be a zookeeper. Despite this, most zoological institutions require an undergraduate degree. Volunteering at an AZA accredited Zoo or professional animal care facility is the absolute best way to get started on this career path.
My career is related to what I studied. I'd recommend the path I took: