Kimberly Leser

Kimberly Leser

Curator of Animal Behavior & Welfare

Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden

Oklahoma City, OK USA

There’s a huge on-the-job training aspect that you can’t get in a book. You have to go out and start doing it, learning, and making mistakes.


By Roadtrip Nation

Kimberly Leser

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My road in life took a while to figure out.
When she was five years old, she got to interact with a dolphin at a zoo—this sparked her desire to dedicate her life to animals.
She grew up with a very supportive family indulging her interest in animals whenever possible by taking her to zoos or buying her books to read.
Says she became motivated by the questions: Why do animals do what they do? How do humans affect that? How do they affect us?
Attended Emporia State University, where she majored in communications, since, at the time, there was no straight path to working in animal behavior.
Worked as an animal trainer for over 10 years.
Got an opportunity to work as an animal behavioral associate for Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.
She now works as the Curator of Animal Behavior & Welfare at the Oklahoma City Zoo where she strives to ensure that all 1,400 animals have a quality life there.
She is passionate about conservation, inspiring people to care about preserving animal species, and ensuring that future generations are able to experience them.
Keep following my journey


High School
Business/Corporate Communications
Emporia State University


Curator of Animal Behavior & Welfare

I oversee the welfare and behavior of over 1,400 animals at the zoo.

Career Roadmap

My work combines:
My work combines:
Environment & Nature
Accomplishing Goals

Day to Day

Basically, my job is to watch animals and let them tell me what they need. The best parts of my day are when I feel like I am making a difference and making sure that the animals have a quality life here. Whether it is helping a keeper make a breakthrough or just watching animals doing what they do. My tasks can vary from observing training sessions, observing the animals behavior in their habitats, teaching classes for keepers, meeting with leadership to pursue conservation projects, and more.

Skills & Qualities Beyond School

This job has a huge apprenticeship culture and the majority of what we do can't be learned in school. Training takes practice---you need to try it, work it, and make mistakes so you learn. You also need to train your observation skills. Watching for subtle behaviors and decoding them takes time to hone.

Advice for Getting Started

Here's the first step for high school students

You must have passion! The road looks different for every traveler----you must find your own compass! Start early and learn from the animals around you. Start observing animal behavior and volunteering places that will allow you to hone your skills.


The Noise I Shed

From Society in General:

"Why should I care about protecting animals?"

Challenges I Overcame

First-Generation College Student
Work Stress

Interviewed By

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