There is a lot more scrubbing poop than people think. They think, “oh, I like animals, I bet I would enjoy being a zookeeper”. In reality 80% of a keeper’s job is janitorial in nature. They merely are working in the presence of dangerous, wild animals. So far I have mainly worked with the penguins, which are really jealous creatures. If you pet one the others will start honking and pecking on that one because they didn’t get pet. They don’t perform tricks for food, but they will for applause. At least that is the experience I have had at the zoo.
A keeper must not mind remedial labor, stink, dirt, scratches, bites, etcetera. The thing that makes this job worthwhile is doing it for animals. It’s also a tough business to keep afloat. People don’t realize all the kind of behind the scenes work, and conditions that have to be right for animals to be showed, and be active. People are becoming so hedonistic, seeking immediate satisfaction. But zoos must be forced to work on the animals schedule. That makes it an extreme management challenge.
It takes a weird person, who truly loves service and wildlife. It also takes an elevated interest in ecological information. That generally comes with the territory. As a keeper, you not only get a sense of the species, but an understanding of the individuals that comprise your zoo. It becomes a kind of ill-mannered family. One with many rules for every crazy monkeys’ uncle.
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