The job of a zookeeper requires one to be passionate, fervent, and caring towards animals and their well-being. It involves spending a major portion of your day surrounded by and caring for animals, including mammals, reptiles, birds, etc.
The job of a zookeeper is no doubt physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding. You will most likely be spending a large part of the day at the zoo beside these animals. Even if you are away, you are expected to be available on call should the need arise. Many states now offer the chance to work in shift systems. However, you can still expect to spend most of your holidays and weekends with your furry friends.
What skills are required to become a Zookeeper?
Loving and caring for all animals alike is no doubt the most important skill required to become a zookeeper. Sadly, that alone is not enough. To excel at this job, one must have the following skills:
Patience and empathy: Dealing with animals is a test of your wits. Not all animals may respond to you the way you want them to. Remember, they, like humans, have their good days and bad days.
A keen eye for details: As a zookeeper, it will be your responsibility to monitor each one of them very closely. You should notice any sudden or subtle change and respond to it on time.
Good Mathematical Skills: To be good at this job, you must have a handle on your basic mathematical skills. This comes in handy when calculating an animal’s weight and how much food it requires or determining the medicine dosage it requires.
Physical fitness: A zookeeper’s job involves everything, from climbing, running, and swimming. To do all of that, one’s fitness level should be in optimal condition. Any lapse in your fitness will come in the way of your job.
Strong communication and interpersonal skills: Part of the job of a zookeeper includes communicating with vets, visitors, animal trainers, and other experts. Having a strong grasp of your people’s skills is equally important for this job.
Leadership qualities: Almost anyone who chooses to sign up for this job does it for the love of animals. Knowing and being able to stand up for the rights of these animals is equally important. You will have to choose what is in the animal’s best interest before anything else.
Duties of a Zookeeper
Zookeepers are essentially concerned with the welfare of animals. This may be at a local zoo, a wildlife park, or other animal attractions. The job of a zookeeper is most certainly not meant for individuals who seek to work a 9 to 5 job during weekdays and enjoy resting over the weekends or holidays.
Their key responsibilities in the job of a zookeeper include:
- Taking care of animal enclosures and making sure they are clean, safe, and secured.
- Monitor all the animals under their care very closely.
- Keep a watchful eye and notice any symptoms of stress, distress, sickness, or disease.
- Come up with creative ways to make the enclosures as close to the animal’s natural habitat as possible.
- Build and design an environment to keep the animals active and interested.
- Study about every animal in their care and learn new ways to enhance their quality of life.
- Work alongside vets and other related professionals.
- Medicate animals (if and when required) and keep a record.
- Entertaining and educating visitors.
- Take visitors on tours, attending talks and events related to animals under the care of the zookeeper.
- Maintain detailed records on all the animals under their care. This includes everything from their eating and behavioral habits, their daily feeding charts, growth charts, and birth and death records.
- Providing assistance in breeding procedures, monitoring the newborn, and helping in raising the young animal.
- Paying attention to the needs and well-being of animals that are known to be endangered.
- Training animals in a way to make them safe around other humans (especially visitors).
Educational requirements to be a Zookeeper
To become a zookeeper, you need to pass high school. Next, you need to get a degree in zoology, animal sciences, or another animal-related field. Experience, on the other hand, plays a pivotal role in getting this job. This may include working or volunteering in places like:
- Veterinary clinics,
- Animal shelters,
- Wildlife rehabilitation,
- and aquariums
Doing so increases your chances of getting the job of a zookeeper.
Salary and career outlook
Getting a job as a zookeeper is not as easy as it sounds. Even if you possess all the requirements, lady luck has an important role to play.
In terms of salary, you can expect to earn $18,000 to $37,000 annually.
Moreover, there has been a significant improvement in laws regarding the welfare of animals in the last decade. This has led to an improvement in the career prospects of animal care workers. According to statistics, the job of a zookeeper is expected to increase by 22% in the next five years.