African American Military History Museum Hattiesburg Zoo Hattiesburg Saenger

A Day As A Keeper

By: Corissa Boaman, Associate Keeper
published Tue June 24, 2014 A Day As A Keeper

Ever wonder what exactly a day in the life of a zookeeper entails?  It is quite the busy day that’s for sure.  First thing when we all get to work, we have a quick ‘pre-meeting’ with our Animal Curator; the person that oversees care for the animals.  She informs us of anything special for that day; whether it’s a vet visit, event day or a large school group coming to the zoo.  After this meeting we go to our assigned areas and check on our animals.  We want to make sure one and all are accounted for and looking healthy!

The following two hours are some of the busiest for zookeepers!  Getting the zoo ready for opening involves cleaning all the exhibits; scrubbing the water bowls, cleaning the pools in, and of course, picking up all the poop from the day before!  (It’s similar to getting your house cleaned up before company!)  After the exhibits are set up, typically with some type of enrichment as well, we then shift the animals outside for the day. 

As soon as all the animals are outside the fun part begins!  We clean all the buildings and areas where the animals spent the night.  This sounds simple, but it’s surprising the kinds of messes the animals can make overnight! Kiley, one of the Lion-tailed Macaques, loves to shred up boxes and other enrichment during the night and scatter the pieces around their exhibit which can make it a core to pick up all the tiny parts.  We scrub the water bowls, hose down the holdings from top to bottom; scrubbing everything the animal touched, and again pick up lots of poop!  Usually once all the cleaning is complete its lunch time for the keepers! A break inside with air conditioning is always nice after finishing our morning cleaning.  We talk about our day; how our animals are behaving, and if there is anything alarming the other keepers should know about.

After lunch it’s time for the zookeepers to walk around our assigned areas to make sure all of our animals are accounted for and still happy.  We conduct our keeper chats and public times where visitors get to talk with the keeper and learn more about the animals in the zoo.  Often times we try to take out a snake, bird, or a bio-fact, such as a paw print, emu egg, or animal skull.  In the afternoon we also try to get our projects done.  This could be anything from cutting grass around an exhibit, to repairing a squeaky door, or painting boxes for an upcoming enrichment day.  Part of our time during a week is also training the carnivores and primates for medical purposes. 

Before we know it its 4 o’clock and time to start getting ready to bring the animals in for the night.   We gather our animal’s food and place it in their holdings along with some enrichment at times.  Most animals love going inside since their dinner is there but sometimes we have a few stubborn animals that don’t want to come inside so then we call a second keeper to help.  As soon as all of our animals are safe and tucked in for the night our day is almost over.  The last part it recording everything into the Daily Log about the animals; did they get enrichment, how much food did they leave, medications that were given and if there is animal that needs to be monitored.  Once all the typing is done, trash taken out, then it’s time for the keepers to go home themselves.

Often people think that being a zookeeper is all about playing with cute animals.  However, it is a lot of hard work and days spent outside in all types of weather.  Nonetheless, we think being a zoo keeper is one of the most rewarding jobs.  There is nothing like seeing an animal enjoy a new toy you made for them or they recognition they show us in the mornings.  If you ever want to know more about what it takes to be a zoo keeper, just head to the zoo and ask us!  We all love our jobs and love sharing about what it takes to be a zookeeper!