I am in charge of the daily care and maintenance of our 32 Humboldt penguins and their exhibit.
What do you do? I am the penguin-keeper at Woodland Park Zoo. This means I am in charge of the daily care and maintenance of our 32 Humboldt penguins and their exhibit. As a zookeeper, it is my job to feed and clean and watch out for the health and safety of the animals.
How long have you been doing that? I have been the penguin-keeper since they moved here in March 2009. Before that, I was a keeper in other areas of the zoo, working with butterflies and jaguars and almost everything in between. I have worked at Woodland Park Zoo for about eight years and have been a zookeeper for 10.
How does someone get a job like yours? Zookeeping is a competitive field. Most zoos require two years of experience working with animals or in a related field. A bachelor’s degree in the biological sciences is preferred. Volunteer time is also recommended. When I was little, I was inspired by a zookeeper and by people who worked with animals, and I decided then that that’s what I wanted to do. I later went on to receive a B.S. in Zoology from the University of Washington.
Best part of the job? I am extremely fortunate to get to be in close proximity to and interact with each individual creature. Interacting with an endangered species is not something most people experience every day. Understanding their complex behaviors and providing for their needs presents a constant challenge, which makes every day exciting and new. Being a zookeeper never gets boring, and that’s why we love it. I don’t really see it as a job, but more of a privilege.
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What would surprise people about your job? Caring for critters is very difficult and interpreting behavior is constantly challenging. Even with penguins, there is always an element of danger involved in daily tasks. The health and safety of the staff and animals is always the priority. The toughest part is making it look easy. Also, there’s a lot of poop and dishes involved.
I was born and raised in Seattle and am very proud to work at my hometown zoo. For me, zookeeping is a way of giving back to the community. Hopefully I can inspire others to care about animals and help out, like I was inspired when I was little.