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Celebrating National Zookeeper Appreciation Week

Philadelphia Zoo celebrates the 16th anniversary of National Zookeeper Appreciation Week!

At Philly Zoo, we have more than 40 zookeepers caring for our 1,900 animals across 14 unique exhibits. This National Zookeeper Week, we thank our keepers for their dedication to protecting wildlife and caring for our animals every day, and we invite you to join us in celebrating them by sharing their stories about the animals they work with, their devotion to conservation, and their hope to inspire the next generation of zookeepers and protectors of our planet.

Keeper Melissa, Primates

“Lemurs are incredible animals. At the new Lemur Island experience, you can share a space with our families of ring-tailed and mongoose lemurs. Our three mongoose lemur boys are typically high up in the trees, but will come down every once and a while to see what’s going on. All primates are so intelligent and as a zookeeper, there’s something so special about being able to form a bond with them. We hope that when you visit Lemur Island you understand how important it is to protect these animals.”

Keeper Miles, Carnivores and Ungulates

“I want to be the person that Black children see when they come to the Zoo that inspires them to become zookeepers. Watching Steve Irwin as a child, I knew that I wanted to work with animals when I grew up. I was a member of Philly Zoo’s junior ambassador program in high school and went on to study biology in college. I was able to get my first job in zoo keeping at a zoo in Florida and worked in various positions before becoming a full-time keeper at my hometown Zoo. For anyone looking to come into this field, don’t give up, take all opportunities that come your way, and let your passion flow. If you love animals, you can make it happen.”

Keeper Chase, Birds

“I fell in love with birds because even the smallest ones have such rich personalities. In March, the Zoo’s curator of birds and I traveled to the island of Rota, the southernmost island of the Northern Mariana Islands. The Rota white-eye is a critically endangered species, and a tsunami or catastrophic typhoon could wipe them out. Collaborating with other Association of Zoos and Aquariums experts, we worked on netting techniques to figure out the best way to capture these birds and one day set up a satellite population under human care to protect them from extinction. This was my first time doing field work and it was a life changing experience. Being able to see these birds in the wild and use my zoo keeping skills to help protect them reminds me why I got into this field.”

Keeper Tara, KidZooU

“My favorite part of being a zookeeper is training animals because it’s almost like we can communicate with one another. Training sessions allows animals, like our Golden Guernsey goat Neville, to not only learn how to kick a soccer ball, but participate in his own health care. With training, animals can choose how they want to spend their time, since they always have the option to participate or not.

It might be hard to believe but sometimes when I get stressed, I hold a bug! New Guinea walking sticks are the biggest species of walking stick on Earth, and like all insects, are critical for a healthy ecosystem. A big part of conservation work is helping people build empathy for all animals, and I knew I wanted to work at a place that allowed me to share all our animals’ stories.”

Keeper Yvette, Reptiles

“We have four Aldabra and three Galapagos tortoises at the Zoo, and what I love about them is how easily you can tell them apart by their personalities. Aldabra tortoises are laid back and content relaxing on their own. The Galapagos tortoises are a different story. Mommy, Little Girl and Abrazzo are very food motivated, and are much faster than you think they are if food is involved! This motivation helps us train them to participate in their own medical care, including asking them to go on a scale. Our male Abrazzo weighs over 400 pounds!”

Keeper Abby, Carnivores and Ungulates

“I work with Tony, the Zoo’s white rhino, and it’s amazing to see how strong he is. I watch him easily play and toss enrichment toys that are hard for me to move! Rhinos need our protection and since 1990, zoo keepers across the country who are members of the American Association of Zoo Keepers have been raising money for their conservation by hosting local fundraisers. This year, I was the chair for Bowling for Rhinos, and we helped raise a collective $9,200 (and counting!) alongside the other AAZK chapters in the country, and in total, have raised more than $9,000,000 since 1990 for rhino conservation. It’s a privilege to not only raise money to protect these animals, but to work with Tony who is such an important ambassador for his species.”

A Philadelphia Zoo staff member displays a reptile on a mobile exhibit.

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