Animal keepers work in zoos and are responsible for keeping the animals safe and healthy. These knowledgeable scientists are passionate about animals and are committed to educating the public and advocating for animal protection. Keepers partake in continuing education and stay abreast of the latest advances in the breeding, environment and medical concerns of the species for which they care.
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Animal keepers prepare the special diets that the animals need to stay healthy. They keep the enclosures clean and provide intellectual stimulation with toys and other items. Keepers develop a close relationship with the animals in their care and carefully observe their behaviour daily. They report illness or injuries to the veterinarian.
At some zoos, the animal keepers provide public education and give presentations. They answer questions and share information about the animals' habits, behaviour and environment.
Animals keepers are responsible for a group of animals such as primates, hoof stock or reptiles. They may rotate to different animal groups and must stay abreast of the latest education regarding the animals for which they care.
This career requires evening, weekend and holiday hours, as the animals must be cared for every day. Keepers are exposed to cold, heat, rain or snow, depending on the weather. They must take safety precautions around some animals to avoid bites, scratches or attacks.
Work entails hard physical labour, including bending, kneeling and lifting. Keepers may be prone to back or muscular injuries.
Education and Training
Most zoos require keepers to have a bachelor's degree in biology, zoology or animal science. Volunteer experience at a zoo or related work caring for animals is preferred; most students seek out internships during their education in preparation for an entry-level job as an animal keeper. New animal keepers may begin as assistants while they learn the specifics of the job.
Animal keepers should have a passion for the care of animals. They should possess good communication skills in order to interact with the public when necessary. Keepers should be calm and patient and be able to problem-solve. Animal keepers must be emotionally mature and able to handle illness and death of the animals in their care.
The average animal keeper earned an annual salary of £12,584, reported the Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2008. Top earnings were as high as £20,533.
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