Tonawanda News

Features

August 18, 2013

CRITTER COMPANIONS: The greatest job in the world

(Continued)

Most days start early because exhibits and habitats need to be cleaned before the public arrive. My day starts later than most because the animals I care for are all behind the scenes. The animals that I train and clean are used in educational programming and shows. Since they are not in public view, their enclosures do not need to be cleaned before the park opens.

My day starts at 8:00 a.m. and for the first one and a half hours it is nothing but husbandry: raking, hosing, scrubbing, changing water bowls and making diets. For about two and a half hours of the day animal shows are happening. During the shows, the host can be on stage talking to hundreds of strangers a day. For the other three to four hours more cleaning occurs, with extra time being dedicated to animal training. 

If talking to sizeable audiences of strangers and the five plus hours of cleaning up after animals does not scare you, this is how you go about getting this slightly-above-minimum-wage, highly-competitive job.

Camps that are offered at zoological parks are usually held through the vacations breaks from school. Shadowing opportunities are where — usually high school — students are allowed to follow a zookeeper, veterinarian or trainer for a day. They may assist in tiny daily activities but in general they are observing side by side what the animal professional is doing. The shadowing is scheduled through the school and only occurs for one day. After that, volunteering opportunities can be applied for.

If one is interested in a full-time job as a zookeeper or animal trainer, starting off by volunteering with or without animals at the local SPCA, veterinarian offices or zoological institutions is a great way to start. Volunteering allows you a more in-depth experience compared to attending a camp or shadowing. Volunteers often help with diet prep, clean enclosures and provide enrichment.

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