Happy Keeper Appreciation Week! Today’s featured keeper, Paula, comes from our Giraffe House and Farmyard team. Paula takes care of a wide assortment of animals, from large predators to friendly ruminants. Read on to find out more about Paula’s exciting zoo life!

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What kind of animals do you work with or what area?

Giraffe, Okapi, Lion, Cheetah, Warthog, Demoiselle Crane, Kirk’s Dik Dik, Lesser Kudu, Addra Gazelle, Saddle Billed Storks, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and all of the farmyard animals on occasion.

How long have you been working at the zoo?

6 years this August

What steps did you take in order to become an animal keeper?

I did not take the normal school route, as this was a career change for me. I started at the zoo as an animal attendant and worked my way up from there.

What is something you do everyday for the animal that would surprise us?

The amount of cleaning done every day would surprise a lot of people. And it has to be done daily – rain, snow, or holiday even.

What do you want the public to know about zookeeping?

It is a hard job that we have either worked really hard to get, spent a lot of time in school for, or both. I have never met a zookeeper that did not love what they do and often outside of the zoo we will champion for conservation causes that we care deeply about.

Why did you want to become a keeper?

Even though the job is physically tough, the training that we do and the daily interaction with the animals is very rewarding.

What hobbies/interests do you have outside of your zoo life?

Online and tabletop gaming as well as photography

What is your favorite part of a typical day at the zoo?

The training that takes place is the best part of my day. It could be a blood draw from a cheetah or just haltering the donkeys for daily hoof cleaning. Training helps us with daily animal care and provides the animal with mental stimulation.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

We sometimes have to say “good-bye” to the animals that have been in our daily care for years, whether they have been transported elsewhere or it was their time. When that happens, it helps to focus on all of the other animals that are depending on you.

Where would you travel to see animals, or what places have you traveled to?

I would love to travel to the Congo to see an Okapi in the wild or to Kenya to see lions and Giraffe.

What do you think is the most important reason to support the zoo?

We provide people an opportunity to see animals with their own eyes that they may otherwise never see. I find that being able to actually see an animal in person and learn about them has a deeper effect on people. They are more prone to care about a species’ conservation if they have that deeper connection.