Happy Zookeeper Appreciation Week! Today the keeper in our spotlight is Valerie S., she works with the Zoo’s African Elephants. Working with the largest animals at the Zoo is no small task. Check out what Valerie has to say about her experience as a keeper.

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

African Elephants.

How long have you been working at the zoo?

Since May 2011.

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

I went to Delaware Valley College for four years and earned a degree in Animal Behavior. During college I did internships at local zoo’s and aquariums to gain hands on experience. After college I was fortunate to be hired at the Maryland Zoo.

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

We give elephants a bath almost every day, but they enjoy wallowing in the wet sand so they don’t stay clean for long!

What do you want the public to know about zookeeping?

I would like to express to everyone that this is a career. It is a career full of potential. We have to opportunity to educate the public, participate in conservation program as well as research opportunities. It is more than cleaning up after animals, even though that is extremely important!

Why did you want to become a keeper?

I wanted to be a keeper because animals are incredible! Every species is unique and has interesting behaviors. Each animal has special needs that challenge us to always keep learning.

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

I enjoy reading, walking my dogs, traveling to new places and sometimes curling up with a good series on Netflix.

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

My favorite part of any day is doing training sessions on exhibit with our female elephants.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The weather! Snow, bitter cold, rain and extreme heat can be very challenging to work in.

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

I have been to Costa Rice, Aruba, St. Lucia and Iceland. In the future I would like to travel to African, Australia, New Zealand and more!

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

The most important reason to support the Zoo is to ensure that the Zoo will be here for future generations of visitors and our animals. We need the Zoo to inspire all generations to care about the planet and the animals on it.