Animal ambassadors are animals that travel to school and community education programs and appear on grounds at Creature Encounters. Sarah works with ALL of these animals. Learn the challenges and highlights of her unique keeper job in this National Zookeeper Week spotlight.
What kind of animals do you work with or what area?
Over 40 different species that are part of the Animal Embassy: birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.
How long have you been working at the zoo?
About 3 years
What steps did you take in order to become an animal keeper?
- A degree in Biology from Towson University.
- Internships at the National Aquarium, Maryland Zoo, and one in South Africa.
- Volunteering at zoos and aquariums
- Various animal jobs growing up, horse barns, petting zoo, pet store, animal shelter.
What is something you do everyday for the animal that would surprise us?
Every day I get to harness up and walk our serval Jamilla so that she can stretch her legs and get some exercise!
What do you want the public to know about zookeeping?
I would like people to know how interesting and dynamic a job it can be, every day is different and exciting! The animals always provide new challenges both mentally and physically for keepers, which can drive us crazy but also is why we are so passionate and love being zookeepers.
Why did you want to become a keeper?
I have always loved nature, particularly animals, while I find microbiology interesting, a summer lab job quickly made me realize that being indoors and doing research was not for me. I wanted to really work alongside the animals and be able to see the same critters everyday so that I would be able to really get to know them and hopefully they could get to know me too. Zookeeping provided this for me and also allows me to make a positive impact for the wild counterparts of the animals that I care for that are struggling in nature, whether that be through education, breeding, greater awareness, etc. So zookeeping is pretty great in that not only can I help individual animals but I can help impact the big picture as well.
What hobbies/interests do you have outside of your zoo life?
Gardening, hiking, and nature in general. I am a big fantasy/sci-fi nerd, love Dr. Who, LOTR, Walking Dead etc. playing piano, game nights, and of course I have a slew of my own personal critters I take care of.
What is your favorite part of a typical day at the zoo?
I love being able to take time to just sit with some of my favorite critters and either give them some extra attention or enrichment that I can see is fun or interesting to them. Even something as simple as kneeling down to let a penguin attack my pockets or keys is so fun for me to just watch them be interested, intrigued and maybe just having some plain old fun.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
I work with so many different species it can be challenging because each species gets different diets, enrichments, habitats that are specific to it. They can be so different from opposite corners of the planet with their own set of needs and requirements and I have to bounce around with them as I take care of them.
Where would you travel to see animals, or what places have you traveled to?
I have traveled to South America, my dream is to travel to Australia to see cuttlefish in the wild.
What do you think is the most important reason to support the zoo?
The zoo is a place that opens people’s minds to the natural world and shows them also how we are impacting it. I strongly believe that even though we can do amazing breeding, conservation in captivity in order to really create positive change for our planet, people need to feel connected and personally invested in nature, the Zoo is one of the best ways for them to do that.