They’re some of the most hardworking, dedicated and passionate people you’ll meet. It’s National Zookeeper Appreciation Week and we’re celebrating the amazing work our zookeepers do for wildlife every day. The Maryland Zoo is fortunate to have expert teams of animal professionals focused on the care of more than 200 species big and small. We’re so grateful for their knowledge, expertise and commitment which continues to advance animal husbandry and wildlife conservation here and around the globe.

This year, National Zookeeper Week is July 17th through the 23rd. Each day we’ll share new keeper profiles and introduce you to the people making a difference for animals at the Maryland Zoo.

Meet Kristen N.

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

I work in the Animal Embassy, which houses all of the animal ambassadors that represent the Zoo for special events, PR and educational programs. The animals make appearances on and off Zoo grounds with some even traveling out of state to represent the Zoo. We have a wide variety of animal ambassadors from invertebrates like a tarantula and Madagascar hissing cockroaches, to mammals like a serval and kinkajou, as well as birds, including several parrots, birds of prey, and the penguins at Penguin Encounter, and a good number of reptiles and amphibians also, with several kinds of snakes, turtles and frogs. My area also has a second run that includes the hospital patients from all over the Zoo and quarantine for animals that are new to the Zoo. Having a variety of animals in the embassy makes us well suited for the variety of animals that come into the hospital and quarantine.

How long have you been working at the zoo?

This August I will have been working at the Zoo for 20 years.

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

In the embassy we do have to make a variety of diets since we have a variety of animals with different nutritional requirements. That includes brewing tea for the resident toucan and collecting crickets and worms from the herp area for the reptiles. We also do a lot of unique husbandry for the animals which includes things like brushing the fur of six rabbits, brushing the teeth of the Chinese Alligator, and taking the serval for walks in her harness and leash. In the hospital area, in order to properly care for the animals we have there, we need to take a lot of showers. Sometimes I shower four times a day.

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

I volunteer at my childrens’ elementary and high schools several times a month, as well as chaperone class trips. I also attend lots of their sporting events (lacrosse, soccer and basketball) and music concerts. Most of my free time is taken up playing board or video games with my family, or going to the park or pool. If I ever have any alone time I like to read, do jigsaw puzzles, and watch way too much television. And I am also a big Disney fan, always planning our next trip to Disneyworld.

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

Honestly, I like all the record keeping and paperwork that we do. I love being organized and making information easy to find. I usually look to forward to writing in the diaries and doing reports on the computer. I also make diet sheets every month for the many animals.