National Zoo Keeper Week

It’s National Zoo Keeper Appreciation Week and we’re celebrating the amazing work our zookeepers do for wildlife every day. They are the dedicated keepers, teachers, and caretakers of the animals here at the zoo. They are also some of the most Passionate hardworking people you’ll meet. 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 Zoo Keeper Week is July 16-22. Each day we’ll share new keeper profiles and introduce you to the people making a difference for animals at the Maryland Zoo.

Meet Tammy W.

What area of the zoo do you work in and with what animals do you work?

Animal Embassy with all of our education animals.

How long have you been working at the zoo?

I have worked at the Maryland Zoo for about 5 years

Why did you choose to work at the zoo?

I originally wanted to work with elephants, but was hired for the keeper position in the animal embassy. After working with the education animals for a few years, I fell in love with them and they became my passion.

What is a typical work day like at the zoo?

The First thing I do is check that all of your animals are well and receive any medications needed. We weigh out their leftovers to make sure they have eaten since diet is a good indicator if an animal is sick. Then we clean enclosures, train the animals, give enrichment, and feed them their diets for the day. Working in the animal embassy we also give penguin encounter tours and sometimes help out on zoo mobiles. At the end of the day, we check that all the animals have food, water, and look healthy before we leave for the night.

Is it hard to work at the zoo and why?

I think the hardest part of our job is when an animal passes. As zookeepers, we are so passionate about these animals, it’s hard not to get attached when you are caring for them every day.

When did you first start thinking about working in a zoo?

I always knew I wanted to work with animals, but I didn’t know I wanted to work in a zoo until I received an internship at the Staten Island Zoo. At the time I was in college to become a vet tech. Once I started taking care of animals at the zoo, I found a college that focused on zookeeping in upstate NY and received my degree in animal management.

What steps did you take in order to become a keeper at the zoo?

I started as an intern at the Staten Island Zoo, where I then worked as a full-time keeper in the farmyard section for a year and a half. I then went back to college for my degree in animal management. While in college, I had two more internships. One at Rosamond Gifford Zoo, in three sections of their zoo. I interned in their small mammal section, elephants, and reptiles. The other internship I had was at the Phoenix Zoo on the hoofstock trail. I then went back to work at the Staten Island Zoo for almost a year before I received my job here at the Maryland Zoo where I have been working for 5 years now.

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

I love taking my dog out for hikes, watching movies and Netflix with my husband, and hanging out with family and friends whenever possible.

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

The most important reason to come and visit/ support the zoo is conservation! We can’t do any of our amazing conservations projects at the zoo without our zoo visitors supporting us! Those projects include the African penguins, Panamanian golden frogs, polar bears, rhinos, elephants, and much more.