If you have read any book in the Animal Helpers series, you know that author Jennifer Keats Curtis is dedicated to educating children about the work of those that help animals both captive and wild. Today we have a special treat as Jennifer interviews zookeeper Lindsay Tucker from the Turtle Back Zoo:
What animals do you care for at the zoo? Are there babies and adults?
As a relief keeper I care for all the different animals at the zoo. The adults sometimes have babies, and then the babies then grow into adults.
How long have you been a keeper?
What is your favorite part of your job? Which aspects are most difficult?
My favorite part about my job is knowing that I am helping with conservation and caring for captive animals to the best of my abilities as possible. The hardest part of my job is making decisions for these animals that is in their best interest.
Please talk a little about your training (how you became a keeper) to help our young readers understand the process.
I started out with an internship in high school at a local vet. I then went to college for Biology, and then started working at the vet I interned at. Once I graduated with my bachelors I then got an internship at the zoo. Once my internship was over, I got hired as a relief keeper.
Please provide details on working with the animals under your care, including socializing, feeding, and enrichment. Do you create toys and enrichment items for the animals? If so, what are they?
It is very important to make sure the animals I care for are socialized and like me. This makes caring for them easier. I do this by finding out what makes them happy, and make sure they realize I was the one who gave it to them. What makes them happy is enrichment. Enrichment includes:
*special food or treats
*changes in their environment: giving them scents, new logs or climbing structures, or even by playing music or the tv!
*toys: animals find all sorts of things to be toys, that you would not normally. Sometimes they like boxes, shredded paper, a towel, or a pillowcase! Sometimes I make toys out of buckets, tubes, and rope… that I can then put food in.
Do any of the animals’ behaviors make you laugh out loud? If so, what are they?
Whenever a fire engine or an ambulance drives by, our wolf pack thinks it sounds like another wolf, and they start howling. Howling is a natural behavior for wolves, but in this case it makes me laugh.
How do you work with other zoo staff, including vets?
I work with other staff and the vet all the time. A big part of my job is working as a team, to ensure the job gets done for the animals. I work with maintenance staff on keeping the exhibits looking nice, and with the vet by making sure the animal gets the medicine it needs when I feed them so that the animal can get better.
What behaviors and cues do you observe to help gauge the animals’ physical and mental health?
I gauge the animal’s health by making sure they are eating, drinking, and going to the bathroom normally. If they are not, I then look to see how the animal is acting. If they are extra sleepy or even extra hyper than normal, that is a clue that something is wrong.
Do you have pets at home?
I have two dogs, a cat, and an ant farm at home.
For our young readers who would love to work at the zoo, how would you suggest they get started?
Volunteer! If your local zoo does not have any room for volunteers at the moment don’t give up, but in the mean time try volunteering anywhere that has to do with animal care. Either at a vet office, shelter, farm, groomer, pet store, or seeing eye. When looking for your first job, try to get a job at any of these places to get your first introduction to animal care. Read as much as you can about animals, and try having some pets at home if your parents will let you. If you do get a pet, no matter what it is, even if it is a goldfish, research it and take care of it the best you can, so you can see how much effort goes into animal care. Once you are older, go to college for a major in animal science. That could be anything from environmental science to pre Vet! Also intern as much as possible, the more experience you can gain the better!
For more information about Animal Helpers: Zoos visit the book homepage.