Keeper Profile, Janine in Primates

Learn more about the talented and dedicated individuals that take care of the zoo animals in our new series of Keeper Profiles.

Janine Steele

What area do you work?

What is your favorite part about being a zookeeper?
Being creative. Whether it's designing a new enrichment device, redoing limbs in an exhibit, or finding a solution to a unique problem (which is usually the case more often than not).

What is your favorite animal and why?
In general cats, the domestic kind (don't tell my Rottweilers). At the zoo I gravitate towards all the "difficult" individuals. They make you work harder to earn their trust, but they make it so much more rewarding when they are willing to cooperate with you. So, I guess they are pretty similar.

How long have you worked at the Sacramento Zoo?
9 years

What would you say to someone who wants to become a zookeeper?
Volunteer as much as you can at a zoo, animal shelter, and/or wildlife rescue. It will give you a good idea of what kind of dedication it takes to be a zookeeper and give you some work experience.

When did you know that you wanted to be a zookeeper?
When I was a volunteer and I got to see the zoo's first 3 red pandas go on exhibit for their first time. The exhibit was not open to the public yet and I felt very privileged to help do their observations.

Why is your job so important?
I am responsible for the daily well being of the animals in my care. Zookeepers are also usually the first to notice a potential problem with the animal.

Tell me something interesting about one of the animals you work with.
Either a scientific fact or something about their personality.
Our young male White-faced saki monkey has a fondness for blond keepers; male or female.

What do you say to someone who wants to have a primate as a pet?
Don’t do it. They are illegal in most states plus their social needs are high. Humans and primates can exchange diseases back and forth, unlike other pets. If you want a pet, there are many dogs and cats in shelters that need a home. To learn more about wildlife as pets go to

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