Learn more about the talented and dedicated individuals that take care of the zoo animals in our second installment of the new series of Keeper Profiles. Missed the first one? Check out Janine in Primates.
What areas do you work?
Reptiles mostly, but I help out in carnivores or ungulates if needed.
What is your favorite part about the job?
I get to work closely with animals that I might never see otherwise. I also get to learn so much about conservation and how to keep these and other animals around for the years to come.
How long have you worked at the Sacramento Zoo?
I have been a visitor since birth, a member from 1999-2003, a keeper-aide volunteer from 2003-2007, and I was hired in November of 2007.
What would you tell someone who wants to be a zookeeper?
Its hard work; but it is also a job in which you learn a lot and you see rare animals every day. Its also fun--who can watch big cats or reptiles play with their toys without smiling?
What do you say to people who are afraid of reptiles? What are the misconceptions?
Unfortunately, there have been studies that show that humans are 'hardwired' to be afraid of reptiles. When I find somebody who is afraid of them, I try to point out the non-scary elements, such as the beauty of the patterns on rattlesnakes scales, or how a lizard can hang from a tree limb, or how an frog or caecilian can blend in to its surroundings like magic.
The misconceptions I have heard are that snakes will chase you and try to bite you, or that they are all venomous; neither of these things are true, more often than not, a snake just wants to be left alone to hide out of sight. More often than not, a person who is afraid of reptiles does not know exactly why they are afraid, I try to take that chance to let them know that reptiles aren't "bad" animals, and how they can be beneficial to people.
When did you know that you wanted to be a zookeeper?
I always thought it would be a neat job to have, but I never really thought I could ever actually get a zookeeping job; when I became a keeper-aide, I realized I could become a zookeeper, and I made it my goal.
Why is your job important?
To me, my job is important, because it is something I love to do, it feels like it is what I am meant to do. In the world view, zookeeping is important because it is a means to educate people about conservation and the importance of wild animals, as well as a chance for an average individual (like me) to help species recover in their natural habitat--through captive breeding, in-situ research (studying populations of species in their natural habitat), and habitat restoration.
What is your favorite animal and why?
This is a tough one, I like so many animals. How about this, my favorite lizard is the Blue tree monitor (I do like blue animals!) My favorite snake is the Brazilian rainbow boa; my first snake was (and still is) a B.R.B.
As for amphibians, I like so many frogs, such as the Red-eyed tree frog, the Waxy monkey tree frog, White's tree frog, and the Green and black dart frog. I am also very partial to newts and salamanders--particularly California newts and Pacific giant salamanders. I don't have any specific reason as to why I like them, I just do. Amphibians are such a large part of any ecosystem, as well as being amazing creatures, how can anyone not like them?
As for non-reptiles, I am a big fan of the walrus. Of the animals at Sacramento Zoo, I think my favorite to work with is the West African dwarf crocodile, he is SO intelligent!