How to Get a Job in a Zoo
The idea of working in a zoo has become a very popular one in recent years.
Media has played a big part in this. Television viewers have been presented with a seemingly endless run of assorted Zoo programmes both on local and national TV. These in turn are supplemented by excellent wildlife documentaries and animal cartoon cinema extravaganzas. Sadly there is much stuff and nonsense mixed in like White Tiger breeding.
Feed the Firefoxes
It Looks Good
Zoos as portrayed on film look good.
Camera angle, weather and subject are naturally chosen to give a good impression and usually they succeed. The unsavoury part of the work is skipped over or given movie inches instead of feet.
You average zoo TV watcher then believes that all in the garden is rosy. It isn't. Usually these programmes do not even address why we have zoos in the first place.
Keeper at Work
Zoos are not so very different
Zoos are not so very different to any other place of work. It is about people, visitors and your fellow staff. It is about money, money to pay the bills at the end of the week. It is about working conditions, restrooms and facilities, and whether your bosses care about you. It is about promotion, the opportunity to learn and progess.
Elephant and Keeper
Zoo Keeping is NOT work
Zoo Keeping is not work. Work is just a word. Zoo Keeping is a vocation, a way of life to which only the most committed and dedicated should apply.
The work can be hot, cold, wet, smelly, dirty, painful, tiring, demanding, trying, frustrating and upsetting. It is not easy.
Zoo Keeping is not about playing with animals or presenting shows in a crisp clean safari suit. It is not about rearing baby animals or going on expeditions up the Amazon.
These happen but they are rare. They are the nuggets which keep the zoos in staff.
Zoo Keeping is the best job in the world. Ask any keeper on a good day. They will even grudgingly admit it on a bad day. I have worked in zoos for 47 years and know it to be true.
Walking in step
What Zoos Want
Each zoo will have its own criteria for choosing staff but what they are all looking for is someone with experience. Experienced staff have a grasp of what the work is about. Zoo Keeper wages are determined by experience and educational achievement.
By experience they mean someone who has worked in a zoo before either employed or as a volunteer or perhaps with work experience from school. Such people have a better understanding of what work REALLY entails and not some glossy TV idea.
Zoos are looking for other skills. Staff should be literate, be able to drive, operate machinery, talk to visitors, use a computer. The list is endless. At interview you would have to demonstrate an understanding of subjects like territories.
Today keepers joining the zoo at grass roots level often have university or college degrees. The discipline of learning is important.
You can learn much more by visiting:
What Zoos do NOT want
Zoos do not want loners they want team players who can be trusted to work alone. They don't want people with an urealistic perception of animals. They don't want people who are sick all the time or want special treatment and consideration.
When you work in a zoo you become part of a family. A huge international fraternity of keepers.
If You Have Come This Far
If you have read this far then you are obviously seriously considering zoo keeping as a possible career.
Take a look at the Zoo Hubs. There is a mass of information there about Zoos, working in Zoos and more.
For current news items about zoos visit Zoo News Digest. From there you even subscribe to the mail out version and get even more information.
CHECK OUT ZOO JOBS for a current list of zoo work adverts.
If you make it to being a zoo keeper then read You Will Know You Are A ZooKeeper When..