Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

What is this job like?

Many people like animals, but taking care of them is hard work. Zookeepers take care of wild animals in zoos and animal parks. They feed the animals, clean their living spaces, and work to keep them healthy.

Zookeepers watch the animals to see if they are sick or hurt. Keepers need to watch and listen carefully to notice any changes in behavior. Keepers write detailed notes about each animal and tell a veterinarian if there is a problem.

Some keepers give the animals objects to play with and explore. Many animals like playing with logs, sandboxes, and even water sprinklers. Keepers often hide food for the animals to find. Playing with food and toys helps animals stay active.

Sometimes, keepers train the animals to make caring for them easier. For example, keepers train elephants to lift their feet so that veterinarians can check them.

Teaching people about animals is another keeper task. Keepers answer people's questions and give presentations.

People who like animals often like working with them. Keepers like getting to know the animals. They also like helping with research. And they like learning how to help endangered animals in the wild.

But zookeeping can be a dirty job. Keepers have to clean exhibit areas. Many keepers work outside in rain, heat, and every other kind of weather. They sometimes carry heavy containers of food. And because animals eat every day, some keepers work on weekends and holidays.

Zoo work can also be dangerous. Wild animals can bite, kick, or spread disease. Keepers almost never pet or play with the animals.

How do you get ready?

Many keepers go to college for 2 or 4 years. They often study biology, animal science, or some other science. Keepers also need to understand math so that they can measure food properly. Keepers need good writing and speaking skills, too, so that they can take notes and talk to the public.

Keepers also need experience caring for animals. Before working at a zoo, many keepers work in veterinary offices, pet stores, or farms. In those jobs, they clean animal cages and feed, watch, and care for animals.

Experience in a zoo is also good. Many keepers start as zoo volunteers.

Source: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
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