Most Zoo visitors only have a brief glimpse into the world of a zoo keeper and only see what we’re working on at that moment, which is usually cleaning. What they don’t see are the other details involved in animal care, such as diet preparation. Some diets, like the orangutans, are complex and measured out by the calorie. In order to mimic the orangutans eating habits in the wild, their diet is fed out in small increments throughout the day. Pictured below is one full day of diets for my section including seasonal browse (willow, grapevine, maple, etc.).
A typical day:
8:15 to 9 a.m.: Arrive at work, collect radio and other gear, review reports and daily logs. Team meeting to discuss the day’s activities and goals. Check on animals, begin diets, dispense medications, first orangutan feeding.
9 to 10:30 a.m.: Clean Meerkat Exhibit, feed diet and provide enrichment (activities that stimulate our animals’ bodies and minds). Second orangutan feeding, clean exhibit, provide enrichment.
10:15 to 10:30 a.m.: Break, and much needed coffee!
10:30 to 10:45 a.m.: Prepare morning produce diet for orangutans, tortoise diet, and third orangutan feeding.
10:45 to Noon: Clean gibbon and spider monkey exhibits, provide enrichment, feed tortoise.
Noon to 12:30 p.m.: Fourth orangutan feeding, clean another inside room of Orangutan Exhibit.
12:30 to 1 p.m.: Lunch
1 to 2:30 p.m.: Prepare afternoon diets for orangutans, spider monkeys and gibbons, and provide enrichment.
2:45 to 4:30 p.m.: Fifth orangutan feeding, finish any remaining cleaning. Start paperwork and fill out daily logs. Feed meerkats’ afternoon diet and provide enrichment. Start sixth orangutan feeding.
4:30 to 5 p.m.: Final orangutan, gibbon and spider monkey feeding. Check all animals and make sure all locks and doors are secured, heaters are on (if needed), areas cleaned, cleaning supplies restocked, tools put away, etc. When all Zoo areas have checked in with the supervisor of the day, radios and gear are put away and we head home.
This is an average day but does not include animal training, observation, produce, meat and fish deliveries, staff meetings, scheduled animal presentations, speaking with visitors, animal and visitor emergencies, exhibit repairs and improvements, grounds keeping and other typical duties for the keepers.
If it seems like a lot, trust me, it is. But this is not work to us. It’s a privilege, and we’re very fortunate to be in a position to care for these animals. That’s what keeps us going.
- Brian Sheets, zoo keeper