What Does a Zookeeper Do?

You probably loved going to the zoo as a child, even now your favourite place might be the zoo where you get to see the lovely animals.

You also might have owned a pet or two growing up and you just love animals.


Maybe you are interested in working in the zoo and wondering what it entails.

This article provides information on what a zookeeper does and other related information.

Zookeepers are the most known members of the zoological park team because they interact with animals and humans.

A zookeeper usually specializes in working with one type of animal or a particular part of the zoo.


As a zookeeper, you’ll get to work with apes, penguins, reptiles, birds, and African animals.

Working as a zookeeper, you’ll be exposed to unique opportunities and experiences while caring for animals.

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What is A Zookeeper?

A zookeeper or an animal keeper is a person who cares for and manages animals found in the zoo.


A zookeeper is responsible for the feeding and daily care of exotic animals and ensuring safe and stimulating habitat for the zoo animals.

A zookeeper may also be responsible for conducting tours and answering questions about the zoo animals.

But their ultimate role is caring for the animals and monitoring their health daily.

Zookeepers can also perform basic veterinary care.

They can also assist in reproductive procedures and care of young animals in the zoo.

Most zookeepers specialize in specific animals like elephants, big cats, or aquatic animals.

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The skills a zookeeper needs while working in the zoo include:

1. Reliability

A zookeeper needs to be reliable because zoo animals require daily care.

Zookeepers must arrive on time to carry out duties such as feeding and cleaning zoo animals.

2. Empathy

Zookeepers should show compassion and understanding for the animals in their care.

Zookeepers should treat all animals with love and kindness.

3. Communication

Zookeepers must be able to communicate with their superiors or the veterinarian about their observations of a certain animal.

Zookeepers also participate in educational tours to the public and answer questions.

Zookeepers should be able to communicate animal science in ways easy to understand.

4. Patience

 Zookeepers must be patient while handling and managing animals.

Especially animals that are big, unpredictable, or difficult to handle.

5. Stamina

 Zookeepers must be fit, in good health, and be able to work in the weather.

Zookeepers need energy for handling big animals and other physical labour like lifting heavy objects.

6. Detail-oriented

Zookeepers must have scientific observation skills.

They need to notice slight changes in the behaviour of the animals.

Zookeepers must also keep recording their daily observations.

7. Confidence

Zookeepers must have confidence before handling animals of various sizes.

8. Driver’s license

A zookeeper must know how to drive and have a license.

But this depends on the zoological park if it’s a safari park or a large zoo 

Zookeeper Duties and Responsibilities

Zookeepers care for animals in the zoo and provide food, water, and basic vet care.

Zookeepers may care for a particular species, certain families, or all the animals in the zoological park.

Zookeeper duties and responsibilities may include:

  • Planning and adjusting animals’ feeds 
  • Observing and recording animals’ eating and behaviour patterns
  • Reporting observation of behaviour, injury, or illness to supervisors and veterinarians
  • Training and exercising zoo animals
  • Caring for young animals
  • Bathing zoo animals
  • Giving medications to zoo animals
  • Providing items to stimulate the animals’ habitats.
  • Educating zoo visitors during tours.
  • Keeping zoo animals in a clean, germ-free, and safely secured environment
  • Designing, building, and repairing natural habitat clone environments
  • Working with other animal professionals such as veterinarians
  • Assisting with breeding procedures 
  • Training animals to make feeding, medicating, and monitoring easy and safe.

Zookeeper Educational Requirements

A zookeeper needs a degree in zoology or life science or an animal-related course such as biology, psychology, and animal biology.

Some universities also offer postgraduate courses in zoo conservation or biology needed as a zookeeper.

Experience is very important as a zookeeper, so you could apply for internships, apprenticeships, or volunteering work to gain skills in animal-focused roles.

Certain certification programs that give zookeepers an advantage when applying for jobs include:

A. Professional Development Certificate

The professional development and certificate are offered by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

In this program, zookeepers complete training courses for hours to become certified in animal-focused roles such as behaviour husbandry or management and operations.

B. SCUBA certification

 SCUBA certification is an underwater diving certification.

This program comprises coursework and an open-water dive. 

This program takes a few days to complete and benefits zookeepers working with aquatic species in their water enclosures. 

C. CPR and First Aid Certification

CPR and first aid certification offer basic first aid training to zookeepers.

This program can be applied in-person and online through the Red Cross organization.

Zookeeper Work Environment and Schedules

In the work environment of a zookeeper, caution and skill are needed for safety.

Zookeepers can be scratched, bitten, kicked, harmed, injured, or frightened by large animals that are hard to control or animals that are not accustomed to human contact.

Zookeepers are required to work in various weather conditions.

They work all year round since animals require attention even on holidays like Christmas.

They also work over the weekend.

Zookeepers must be available to work outside work hours in emergency cases.

They also need to be flexible even on their day off mostly if animals are ill or a birthing process is expected.

Zookeepers may not get paid for overtime work.

Zookeepers’ work contracts are commonly part-time, seasonal, and short.

Zookeeper Internship and Volunteering Works

Zookeeper volunteering works and internships are opportunities for aspiring zookeepers.

Those who want to make a career in animal welfare get to learn about zoo animals and their behaviours.

Since zoological parks prefer hiring zookeepers with animal handling experience, there are various internships available during and after college.

There are various means of internship and they can be found by visiting a local zoo or aquarium.

All other internships can be done in an animal-related facility, vet hospital, human society shelters, wildlife rehabilitation environment, stables, and farms.

Where A Zookeeper Can Work At

A zookeeper can work at the various places listed below:

  • Animal collections within other family attractions such as theme parks.
  • Aquariums.
  • Bird gardens and birds of prey centers.
  • City farms.
  • City zoos.
  • Game reserves, the roles of job for these are common to zookeeper roles but also include acting as a tour guide for visitors.
  • Open-range zoos or safari parks.
  • Petting zoos are designed for children to feed and pet domesticated animals.
  • Private animal collections are usually owned by wealthy individuals and celebrities who recruit zookeepers.
  • Wildlife parks and sanctuaries

How To Be A Zookeeper

Being in the position to be a zookeeper doesn’t need an advanced certificate or special abilities to be qualified for the job. 

You can be qualified for the zookeeper job through a certain educational background and advanced training steps that lay a good foundation for you to know about the job.

 To be in the position of being a zookeeper you have to:

1. Be a high school graduate

The qualification of a high school certificate or GED is one of the requirements needed for applicants interested in most zookeeping jobs.

2. Gain relevant experience. 

Once you’re ready to be a zookeeper, acquiring the basic knowledge of how animals are being treated, fed, touched, and carried is expected of you to know.

This knowledge needed can be acquired while in high school or after just graduating from high school.

For an easy start, you can go for an internship, volunteer to work in a zoo, aquarium, wildlife recreational facility, or other facilities that care for animals.

Most zoos outline their wants, likes, and dislikes to most applicants when hiring zookeepers.

This job position also earns you good recommendations and networking opportunities.

3. Earn an associate degree.

Having an associate degree gives you an edge with the experience and basic knowledge needed for the zookeeper’s job.

Some community colleges that partner with zoos provide the associate degree in subjects known as zoo technology, animal hospitality, and management, animal training, and wildlife education.

To be exceptional in your experience, be part of community colleges that access teaching zoos, such as Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, America’s Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College, or the Florida International Teaching Zoo

4. Earn a bachelor’s degree. 

Earning a bachelor’s degree gives you more leverage to job opportunities as a zookeeper and prepares you for more career advancement.

You could study a science course degree such as biology or zoology and other important courses in topics like animal behaviour.

5. Pursue continuing education.

Being a part of a professional organization lets you gain access to various kinds of education seminars and meeting people that are more knowledgeable in the area of concern relating to zookeepers and networking opportunities.

A few examples of organizations include The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, The American Association of ZooKeeper, and the Animal Behavior Management Alliance.

6. Update your resume regularly.

The more work experience and achievements you acquire are important to you because it gives you an edge over your peers when it’s currently updated on your resume.

It’s easy for a zookeeper that has a good working experience and achievements on their resume to apply for jobs. 

Zookeeper Salary

Zookeeper income varies on the educational level acquired, experience, and the zoo’s geographic location.

This information is only intended as a guide.

The various levels of a zookeeper’s up-to-date salary information are:

Starting salaries for zookeepers in the UK vary between £12,000 and £14,000.
Experienced zookeepers in the  UK vary between £16,000 and £20,000.
Head zookeepers in the  UK earn a higher salary of up to £25,000 or more.

Have a great day.


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