What do Zookeepers do

Zookeepers look after zoo animals. They are also responsible for the daily maintenance of their environment. Their job may also include public contact and record keeping too. Zoo keeping is a tough physical job for people who are willing to work hard at tasks that can be repetitious and challenging.


Duties may vary slightly at different zoos, but some tasks are universal. A zookeeper feeds the animals, which generally includes mixing and measuring out food. The zookeeper also keeps records related to each animal’s diet. The zookeeper cleans the animals’ enclosure daily, and maintains it. He or she may be responsible for enriching the animals’ environment too, by providing toys or other stimulation.

Some zookeepers have a great deal of public contact. They may answer the public’s questions, lead tours, or provide visitors with information about how to behave around zoo animals.

Zookeepers must keep an eye on animal behavior, and be prepared to report when they perceive a problem. When a veterinarian or animal technician is treating an animal, a zookeeper may be called upon to assist. Some zookeepers may train the animals in their charge, to make care and treatment easier.

Zoo keeping can be a tough job. Wild animals can be unpredictable and dangerous. Sometimes they get sick, and sometimes they die. Enclosures get very dirty, and must be cleaned and disinfected repeatedly. It is hard physical labor. Animal food can have a strong smell, too. In addition, zookeepers sometimes have to get large animals to do things that they don’t want to do.


Many more people want to be zookeepers than there are positions available. Therefore, anyone who wants to be a zookeeper should get as much education as possible. A BA in biology, zoology, ecology, animal science, or a related field is a good start. Some people have gotten jobs as zookeepers through apprenticeship programs, but this is a much less certain path to employment. There are also animal technician programs, which take fewer than four years to complete and may lead to employment.

Two schools train people to be zookeepers or work in related fields in two year programs. Moorpark College near Ventura California offers the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program. Pensacola Junior College in Florida has a similar program. Michigan State offers a BA in zoo science. It is also possible to become a Registered Veterinary Technician through programs offered at many schools.

Besides a good education, anyone who wants to apply for a zookeeper job needs to get experience. Possibilities include internships and volunteering. Places to look for unpaid work include local animal shelters, animal rescue organizations, local parks, local stables or kennels, animal day-care, and veterinarian’s offices.

Related Fields

People who want to work with animals should consider all of the many animal-related careers available. Veterinarians, animal health technicians, field researchers, research assistants and animal behaviorists all get to work with animals.

Anyone who is determined to work as a zookeeper should get a good education, and also some practical experience. Since this field has many more applicants than there are available jobs, anyone who wants to be a zookeeper should be prepared to persist until they reach their goal.