Growing up, my family instilled in me the importance of the great outdoors and the amazing benefits it has on health and well-being. Family vacations focused on fishing, camping, and soaking in the awe-inspiring natural sights the world has to offer. It made for an easy transition into a career in conservation science. I received a diploma in Renewable Resource Management followed by a Bachelor of Science with an emphasis on environmental studies and conservation ethics. Conservation ethics focuses on respecting, protecting, and preserving wildlife and wild places for future generations, instead of viewing the natural world as merely a resource to be exploited.
My travel experiences throughout different regions of the world have always involved conservation efforts. One of my favorites was a project that provides Laos’ elephants with a better quality of life. Elephant Park Project deals with the disappearing forests and learning about how the elephants who used to log them can become neglected. I have also been to Tanzania and helped with the efforts there to preserve their wildlife which has become depleted due to extensive poaching. Lastly, I became involved in conducting marine turtle monitoring and conservation within Tortuguero National Park. This expedition plays a vital role in the development and management of the long-term wildlife conservation in Costa Rica.
I am happy to say I have been at the zoo for almost eight years with many more to follow. My search for the dream job concluded with joining the Greater Vancouver Zoo family. The main focus for a zookeeper is the health and quality of life of the animals in their care. We maintain this by providing a high-quality diet, making improvements to their habitat, closely monitoring behaviour and appearance changes, and providing daily enrichment. Enrichment provides physical and mental stimulation and encourages natural behaviours. Some examples of enrichment are specialized toys, novel feeding procedures (for example, hiding food or feeding at different times), different scents placed around the enclosure, and making changes to the ‘furniture’ in the enclosure. We also try to provide stimulus as well through our interactions with them every day. The best part of our day is seeing the excitement on an animal’s face upon seeing us. The less glamorous part of a zookeeper’s day is of course cleaning up the ‘droppings’ and other messes, but this is all part of keeping an animal healthy.
Zoological institutions do a lot of work for conservation through programs such as the SSP (Species Survival Plan), and captive breeding/head starting and release programs for native species. Captive-born animals play an important role in the SSP by maintaining a healthy and genetically diverse population for future re-introductions into the wild. Educating the public by making them aware of these programs and getting them involved by letting them know how they can help is one of our most important goals.
Come visit the zoo, become engaged and passionate about saving animals. Find our keeper chat locations to learn more about specific animals and what you can do to help them in the wild. Children growing up alongside their favourite animals can inspire them to become superheroes for the environment. A sustainable world relies on the connections we make between species, humanity, and the nature that surrounds us.