16 Zookeepers Exposed Their Most Unbelievable Secrets About The Job

Published 1 month ago

Whenever someone announces a trip to the zoo to their kids, a genuine wave of delight washes over them. The prospect of passing through the wide gates adorned with animal images and stepping into a magical world of wild nature in the heart of the city awakens the inner child. Even for those who read extensively, watch numerous videos, and delve into the daily lives of animals in zoos and the people caring for them, there’s a continuous fascination with threads where zookeepers unveil secrets and share incredible stories about their work. If you resonate with this sentiment, you’re invited to explore the following list!

More info: Reddit

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#1 Not a zoo but a large public aquarium. The animals are fed the same restaurant quality seafood you eat. Sea otters are extremely expensive to keep for this reason. So are sharks, dolphins, beluga whales. And anything tropical and saltwater. And the keepers are working for love because God knows it sure isn’t money.

Image source: Barbarella_ella, Abdulmomen Bsruki

#2 I used to work at a natural history museum next to a zoo. Often when an animal was euthanized it would be donated to us.

Image source: Blondebitchtits, Korng Sok

My colleagues once took a giraffe apart with a chain saw, put the parts in the bed of someone’s personal pickup and drove it over. From there the animal was taken apart, and the meat and organs were separated from the skeleton. Then a colony of dermestid beetles would remove the remaining flesh from the skeleton. There were 8 colonies and it took about a year for them to clean a large skeleton like a giraffes. Then the bones and hide and other salvaged parts were preserved in the museums collection. During my tenure I saw a lion, a gorilla, a giraffe, and more monkeys than I could count.

#3 I don’t feel there’s anything that people wouldn’t believe, but there’s definitely a lot people don’t think about.

Image source: Civilized_Primate, Los Muertos Crew

Many of the animals may be on some form of birth control. In the case of great apes, it’s probably the same one most humans take.

Zoo’s don’t deliberately hide animals from you, but that doesn’t mean they’re aren’t animals that are not visible to the public. Animals can be off habitat for any number of reasons (social dynamic issues, special treatment, quarantine, solitary species, etc).

Keepers spend WAY less time than you think directly interacting with the animals.

Keepers have college degrees. That wasn’t always the case, but you won’t be considered for a job anymore without one unless you have a ton of experience. .

#4 If an animal dies of natural causes we sometimes feed them out to other animals. Had a zebra pass and we fed out to our lions. A local farmer had a calf that was kicked in the head by its mom and we fed the whole carcus out to our African wild dogs. Both times were during public visiting hours so I guess it’s not necessarily a secret just not well known.

Image source: TheWalkingMeg, Nikolay Tchaouchev

#5 Not a zookeeper but I have a few zookeepers in my friends group. When I ask questions outside the zoo their eyes kinda glaze over and they parrot the things I know they tell guests: “A lion is a carnivore! So they eat meat! In the wild…”

Image source: Professional-Bee-137, Frans van Heerden

but every once in a while they slip up or admit something in an unrelated conversation, and I have learned things such as

-the African wild dogs don’t get frozen meat anymore because they roll on it and smear it everywhere instead of eating it

-the baboons somehow insisted on listening to the song “Mobile” by Avril Lavigne on repeat at one point, thus f*****g up one of my friends Spotify recommendations.

#6 In the case of most large Zoo’s (including specifically the San Diego Zoo, and Wild Safari Park which is like a sister zoo), the money spent on maintaining & curating the plant life is many multiples more than the money spent on maintaining & curating animals. The staff to maintain the plant life is many multiple’s larger than the staff for animals, too.

Image source: Cody6781, Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz

#7 Many ‘vegetarian’ animals are also feed a small amount of meat. Because in the wild the plants, vegetables, and fruits they eat often has bugs in in them that they also eat.

Image source: DeathMonkey6969, Gabriel Vasiliu

It’s not really a secret and if you ask a keeper about an animal’s diet they’ll tell you, but many people have this notion of herbivores only eat plants and carnivores only eat meat.

The reality is there are very few pure herbivore or carnivore in the wild. One of the first things many predators eat from a large prey animal is the stomach and large intestines to get that partly digested plant matter.

#8 I volunteer at an aqurium and the people always ask about whether the sharks that are in with the fish ever eat the fish officially we say, “we keep them well fed enough that they don’t”, but on more then one morning on my initial walk around I have found remains of fish that definitely weren’t feed fish. On a particularly memorable occasion I found the head of a large porgy just sitting on the bottom. A diver went in and got it before guests arrived.

Image source: SunflowerPrincesy, Julen Garces

#9 Was on an inside the operation – behind the walls corporate trip to big western USA zoo. Two employees took us around unseen side of elephant enclosure. Picture gate made of metal bars about 4 inches wide and big elephant tall. Employees repeatedly said, “Stay 10 feet from bars.” Elephant had recently grabbed someone with its trunk. They were bludgeoned to death as elephant repeatedly slammed them into gate.

Image source: ilikemagnets33, Blue Ox Studio

#10 I don’t know about wouldn’t believe, but it’s nothing like TV shows about zoos make it appear (at least most of the time). Those shows obviously show the interesting bits. In reality the job is 90% cleaning. You will spend most of your time picking up s**t or cleaning windows.

Image source: Frantastic79, Anthony Yin

Depending on the zoo, you may never get to do things like hand-rearing orphaned animals – the bosses tend to claim “fun” things like that for themselves. You’re just there for day-to-day maintenance.

It is very hard work, physically speaking, and pays poorly. You’re outdoors in all seasons and weathers. You rarely get weekends off, or even two days in a row. No time off at Christmas or other holidays. You really have to be committed!

#11 Not a zookeeper myself – but my girlfriend used to work at a zoo back in her home town before moving to the UK, and when we went to visit her family last year we decided to take a trip to the zoo aswell.

Image source: _EbenezerSplooge_, Katy Wilkens

Almost as soon as you enter, one of the first buildings you can go into has a large cordoned off area by the door full of super cute rabbits and guinea pigs, with only a small barrier surrounding them so kids can see them clearly. This section is apparently always really popular with families, as the kids love to see the animals hopping around, munching on vegetables and generally being really cute.

A few meters away from this pen was a large glass cage built into the wall, inside of which was a very large, mean looking snake. As I was looking at it, I made a comment about it’s size – to which my girlfriend responded;

*”Guess what they feed it?”*

Spoiler: every couple of days they go to the pen, grab one of those same cute little bunnies the kids were all fussing and cooing over, and toss it into the cage for the snake to munch on.

F*****g brutal.

#12 We feed the big cats on failed race horses. We have to buy the horses at live horse auction. we compete against the dog food companies in buying the horse as they are the broken horses.

Image source: bucketsofpoo, Mathew Schwartz

However we can’t feed the horse straight to the lion as horse racers d**g the s**t out of their horses with unknown d***s. they claim its a clean industry but its not.

so horses need to be able to hobble around a paddock for 6 months or so before we feed them to the lion.

#13 Penguins are so god damn stabby with their faces.

Image source: masterslut, Tarryn Myburgh

Also, sometimes the reason why animals aren’t in their exhibits is because they’re bastards and had to be removed from the main exhibit. We had a steller sea lion breeding colony. One of the most endangered marine mammal species on the planet. But we couldn’t let our male in with his females because at the apex of the breeding season this goofy f****r killed one of them and then grievously injured another. So he lived out back, alone, because he was an a*****e.

#14 Have you watched the series called The Zoo based in the Bronx? There’s also an aquarium version. It’s super interesting & goes into great detail about how the animals are cared for behind the scenes.

Image source: Snoobs-Magoo, Mark Basarab

My favorite topic they cover is the enrichment exercises. They put a lot of research & detail into keeping the animals engaged & entertained. The best one was the see through tongue maze they built for an ant eater to explore.

#15 A book I read by a zoo vet said in the good old days, if an exotic animal died , and the death was not infectious, they would have a BBQ in the back lot for employees. For example, roasted Impala.

Image source: iloveschnauzers, Saeed Khokhar

#16 Zookeepers frequently make less than $25 per hour and zoo interns aren’t paid and it’s competitive, disgusting, thankless work.

Image source: agent-assbutt, Terry Granger

I interviewed for an admin job at a top 5 zoo and was shocked the job I was interviewing for paid more than most zookeeper jobs that were posted. I didn’t even get the job I interviewed for, but talked to a zookeeper turned nurse to humans in-depth later, and she just spilled the beans about how thankless/underfunded of a field it is. I encourage every young person I meet who’s interested in zoology to research it heavily because it’s *not* a job for those who want money or prestige or to smell good, ever.

Shanilou Perera

Shanilou has always loved reading and learning about the world we live in. While she enjoys fictional books and stories just as much, since childhood she was especially fascinated by encyclopaedias and strangely enough, self-help books. As a kid, she spent most of her time consuming as much knowledge as she could get her hands on and could always be found at the library. Now, she still enjoys finding out about all the amazing things that surround us in our day-to-day lives and is blessed to be able to write about them to share with the whole world as a profession.

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animals, Zoo, zoo secrets, zookeeper, zookeepers
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