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From Feeding to Enrichment: The Daily Tasks of a Zookeeper

From Feeding to Enrichment: The Daily Tasks of a Zookeeper

As someone who loves animals, the role of a zookeeper has always intrigued me. From a distance, it might seem like a dream job, surrounded by lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!). But as I learned more about what it takes to be a zookeeper, it quickly became clear that it’s not all glamour and playtime. Today, we’ll explore the daily tasks and responsibilities of a zookeeper, from feeding to enrichment.

What Does a Zookeeper Do?

At its core, the job of a zookeeper is to take care of the animals in their care. This includes everything from feeding them to giving them a clean living space. But it’s not just about keeping the animals alive and healthy. Zookeepers also play a vital role in ensuring the mental stimulation and enrichment of the animals.

Feeding Animals

When most people think of zookeepers, they think of feeding time. This is certainly an important part of the job, and it takes up a significant chunk of a zookeeper’s day. Depending on the size of the zoo and the number of animals they’re responsible for, feeding time can take up to several hours each day.

Zookeepers need to be intimately familiar with the dietary needs of each animal in their care. They need to know how much to feed them, what to feed them, and when to feed them. In some cases, this might mean preparing specialized diets or even bottle-feeding newborns.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Keeping animals in a clean and healthy environment is crucial to their well-being. Zookeepers are responsible for cleaning animal enclosures, removing waste, and providing fresh water. They also need to make sure that the animals have access to appropriate bedding, toys, and other resources that will keep them comfortable.

Beyond the living quarters, there’s an entire zoo to maintain. This might include keeping the walkways clear, monitoring temperature and humidity levels, and ensuring that all equipment is in good working order.

Enrichment Activities

In the wild, animals spend much of their time foraging, exploring, and playing. In a zoo, however, this kind of behavior can be much harder to come by. This is where enrichment activities come in.

Enrichment activities are designed to provide animals with mental and physical stimulation that mimics what they would experience in the wild. This might include things like feeding puzzles, toys, or hidden treats that the animals need to work to find. It might also include changing up their living environment to keep things fresh and interesting.

Qualifications and Training

Becoming a zookeeper isn’t just a matter of loving animals and showing up to work. It requires a significant amount of training and education, and there are a number of qualifications that aspiring zookeepers need to meet.

Typically, zookeepers need to have a degree in zoology, animal science, or a related field. They also need to have significant experience working with animals, either through internships or previous jobs. Depending on the zoo, there might also be specific certifications required.


Being a zookeeper is a challenging and rewarding job. It requires a deep understanding of the animals in your care, as well as a commitment to ensuring their mental and physical well-being. From feeding to enrichment, there’s a lot that goes into a zookeeper’s day, but for those with a passion for animals, it can be an incredibly fulfilling career.


What’s the hardest part of being a zookeeper?

One of the greatest challenges of being a zookeeper is dealing with the emotional toll of working with animals who may become ill or pass away. It can also be physically demanding work, with long hours spent on your feet.

Do zookeepers ever work with dangerous animals?

Yes, some zookeepers work with dangerous animals like big cats, bears, and primates. These animals are typically handled with extreme caution and with equipment specifically designed to keep both the animal and the keeper safe.

What kind of work experience do I need to become a zookeeper?

Most zoos require some previous animal experience, either through internships, volunteering, or previous jobs. Experience working with a variety of different animals is preferred.

Is being a zookeeper a good career choice?

For those with a passion for animals and a strong work ethic, being a zookeeper can be an incredibly fulfilling career. It’s a highly competitive field, but for those who are dedicated, it can be an excellent choice.

What’s the average salary for a zookeeper?

The average salary for a zookeeper is around $30,000-$40,000 per year. However, this can vary significantly depending on the zoo and the level of experience of the keeper.

How can I learn more about becoming a zookeeper?

Zoos often offer internships or volunteer opportunities for those who are interested in pursuing a career in animal care. There are also a number of degree programs and online courses available for those who want to learn more about zoology and animal science.

What kind of person makes a good zookeeper?

Someone who is passionate about animals, hardworking, detail-oriented, and able to work well under pressure would make an excellent zookeeper. It’s also important to be physically fit and comfortable working outdoors in all kinds of weather.


  • “A Day in the Life of a Zookeeper” – National Geographic
  • “Zookeeper Career Information” – The Balance Careers
  • “How to Become a Zookeeper” – Career Explorer


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