15+ Curious Facts About Zoos That Only Zookeepers Know

month ago

Every profession has its secrets, and zoo workers are no exception. From the outside, it seems like a dream job: you’re surrounded by cute animals, and you just need to take care of them. But from the inside, of course, everything is different. What animal in the zoo do you think is more dangerous and aggressive than others? Maybe a lion or a tiger? No, it’s not.

Some animals eat even better than humans.

  • I work not in a zoo but in 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. © Barbarella_ella / Reddit
  • I remember an aquarium in Japan started feeding their otters cheaper quality fish, and they refused to eat it. They had to go back to the expensive stuff. © Eponarose / Reddit
  • I also worked in husbandry for a large public aquarium. At ours, the mammals got seafood to higher standards than most restaurants. Cloudy or missing eye = nope. © ihooklow / Reddit

Herbivores are sometimes fed meat.

  • Many «vegetarian» animals are also fed a small amount of meat. Because in the wild the plants, vegetables, and fruits they eat often have bugs in them. 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. © DeathMonkey**** / Reddit

Animals have names for the public and for «friends.»

  • My girlfriend used to work for the Nashville Zoo. She said that the animals there have stage names that the public know them by, and the names that the keepers use for them. © PerInception / Reddit

Rhinos aren’t as scary as they seem.

  • Rhinos may look super intimidating, and they can hurt you, but really they just act like big dogs. They love being scratched and will eat all the fruit out of your hand! © battlegato / Reddit
  • A zoo type place I visit for work on occasion calls them whinos because they roll over and whimper because they want belly rubs with a bristle brush. © titanofidiocy / Reddit

Dolphin trainers stay in shape.

  • Dolphin trainers usually try to stay in shape because wetsuits aren’t flattering. They perform daily and people love them, so they have an ego. © LostInMyThots / Reddit

It’s not easy for zoo workers to lead a normal life.

  • Zookeepers can only stand to hang out with zookeepers of the same kind of animal because of the smell. No matter how much you scrub or change, the smell clings. Primate keepers smell like they haven’t bathed in a decade, snake keepers smell cloyingly unnerving, and sea lion people make you gag from the fish smell. © themajorfall / Reddit
  • Oh man, I remember my first day working with foxes. My coworker was giving a tour of the facility to a family where they got to play with the foxes, and she made a big deal to them about «make sure you don’t touch anything wet in here, it might be fox pee, and it will absolutely not come out of anything, including skin,» and even gave them gloves to wear. Then they left, and she told me to start cleaning.
    I said, «Wait, don’t we have to protect ourselves from fox pee like you said?» She sort of laughed and said, «You work here now, get used to your new smell.» Sure enough, I inevitably got some fox piss on my hand. I washed it several times. I smelled it before bed that night, and sure enough, it smelled exactly like fox pee, very strongly. Washing not only didn’t remove it, it didn’t seem to even diminish it a little bit. © p90cew / Reddit
  • I’ve been kicked out of stores after work because I apparently stunk way worse than I thought I did — even after scrubbing off! © bindobub / Reddit
  • You get used to being stinky. I currently work 8+ hours with primates daily, and I feel awful for the people who share a space with me when I go to the gym directly after work. © adamandatium / Reddit

But almost all of them have a college degree.

  • Even though it’s a lot of manual labor, most of us are over-educated. It really bugs me when people see us cleaning exhibit and tell their kids, «This is why you have to stay in school.» © ABBA1919 / Reddit
  • Zookeepers are expected to have degrees and like 5 years of practical experience before they’re employed, and then they’re paid basically minimum wage. © Jais44 / Reddit
  • I’ve had parents point at me cleaning a habitat and tell their children, «Stay in school, or you’ll end up like her.» In fact, I’d say a decent percentage of guests in my 10+ years were extremely surprised to hear most zookeepers have degrees/higher education© HeardYouHaveCats / Reddit

An animal may look bad for reasons independent of the habitat conditions.

  • Sometimes people don’t realize there are older critters who have health issues. A lot of older fish we had were kept in the back tanks away from view because people assumed normal old fish issues were a result of poor husbandry and would get upset if they were on display. Imagine having your 17-year-old incontinent dog in a zoo, people would think it looks emaciated and pathetic. © fromtheoven / Reddit

The best time for visiting a zoo is on a cool day.

  • Cold weather makes the animals more active, so go on a chilly day or first thing in the morning to see the best show from the animals. © MapleTopLibrary / Reddit

And you’d better wear dark clothes.

  • Wear black clothes! It’s much easier to see (and photograph) through glass when your own reflection isn’t getting in the way. © cfmdobbie / Reddit

Bonus: zookeepers have the most fascinating stories about their jobs.

  • Fun fact about the local zoo I learned when I worked maintenance. There is a wolf enclosure. There is info about the wolves, it’s maintained, «They are just shy/in their shelter.» There are no wolves, never were. © Ew_E50M / Reddit
  • I’m a small animal vet now but worked in a zoo before vet school. Zoos are one of the biggest purchasers of Calvin Klein’s Obsession cologne. We used to spray it on everything. The cologne has animal musk in it and it drives the big cats wild. © LigamentumArteriosum / Reddit
  • Goats are the most dangerous creatures in any zoo. Period. When I went in the goat enclosure to feed them, they regularly ran me over and nearly trampled me to death. I am 6’4’’ and over 200 pounds. There have been goddamn horses that didn’t manage to bring me down, but goats did.
    © Unknown author / Reddit

However, even if you don’t work in a zoo, but you have a pet, your life is also full of surprises and fun. These animals proved that life wouldn’t be the same without them.


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