Meet the Keepers
Meet some of the Greenville Zoo Keepers !
We appreciate the dedication and hard work of the Greenville Zoo’s keepers every week of the year. These animal care professionals are involved in numerous tasks such as: food prep and feeding, operant conditioning training, exhibit maintenance, enrichment, education talks and demos, preventative healthcare.
I’ve been at the Greenville Zoo for 19 years.
What is your favorite animal: I would have to say I love the big cats the most they are just such cool and interesting animals to me. Like the way you can tell leopards, Jaguars and cheetah apart. Leopards and jaguars both have rosettes which are the large spots you see but only jaguars have from 1 to 3 black dots inside each one of the rosette. And cheetahs have solid spots plus the famous black tears that run down from their eyes. Did you know there is even a cat that can run across the underside of a branch.
Do you really shovel poop all day? Yes we do clean all of our animal exhibits everyday sometimes twice a day. Although cleaning is a large part of what we do there are a lot of other things we do in our day such as training, enrichment, behavior watches, bonding with our animals, paper work, trimming ,planting ,watering digging up of plants in the area. Raking, disinfecting, shoveling snow or ice, talks with groups and with the general public. And we are here doing the same thing everyday rain or shine or snow or sleet. Weekends and all holidays.
Any cute/funny story? We used to have a point system set up with the elephant hose. Each person at the zoo was worth a point value if you squirted them while they walked past elephant baths. For example Jeff was worth 10 points and Olitsia was worth 15. We would keep score and everyone knew to run past bath time.
What is life really like as a zookeeper? It is a lot of fun, but definitely a lot of physical work in all weather conditions. You don’t think about 100 degree days, or snowed out times.
What got you into zookeeping? I’ve always loved animals and been interested in learning more. I fell into the job by accident, but it was a happy accident. I had never considered the job until I saw the advertisement.
How many years at Greenville zoo? 15
What is your favorite animal: Elephant, although giraffe are definitely up there.
Really what is the best part of job? The training, I love the personal interactions.
Do you really shovel poop all day? I rake more than shovel….
What Zoo events you like or you think the public likes the most? Brew and Sippin seem very popular.
Jennifer Lion (But no, I don’t take care of the lions here at the zoo)
How many years at the Greenville Zoo?: 8 years and counting
Favorite animal?: This is always a tough question because we love all of our animals but if I were forced to pick a favorite, the orangutans are definitely my favorite. Don’t ask me to pick a specific one though J
Do you really shovel poop all day?: No! Zookeepers wear many different hats. Shoveling poop is a very small part of the a much bigger picture of what we do. Sure, we are responsible for cleaning up after the animals and feeding them every day, and making sure they have a nice clean space to live is important. We also do landscaping, exhibit maintenance, training with the animals, building enrichment devices, lots and lots of paperwork, participate in committees such as the conservation committee, give talks to zoo campers and guests, and attend animal care workshops and occasionally give presentations. And that’s just the short list.
Any cute/funny story? One time, a young girl of about 5 years of age came up to me as I was cleaning the outdoor turtle pool. She wanted to tell me that she had not only voted for the turtle conservation project (Turtle Survival Alliance) with her token, but had donated a quarter as well, which was her allowance. It brought tears to my eyes!
Just last week, a toddler had a complete meltdown because the alligators were not in their enclosure for her to see. The alligators aren’t able to handle the stress of the Big Dig Sewer construction project occurring in Cleveland Park on the other side of the fence from their exhibit. After speaking to her parents, I learned that their child absolutely lived for the moment she gets to see the alligators at the zoo. I told them that the zoo offers Birthday Parties, and a young alligator is available to make an appearance for it. I think I foresee one very happy little girl in the future!
What is life really like as a zookeeper? A zookeeper endures hard physical and often challenging emotional work outdoors in all seasons. You care about every aspect of an animal’s welfare from the enclosure they live in, to social, nutritional, and medical needs, and educate yourself about the species’ natural behaviors and figure out innovative and affordable ways to provide enrichment and training for them in a captive setting. You give up holidays and weekends and vacations with people you care about because the animals at the zoo still have husbandry requirements 24/7. You do your best to educate others about the importance of conservation efforts and the reasons that some of these species would be extinct right now if they didn’t exist in AZA accredited zoos because for some, there are no “wild” areas to for them to live in that isn’t impacted detrimentally by people. You keep meticulous behavioral records because often, those are the clues that tell you if there will be breeding, impending eggs or birth, or a need to assess a geriatric animal’s quality of life. You clean up a great deal of poop, collect it for parasite checks, and examine it for signs that the animal is doing well or not. You educate everyone around you whenever possible, in the hopes that they will care about animals, ecosystems, and the global issues and challenges they face. You are often hot, tired, hungry, exhausted, dirty, covered in bruises, poison ivy, or insect bites or stings, and yet, there is still no other job in the world that you would choose over getting to spend time with these amazing creatures!
What got you into zookeeping? My earliest memories involve a curiosity and fascination about nature in general. I needed to know more about any insect, spider, reptile, amphibian, worm, plant, seed, rock, or, basically, any natural item I came across. I was constantly learning about nature as a child, experimenting with keeping snakes, spiders, toads, caterpillars, and fish in my room. I raised orphaned baby raccoons as part of my high school Environmental Science class. Got an Associate’s Degree in Recreation and Wildlife, was the Animal Care Supervisor at the Dayton Museum of Natural History, volunteered at the Cincinnati Zoo in the Reptile Dept., and eventually came to work at the Greenville Zoo.
How many years at Greenville Zoo: 26
What is your favorite animal: Whatever animal that is currently in front of me in need of my care.
Really what is the best part of job? Rare, quiet moments when you stop juggling five different things all at one time, and instead focus all of your attention on watching an endangered turtle hatch out of an egg, or see 250 spiderlings emerge from a rose hair tarantula egg sac, or, as part of a research project on zoo grounds, record data on a wild Eastern rat snake that hasn’t been observed in 5 years since a microchip was placed under its skin. Priceless!
Do you really shovel poop all day? More time is spent on cleaning enclosures than feeding animals!
What Zoo events you like or you think the public likes the most?
I enjoy the Conservation Lecture Series very much. FrogWatch gives volunteers an opportunity to learn local frog and toad calls and report their findings as a citizen science initiative. ZooCamp is great, as these are often the next generation of future zookeepers!
How many years at Greenville Zoo: 3 years at the Greenville Zoo
Favorite animal: black and white ruffed lemur
The best part of the job: is when you gain the trust of an animal, especially the ones who start out not wanting to be around people. I have seen animals’ personalities transform when they become more comfortable around their keepers.