During National Zookeeper Week, July 15 through 21, the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is profiling a few of the hardworking, passionate and driven individuals who spend each day caring for its animals. Meet Courtney Tennison, small mammals caretaker.
What animals do you care for?
In the small mammal department, we take care of a wide variety of animals. I get the privilege of caring for the Petting Barn animals (donkeys, goats, sheep, chickens) and the wallabies.
What motivated or inspired you to become a zookeeper?
I always knew that I would work in an animal-related field. I never thought of the Zoo as being an option until I was 15 years old and able to witness keepers interacting with a rhino at the OKC Zoo by giving her a bath.
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is spending time enriching and training my animals, especially by walking the donkeys around the Zoo.
What is an animal story that always makes you laugh regarding one of the animals in your care?
One of my favorite animal memories that makes me laugh is when we first brought the wallabies into the Petting Barn stalls. The goats, sheep, and donkeys all made a commotion once they saw them out and about (donkeys stomping and braying, goat/sheep herd backed into a corner with wide eyes). I'll never forget their reactions.
How long have you worked at the OKC Zoo?
I've worked in a variety of departments in the Zoo over the course of almost 6 years, including volunteering and internships.
What is a conservation project that you are proud that the OKC Zoo supports or that your particularly passionate about?
I'm very happy and proud of the partnership our Zoo has with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and Tinker Air Force Base in their field surveys. Assisting in local conservation efforts can make a huge impact on other efforts state/nationwide.
What is your favorite type of enrichment to prepare?
I enjoy making challenging foraging opportunities for my animals, such as stuffing mulberry leaves into a puzzle feeder for the goats and donkeys to figure out. Or making fruit and veggie kabobs for the wallabies.