It Takes a Zoo! In recognition of dedicated animal care professionals, the OKC Zoo is joining the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) and zoos and aquariums across the nation to celebrate National Zoo Keeper Week (NZKW) from July 19-25, 2020.
In addition to bringing awareness to the animal care field, AAZK’s NZKW promotes professionalism and the dedication to conservation shared by all keepers.
The OKC Zoo proudly employs 52 animal caretakers, ranging in years of experience and expertise. Without these passionate and hardworking individuals, and the unwavering dedication they have toward the animals in their care, the OKC Zoo simply could not exist.
These individuals are leaders in their field, educating guests about animal conservation daily, and contributing to conservation efforts locally and worldwide.
This year, AAZK is introducing its 'It Takes a Zoo' social media campaign to showcase how caretakers collaborate with many different departments, and sometimes act as those departments in addition to their animal care jobs, to accomplish excellent animal care, conservation and education!
To honor this special week, we have selected three incredible animal caretakers to spotlight with a special Q&A session. The first to answer all of our wild questions is herpetologist, Renaldo Woodson!
How long have you worked at the OKC Zoo?
“I’ve worked at the OKC Zoo a total of seven years and an additional year as a volunteer.”
Finish this sentence: “It takes a zoo to…”
“It takes a Zoo to spread positivity in our communities during challenging times.”
Why do you enjoy caring for the animals in your department?
“I grew up loving dinosaurs, and to me, the closest living creatures to dinosaurs were reptiles. So, I just became drawn to their unique characteristics and abilities. Then as I grew older, I later found out that birds were actually closer in relation to some of what I’d consider ‘the cooler dinosaurs’, but nonetheless, reptiles remained by my all-time favorite.”
What’s your favorite part of being an animal caretaker?
“My favorite aspect of being an animal caretaker is how there is always something different to experience every day at work, no matter what or how you plan. Every day truly is a new day. I also love interacting and teaching the next generation about the amazing animals I have the pleasure of working with on a daily basis.”
Is there an OKC Zoo animal that you feel a special bond with?
“Yes, our adult Radiated tortoise - Freddy. A lot of the times when I am doing yardwork or cleaning behind-the-scenes habitats, I will provide Freddy access outside of his habitat to exercise and eat the grass, while I work. It’s a form of enrichment for him, and you can tell he appreciates snacking on the the fresh grass and plants in his path. I call it ‘Reddy (Renaldo + Freddy) Time’.”
What inspired you to become an animal caretaker?
“When I was 10 years old, my family and I went out to San Diego, California, for my older brother’s graduation from Marine Boot Camp. While visiting, we went to the San Diego Zoo, and being a kid from Flint, Michigan, that was the greatest thing ever to me at the time. From that point on, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.”
What do you want Zoo fans to know about what goes in to being an animal caretaker?
“To be an animal caretaker, it takes hard work, determination, compassion and most important to me, selflessness.”
Do you have a favorite animal?
“Besides my buddy Freddy the Radiated tortoise, I would have to say rhinos. When I went to the zoo as a kid, the first toy from there for me was a rhino. As far as a favorite species, it’s always been reptiles.”