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 Jackie Crawford, bird caretaker.
What animals do you care for?
I am in the bird department but the animals I directly care for Carribean or American flamingos, green-winged macaws, and blue & yellow macaws.
What motivated or inspired you to become a zookeeper?
One of my earliest memories is going to the OKC Zoo. I was fortunate to be able to visit regularly throughout my childhood. I anticipated turning 14 so I could apply for the Junior Curator (JC) program, and to my excitement was accepted. Working as a JC, I learned how truly amazing the Zoo is. The animals and the atmosphere became my passions. I have been inspired by the many zookeepers I have had the pleasure to know and work with over the years. I have learned priceless skills that I could not have learned anywhere else. I am now driven to be like the keepers who have helped me to be the keeper I am today. They helped me find my passion for conservation and I could not be more grateful!
What is your favorite part of your job?
I absolutely love the connection and bond that I make with my birds. I also love being able to share with others the amazing qualities and skills that are unique to our birds. I think that once someone learns something special about an animal that they begin to care about the future of that animal and their species.
What is an animal story that always makes you laugh regarding one of the animals in your care?
The one thing that always makes me laugh when I think about it is what big chickens the flamingos are. They are absolute sweethearts and very smart, but when it comes to something new they can be a bit weary.
How long have you worked at the OKC Zoo?
I have been part of the Zoo team since 2012. I started volunteering as a Junior Curator when I was 14. In June 2017 I joined the bird department.
What is a conservation project that you are proud that the OKC Zoo supports or that you're particularly passionate about?
It is hard to pick just one conservation project that I particularly love because the Zoo has so many amazing projects! Round up for Conservation, Bowling for Rhinos, the Texas Horned Lizard Project, and the Turtle Survival Alliance are just a few of many ways that the Zoo is helping support conservation not only in Oklahoma but worldwide.
What is your favorite type of enrichment to prepare?
My favorite type of enrichment to prepare is for our macaws. They are very active thinkers and love puzzles and toys! I try to come up with as many new challenges for them as I can. One thing they particularly love is when I hide a Brazil nut in a box. They have to tear through the box and whatever other paper wrappings I have decided to hide in the box that day. It’s great to watch how excited they are when they finally get through and find the nut. I think some days I enjoy it even more than they do!