During this year’s National Zoo Keeper Week (NZKW), the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is expressing its appreciation for all of its hardworking animal caretakers and highlighting six exceptional individuals who have dedicated their lives to caring for its animal family.
NZKW focuses on the need to protect and preserve our wildlife and vanishing habitats via conservation messages created by zoos and aquariums, accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Animal caretakers have an essential role as educators and wildlife ambassadors.
The 2019 NZKW theme, ‘Keeping it Real’, inspired six Q&A sessions the Zoo’s six animal caretakers! Follow along this week as we introduce you to Alicia Snellen, life support technician; Darby Thackerson, marine mammal trainer; Stephany Hernandez, herpetologist; Rachel Sides, carnivore caretakers; Jessica Quinnett, hoofstock caretaker; and Whitney Willis, bird caretaker.
Next up is hoofstock caretaker, Jessica Quinnett!
How long have you worked at the OKC Zoo?
I have been a zookeeper at the OKC Zoo for over 2 years. Before that, I volunteered at the Zoo for a year and a half in birds and a year in hoofstock.
When did you know you wanted to work with animals?
I have always loved animals, and in the back of my mind, I always thought I would work with them one day, but I did not really think about working at a zoo until I was in college.
What is your favorite part about being a zookeeper?
My favorite part about being a zookeeper is the fact that I get to take care of amazing animals every day and share my passion for them with Zoo guests to connect them with wildlife, too.
What is a fun fact about you or fun animal story you’d like to share?
I am an Oklahoma native and remember visiting this zoo often when I was growing up. I am very thankful that I get to work here and take care of the animals so that other kids can make memorable connections, too, and possibly become inspired to be future zookeepers themselves.
What do most people not know about zookeepers?
Most people don’t realize what a hard job being a zookeeper is, both physically and mentally. It takes a lot of physical work to keep our animals fed and their habitats in good condition. And, when working with the animals in your care every day, it’s easy to develop close bonds with them.
Being a zookeeper means… fill in the blank!
Being a zookeeper means caring about the animals in your care and striving to make a difference for their future and the future of their counterparts in the wild.
Do you have a favorite animal that you care for?
This is always a difficult question to answer for me. It is like asking a parent which of their children is their favorite. But, if I had to pick, I would have to say Ellie the giraffe. She has such a sweet personality, and she always makes me smile.
What has been your most memorable moment while working at the OKC Zoo?
I love participating in the Zoo’s enrichment-themed days. My favorite enrichment event so far was Star Wars Day in May 2018. We built a large AT-AT to put in the giraffe yard. All the giraffes were cautious of it at first, but I was very proud of them for getting the courage to go up to it and eat the treats we put in there for them to enjoy. This was a very enriching opportunity for them.
What do you enjoy most about working at the OKC Zoo?
One thing I love about working here is not only that I’m able to care for the amazing variety of animals, but I also work with some of the best coworkers who are just as passionate about animal care as I am.
What is your favorite conservation project that the Zoo supports?
I love that the Zoo supports the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. People always think about the big conservation projects that help to protect large mammals is Africa, but there are animals right here in Oklahoma that also need our help.