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Zoos, safari parks and aquariums are enclosures that keep wild animals for tourism, leisure and educational purposes. Zoo keeper is the generic term given to people who work in these animals centres, who are responsible for the daily welfare and care of all the animals.
Animals that zoo keepers may work with include mammals, reptiles, birds, fish and amphibians. Their role is to supervise, care for and ensure the safe and humane treatment of the animals in the enclosure. Zoo keepers might end up specialising in one particular type of animal, caring for a particular department of the zoo. Typical tasks of a zoo keeper might include:
In some special zoos or animal centres, animals may be trained for shows or performances in front of crowds. This requires the planning of training procedures and partially domesticating the animal. When zoo keepers are working in wildlife parks, they generally have less contact with the animals, allowing them to live in an environment more akin to their natural habitat.
Regardless of the type of park, zoo or aquarium the zoo keeper works in, the observation of animals’ behaviour and routine is very important. Zoo keepers must have good knowledge of animal habits and routines so that they are able to manage them and care for them effectively. Being able to detect subtle changes in an animal's physical or psychological condition can affect the safety of the animal and those around them, so action must be swift and correct.
The work is quite physically demanding and can vary from outdoor to indoor work depending on the type of enclosure. Either way, zoo animals should have continual supervision, so zoo keepers may be required to work long hours and shifts to ensure that the zoo is manned at all times.