Are You Really A Zookeeper?
This is a question I have received a few times lately and thought I would post the answer here for later reference, if it should come up again.
The short answer: No, I am no longer a zookeeper. I was for a long time, and prior to that had worked professionally with animals for about 7 years in animal care and behavior work.
So what do you do?
First, a little history... I started as a part-time keeper at the San Diego Zoo in late 2000 and secured a full-time keeper position by mid 2001. In 2009, I started working as a temporary spokesperson for the San Diego Zoo, while still doing a little keeper work, as well. In 2010,I was offered the opportunity to serve as full time Ambassador and Spokesperson for the organization. Around that same time my animal care position shifted to Supervisor. This was a needed shift because of the added responsibilities for the animal care teams that travel with me when we do any media work. Think of it as a specialized special projects manager.
But all of your Social Media is @ZookeeperRick...
That's correct. When I started all of my social media accounts I was still floating between being a keeper and doing ambassador work. I had no idea at the time how the position, and my life, would change and grow beyond the Zookeeper title. However, I did recognize that social media was a very important tool for wildlife education, raising awareness for conservation and networking.
Okay, so what exactly do you do?
My heart is still one of a Zookeeper and my passion has always been to connect people to wildlife by sharing animal info with anyone who will listen. Currently, I do many things, including working for San Diego Zoo Global as Ambassador and Spokesperson (those responsibilities could easily be their own two-part blog post). I am also Part-time Faculty at Moorpark College, teaching Wildlife Education Outreach for the Exotic Animal Training & Management program. And I help out and mentor other wildlife educators where I can.