TYLER, Texas — There are many workers who often go unnoticed in their jobs. But this week is all about one elephant-sized job: zookeepers.
This week is National Zookeeper Awareness Week, and CBS19 decided to cover how these keepers make sure the zoo's animals are safe, entertained, and well-taken care of.
Zookeeping is more than just feeding animals. They're taking care of animals in any kind of temperature — whether that's sweltering hot or freezing cold. But one of the most important part of their jobs is working to conserving endangered species.
"A keeper is someone who is passionate, dedicated about taking care of animals, educating visitors and conserving the species," Yvonne Stainback, the Curator of Birds and Reptiles at Caldwell Zoo, said. "They [zookeepers] are a dedicated group that comes out here every day to feed and clean and enrich these animals. You know we couldn’t do it without them!"
Ricki Synder, a zookeeper, has been working at Caldwell Zoo for six years. Synder works with large mammals, including elephants, rhinos, and cheetahs.
"Being a zookeeper is probably one of the more challenging jobs that you could find out there," Synder said. "It is very taxing on the body as well as on your mind. You are constantly trying to educate yourself on new ways of training, new ways of just learning each individual animals' personality."
Kara Moss has been a keeper at Caldwell for five years. She says she decided to become a keeper because she believes educating people on the zoo animals is important.
"One of the best parts about the job for me is building the bonds with these animals and working with them day in and day out so that we are able to get them everything that we possibly can," Moss said.
Synder said the bonds zookeepers and the animals have is also important to their health. Ensuring the animals trust you means it's easier to get them the care, including surgeries, they need, she explains.
"We have actually three different shifts of keepers so we’re here 24 hours a day to take care of the animals," Stainbeck said. "They go through a lot of training and the whole process to be able to do it. There are all sorts of things about their job that can be tricky, from working with venomous snakes or some of the tigers that are dangerous."
"I think it’s amazing that we are actually being recognized because we do put a lot of hard work into our jobs," Synder said.
Moss wants to emphasize that while being a zookeeper may seem fun, it's just as taxing as any other job.
"We often are told that our job is just a lot of hugging and petting animals and a lot of cute things, but there is a lot of hard work that goes into it and it is really awesome to be recognized," Moss said.
So remember if you’re out at a zoo this week, be sure to thank the keepers out there for the job they’re doing with the animals you come to see!