Today is world animal day and this actually coincides with International Zookeeper Day. Yes, it’s a thing and it’s celebrated by zookeepers all over the world. Not only is it a chance to revel in the joy of the animal kingdom but also to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the zookeepers that care for them.
Wild Welfare works with a global collection of zookeepers who help inform our work and sometimes partner with us too. Our Partner for Animals project utilises the knowledge and expertise of zookeepers in some of the world’s leading zoos. We are hugely grateful for their advice and passion in helping us spur our projects forward in the places that need guidance the most.
We work to train zookeepers in various parts of the world where the opportunity for advanced education into the skills needed to care for exotic animals may be lacking. Those are the keepers we want to target in order for them to learn best management practices in all aspects of animal care, from feeding to cleaning, health care to enclosure design and enrichment. Learning these skills can have a massive impact on animal welfare for years to come and those keepers can go on to train others in what they have learned from us.
Whilst working with those keepers, we try and ensure our workshops allow two-way discussion at all times. Georgina Groves, Wild Welfare’s Executive Director said
“It’s incredible what you can learn from creating open and honest dialogue and having constructive discussions.”
Many of the keepers we work with are only too eager to learn and show copious amounts of enthusiasm to work towards positive changes for the animals. Our work doesn’t stop when we leave the zoo either. We provide continual learning opportunities for the keepers through the sharing of information and ideas, often through photos and videos (to overcome language barriers).
In return we often get updates of their success stories, which is always wonderful to receive. This kind of change in attitude and knowledge will have a continually positive impact for animal welfare and we love to see the improvements gradually made over time.
Our training covers all sorts of topics in animal care within captive facilities, involving both theoretical and practical aspects. Subjects discussed include:
- Veterinary techniques
- Animal nutrition
- Animal (and human!) behaviour
- Species specific care
- Enrichment provision
- Enclosure Design
- Welfare assessments
Our work is based on encouraging keepers rather than demanding change. Positive interactions create invitations to return to the facilities so we can continue to teach the keepers even more. It also creates a desire and empowerment within the keepers to provide better welfare for their animals. We utilise our One Community Approach ethos which focuses on creating strong working relationships between zoological collections and animal welfare NGO’s. We are all about collaboration.
Of course, not all the keepers we work with are so eager for change. Some have grown accustomed to the same way of working for decades and those are the ones that we want to encourage gently without forcing or dictating to them. Patience is required as well as acceptance that cultural differences can have an impact. Whilst we do not believe that animal welfare should be compromised by cultural practices, we do understand that these need to be taken into account when working with zookeepers in foreign countries
But no matter what our involvement is, we rely on the keepers to listen to our advice, as well as act upon it. And so it is them we want to thank this international zookeeper day. All the keepers we have worked with through the years that have shown us a wonderfully eager approach to our ethos. We couldn’t do what we do without them.