Jacksonville Zoo and GardensJacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

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Zoo Keeper for a Day

Do you love animals? Have you always dreamed of being a Zoo Keeper? Are you curious about what goes on behind the scenes at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens? If so, then now’s your chance to discover the Zoo’s “secret” world!

You now have the opportunity to join us on one of many “Zoo Keeper for a (half) Day” experiences. You’ll meet some of the animals up close and learn first-hand about what it takes to care for our awesome animal residents. You’ll roll-up your sleeves to work with expert keepers meeting the daily requirements of the wide variety of birds, mammals, reptiles, and many other species. You’ll go inside the animal enclosures, at times sharing space with select animals, and experience the same unique view the animals see as they watch Zoo guests watching them!

Keeper for a (half) day will be offered on Thursdays. Hours will depend on area schedules and are listed under each experience. Areas/experiences will be offered on a rotating schedule with a few offered each week.

The minimum age for participation is 14 years unless otherwise specified.

Cost is $125.00. This will include a special name badge which can go home with the participant, and will also include a picture opportunity with one of the animals with which they worked. Proceeds go to the Jacksonville Zoo and Garden’s chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) to help support their various conservation projects.

Click here to register! All participants must sign a Liability form and Social Media Policy form and will be expected to provide proof of a negative TB test within 12 months of their scheduled experience. Upon registering, participants will receive guidelines on what to expect. Participants will be expected to behave professionally, as they are representing the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Use of cell phones and cameras will not be permitted while working. Zoo staff reserves the right to reject a participant or end the experience early for inappropriate behavior.


AAZK/JZG Keeper for a (half) Day Opportunities

Mammals:

African Plains Ultimate Ungulate Experience (Rhino, Okapi, Zebra & Birds)
2014 Dates Available: July 3, August 7, September 11, October 16, November 20
2015 Dates Available: January 1, February 5, March 12, April 16, May 21, June 25

Help the keepers give the best care possible while being up close to a striking mix of hoofed and feathered animal species. Getting a little messy is half the fun. 7:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. 
*Participants must be 18 years or older.

Predators of Africa Experience (Lions, Leopards, Cheetah, and Warthog)
2014 Dates Available: June 5, July 10, August 14, September 18, October 23, November 27
2015 Dates Available: January 8, February 12, March 19, April 23, May 28

Help the keepers safely take care of some of the most dangerous mammals in Africa.  Prepare to get roared, growled, and hissed at by these big beasts. 7:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.
*Participants must be 18 years or older.

Wild Florida Mammal Expedition (Florida Panthers, Red Wolf, Black Bear and more)
2014 Dates Available: June 12, July 17, August 21, September 25, October 30, December 4
2015 Dates Available: January 15, February 19, March 26, April 30, June 4

Encounter some of the most locally endangered mammals and help the keepers contribute to preserving Florida’s beautiful wildlife. 7:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.

Range of the Jaguar/Tapir
2014 Dates Available: June 19, July 24, August 28, October 2, November 6, December 11
2015 Dates Available: January 22, February 26, April 2, May 7, June 11

Meet tapirs, capybaras and giant anteaters! This area showcases these intriguing species from South America. You will also meet the Saki monkeys as well as participate in a giant otter feeding. You will be assisting the keepers in cleaning their exhibit as well as the night house. Be sure to bring your boots as you will get wet! 7:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
*Participants must be 18 years or older.

Elephant Barn
2014 Dates Available: June 26, July 31, September 4, October 9, September 13, December 18
2015 Dates Available: January 29, March 5, April 9, May14, June 18

In the Elephant and Giraffe barn, you will work alongside keepers as they care for the largest and tallest of all the land mammals. You will learn what it takes to care for these giant animals and just how many hundreds of pounds of hay African Elephants can eat in a single day. What goes in must come out; keepers fill an entire trailer full of discarded hay and feces all before lunch time. You will join keepers in cleaning the exhibits and setting out food and enrichment for these magnificent animals. Observe elephant training sessions (the keepers’ favorite time of day) and perhaps feed a giraffe as they are put on exhibit. Expect the unexpected but prepare to go home smelly, tired and with a new love and respect for these truly amazing creatures. 7:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.

Great Apes
2014 Dates Available: June 19, July 24, August 28, October 2, November 6, December 11
2015 Dates Available: January 22, February 26, April 2, May 7, June 11

Spend your morning helping the ape keepers care for some of the most intriguing animals at the Zoo. To start the day you will be introduced to the gorillas, bonobos, and colobus monkeys and learn the layout of their behind the scenes area. A large part of the morning will be spent cleaning exhibits and the night house.  You may participate in diet preparation and or be tasked with preparing enrichment that keeps the apes active throughout the day.  Observe training sessions and learn how keepers use training to facilitate daily husbandry and medical care.  Be prepared for loud noises as bonobo are very vocal animals and to leave smelling like one of our silverbacks, who don’t shower or wear deodorant!  8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

Birds:

River Valley Aviary (storks, vulture, waterfowl, spoonbills, whooping cranes, herons, Hamerkop, bald eagles, klipspringer)
2014 Dates Available: June 26, July 31, September 4, October 9, September 13, December 18
2015 Dates Available: January 29, March 5, April 9, May14, June 18

This is a free-flight aviary that guest walk through and enjoy a variety of species.  The aviary has a waterfall and walkways that cover the flowing stream that runs through the aviary.  Some of the other exhibits you will experience have a pair of endangered whooping cranes and a pair of bald eagles.  Working with these beautiful birds will give you the opportunity to get a closer look at how the keepers care for the needs of our animals everyday here at the Zoo; you will work side by side with the keepers and get a true idea of what it takes to be a Zoo Keeper.  7:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Emerald Forest Aviary/ Cassowary (pelicans, roseate spoonbills, red-leg seriema, Orinoco geese, oystercatcher, plush crested jays, inca terns, cuckoo, pudu, boat-billed herons, macaws, merganser, cassowary, flamingos)
2014 Dates Available: July 3, August 7, September 11, October 16, November 20
2015 Dates Available: January 1, February 5, March 12, April 16, May 21, June 25

This is a free-flight aviary that guest walk through and enjoy a variety of species.  The area showcases our South American bird collection and has under water viewing for giant river otters.  You will also have the opportunity to feed our flamingos and get up close to our cassowary.  Cassowary can be very dangerous so we do not go in his exhibit while he is in there.  We have trained him to move from his exhibit to an area near his night quarters so, that you and a keeper can go in and service the exhibit.  You will have the opportunity to give enrichment to the birds in the aviary as they free roam on the guest path.  7:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Penguin/ Wild Florida (Magellanic penguins, Pink-backed pelicans)
2014 Dates Available: June 5, July 10, August 14, September 18, October 23, November 27
2015 Dates Available: January 8, February 12, March 19, April 23, May 28

For this Keeper for a (half) Day experience you will be working with our penguin keeper on our penguin exhibit and in our penguin night area.  Our penguins do not stay on their exhibit overnight.  They go in to a back up area overnight which has separate stalls, nesting boxes and its very own pool for the comfort of our penguins overnight.  You will help clean the area inside and outside as well as prep the fish for the penguin feedings and learn how we sneak vitamins in to the fish we give the penguins.  You will get to learn the names of the individual penguins as you record the feeding for our penguin keeper.  The penguin keeper also takes care of our resident coopers hawk and our pink backed pelicans exhibits.  You will get the chance to see what these birds eat too.  8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Animal Health:

Commissary* (Diet prep for the animal collection)
2014 Dates Available: June 12, July 17, August 21, September 25, October 30, December 4
2015 Dates Available: January 15, February 19, March 26, April 30, June 4

Participate in the preparation of the diets for the animal collection.  This experience includes weighing, measuring, chopping and parceling out of products for the keepers to pick up to feed to the animals.  The how and why of the designing of the diets will be explained to the participant.  Depending on the day, the participant may also experience the arrival of products into the Commissary used to prepare these diets.  Sanitation of the area will be ongoing throughout the day and the explanation of the different tasks required in keeping the operation of the area smooth and efficient.  7:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
*Due to the use of sharp knives and food prep equipment, participants must be 16 or older.

Herpetology - Reptiles, Amphibians & Aquatics:

Wild Florida Herps (reptiles, amphibians and fish native to Florida)
2014 Dates Available: June 26, July 31, September 4, October 9, September 13, December 18
2015 Dates Available: January 29, March 5, April 9, May14, June 18

Work with our Wild Florida keeper taking care of Florida’s native species (plus a few others) including endangered indigo snakes, alligators and our 140 pound snapping turtle.  Help prepare and feed out salad and invertebrate diets, help keep habitats and animals clean and healthy.  8:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Range of the Jaguar/Emerald Forest Aviary Herps (Central/South American reptiles, amphibians and fish)
2014 Dates Available: July 3, August 7, September 11, October 16, November 20
2015 Dates Available: January 1, February 5, March 12, April 16, May 21, June 25

Work with a very diverse collection of animals from the new world tropics from a huge anaconda to tiny poison dart frogs…from tiny twig catfish to shovel-nosed catfish and freshwater stingrays.  8:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

African & Asian Herps including Komodo Dragons (African and Asian reptiles, amphibians and fish) 
2014 Dates Available: June 5, July 10, August 14, September 18, October 23, November 27
2015 Dates Available: January 8, February 12, March 19, April 23, May 28

Help take care of the non-venomous portion of our African snake collection including two giant rock pythons.  Also work with African lizards as well as frogs from the African bullfrog (one of the worlds largest) to the tiny Mantella frog (one of the worlds smallest).  In addition, help care for the amazing Komodo dragon.  8:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Save The Frogs! (Imperiled amphibians)
2014 Dates Available: June 12, July 17, August 21, September 25, October 30, December 4
2015 Dates Available: January 15, February 19, March 26, April 30, June 4

Participate in one of the Zoo’s most important conservation projects.  Set up as a breeding and research lab, Save The Frogs includes one room fully dedicated to the critically endangered Puerto Rican Crested Toad, which we breed and send directly to Puerto Rico for release into the native environment.  Another room is dedicated to southeast US native species such as the striped newt and the gulf coast waterdog.  There are lots of other amphibians as well, on display in the center room.  Be apart of something truly important and play an active role in amphibian conservation.  8:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Stingray Bay (Cownose, Atlantics, Southern, Bluntnose, Guitarfish & Horseshoe Crab) 
2014 Dates Available: June 19, July 24, August 28, October 2, November 6, December 11
2015 Dates Available: January 22, February 26, April 2, May 7, June 11

Come join us in the wonderful world of aquatics.  Learn what it takes to maintain a 17,000 gallons saltwater exhibit that is home to some of the world’s most magnificent creatures of the sea.  8:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. What should I expect during my Keeper for a (half) Day experience?

A. This is hard work!  As a Keeper for a (half) Day, you will not be observing others perform their duties…you will be put to work as a Zoo Keeper! You will be assisting with basic animal care duties, which may include feeding and food preparation as well as cleaning stalls, yards and exhibits, restocking supplies, etc. You may observe training sessions or prepare enrichment and, if needed, assist in medical procedures. Duties may include hosing down stalls and exhibits as well as shoveling large amounts of animal feces (that means poop). You will very likely get wet and dirty…and probably smelly. We work in all weather conditions and so will you. With the exception of severe storms, your experience will go on as scheduled, so be sure to:

  • Dress sufficiently for the weather forecast,
  • Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty,
  • Do NOT wear clothes with decoration or advertisements,
  • Wear close-toed shoes - preferably sturdy work boots/shoes. If you have water proof boots or boot covers, we recommend bringing them.

Q. Will I get to pet or go in with the animals?

A.  Wild animals can be dangerous.  You will not be touching or entering enclosures with any potentially dangerous animals such as primates, carnivores, elephants, or other large mammals.  Some experiences will involve sharing space with less dangerous species such as in our free-flight bird aviaries and some of the herpetology areas.  Participants are expected to follow the instructions of keepers at all times regarding animal contact.


Q. What should I do to participate in Keeper for a (half) Day?

A. To participate in Keeper for a (half) Day, you must:

  • Be able to lift 40 pounds,
  • Be able to work in adverse weather conditions (rain, heat, cold),
  • Be able to traverse Zoo grounds on foot,
  • Be able to bend, lift, rake and sweep without difficulty.

Q. What if I get sick? Can I reschedule?

A. Participants will be offered a chance to reschedule free of charge if they are ill. They are expected to take advantage of this opportunity, as we do not want to expose our animals or keepers to illness. They will be given preference for rescheduling.  Participants who arrive demonstrably ill may be sent home.


For more information, please email (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)