By Tina Michelle Cameron
If you follow my blogs, then you know that I am a huge animal lover and you know that I have been a volunteer at Riverbanks Zoo since July 2017. I volunteer in The Farm and Zebra/Ostrich areas. I have the pleasure of working with several amazing people who are full-time zookeepers. I decided to write about them and let everyone know a little bit about these special people who I have the privilege of working with.
The person that interviewed me when I applied to become a volunteer and that I have
worked the longest with is Jessica. She is 27 years old, married and a mommy to a beautiful 5-month-old little boy. She also has several fur-babies at home. She has always had a love for animals and has always wanted to work with animals since she was little. When she was in high school she volunteered at the zoo and realized that was where she wanted to be. She has been a keeper for 8 years. She went to Purdue University in Indiana and has a BS degree in Animal Science.
Her favorite animal is a jaguar, but her favorite animal at Riverbanks Zoo are Plum and Basel—who are two of our new baby goats. She loves knowing that she is a part of enhancing the lives in the care she gives the animals and with teaching the public new facts about the animals. Her hobbies include hiking, kayaking, and going to the beach to fish.
Mallory is 32 and from North Carolina and is also a mommy to fur-babies that include a dog and 2 chinchillas. She also served 6 years in the Air Force. Mallory also knew growing up that she wanted to do something with animals. At first, she wanted to be a marine biologist or a vet tech, but then discovered a
zoo-keeping program and became a zookeeper. She has a degree in Zoological Science Technology. She has been at Riverbanks Zoo since 2017 and was recently promoted to a swing keeper and is working in the cat/bear area. How cool is that to work with lions and grizzly bears.
In addition to all that she has accomplished, she also has an Elementary Education degree. We have become good friends, and this was a new fact I learned about her this week. Her favorite hobbies are gardening and photography, and her favorite animal is the platypus because it is an egg-laying mammal! Her favorite experience she has had was going to Kenya for 20 days last year to see how conservation efforts work and how they protect the animals there.
Last, and certainly not least, is Laborde- “the only male in the Farm area” as we know and love him. Laborde is 30 years old and has been in the zoo “industry” as he says for 6 years and a zookeeper for 18 months. He has an
Associates Degree in Zoo Animal Technology from Santa Fe College. He will be leaving the Farm area as he recently was promoted to work with the gorillas/monkeys.
He knew he wanted to work with exotic animals without having to travel. His favorite animal are alligators. He enjoys going to swamps and finding them. He also likes working with the Capuchin Monkeys- he says, “they have so much personality and intensity; and, it is like watching reality TV every time he works with them”. His favorite experience as a zookeeper was taking the ponies into the river at the zoo. He also enjoys watching You-tube.
I hope you enjoy reading about some of these wonderful zookeepers that I get to work with. I have learned so much in my time there about animals and conservation. Zookeepers get to know these animals, their behaviors, mannerisms and will notice if something is wrong with them. They work in the hot, cold, and rainy weather. They must also watch the weather in order to keep the animals safe. They are caregivers and educators; so next time you visit the zoo and see a zookeeper, thank them for what they do—because they deserve it.
Enjoy the photos.