Do you love spending time with animals? Are your favorite books or TV shows about wildlife? Do you have a role model that works with animals?
If so, maybe the job of zookeeper is perfect for you!
Zookeepers, also known as animal care specialists, are professionals who take care of animals at the zoo. This includes feeding, giving medicine, cleaning living areas, helping with animal doctor visits, keeping records, and teaching the public.
San Antonio Zoo’s animal care specialists take care of over 1000 different types of animals and talk to more than a million visitors every year!
So how exactly does someone become an animal care specialist? Let’s talk to a few of them and find out.
Angela Garza provides enrichment for one of the hippos at San Antonio Zoo as a part of her animal care specialist (zookeeper) duties.
Meet our zookeepers!
Angela Garza started as an intern at San Antonio Zoo five years ago and worked her way up to her current animal care specialist role. She has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Her favorite animal at the zoo is Bernadette, a female spectacled bear.
Sara Escobado has worked at the zoo for a year and started off in Fun Farm, the zoo petting area. Her Bachelor of Arts degree is from Transylvania University. She is especially fond of lemurs “because of their sheer variety, beautiful eyes, and dexterous hands.”
Chase O’Brien began as a zoo volunteer three years ago, worked hard, and was promoted to his current animal care specialist role. He has an Associate’s Degree from Wentworth Military Academy. He loves all the zoo’s animals but most especially the bears because they have such individual personalities.
Sara Escobado enjoys educating the public about animals that are often misunderstood…like snakes and other reptiles!
What inspired you to become a zookeeper?
Angela: From movies, to books, to TV – anything that had to do with an animal, I was all about it. Of course, I was a huge fan of [Australian celebrity zookeeper] Steve Irwin when I was younger. I loved finding any and every way I could to learn about and be involved with animals.
Sara: My first-grade teacher read us a book about the “Shark Lady,” Dr. Eugenie Clark. This incredible woman championed shark conservation and was a lady of science. When I went home that day, I told my dad I wanted to be an ichthyologist. He asked me what that was and I sighed and said “Dad, they study sharks and fish, DUH.”
Chase: Animal care has always been a dream of mine since I was really little. My mom tells me how much I wanted to be a zookeeper in grade school. I have never wanted to be in a career other than animal care.
What is your favorite thing about being a zookeeper?
Angela: Being able to educate the public about the animals. We are very lucky to be entrusted with building bonds and relationships with the animals in our care.
Sara: Interacting with the animals. Understanding animal behavior is like learning a foreign language and is a challenge I know I will never tire from. Another favorite thing about my job is getting others excited about the animals I care so much about, particularly unknown or misunderstood species. I always hope my enthusiasm will inspire others to want to protect animals.
Chase: Training with animals. I love being able to start a behavior from scratch and watch it form into a successful learned behavior over time.
What tip(s) do you have for young people interested in zookeeping as a career?
Angela: Do not give up! Start early! Let your work speak for itself. Experience is very important, but hard work and determination can help you get where you need to be.
Sara: Persistence is key. Maintaining a positive outlook and working your tail off at any internship or animal-related job.
Chase: There is a lot of really hard work such as moving wheelbarrows of dirt, [updating]exhibits, scrubbing surfaces in exhibits and a lot more. You have to stay dedicated to this field and be willing to do whatever it takes for the animals because that is why we are here.
We celebrate National Zookeeper Week every year in July to highlight the hard work of animal care specialists like Angela, Sara, and Chase. This job requires physical strength as well as higher education and critical thinking skills. San Antonio Zoo keepers show great commitment and care deeply about wildlife and the bonds they form with the animals in their care.
To learn more about the San Antonio zoo, including volunteer and other opportunities, visit us at our website and follow us on Facebook: