Mammals Department(s)

In addition to providing daily care for the mammals that are not part of shows or training programs, members of this department also rescue and rehabilitate ill or injured wild mammals. In some parks, Animal Care Specialists care for animals according to park location, while in others, each Animal Care Specialist cares for a particular type of mammal (primates, antelopes, dolphins, etc.). Applicants with a college degree are preferred, but years of experience are helpful as well.


Curator of mammals Main job duties: The Curator of Mammals is primarily responsible for the long-range management of the department and its daily operations. This position maintains regular communication with the Supervisor of Mammals and Animal Care Specialists in order to stay informed of the state of health of all the mammals in the collection. Changes in individual animals' diets are also noted in consultations with the mammal and veterinary staffs. Curators use their in-depth knowledge of mammals to develop and manage breeding programs and to help create and maintain studbooks for the long-term propagation of species to ensure their genetic viability. Curators are responsible for the creation and implementation of behavioral enrichment programs for the animals in the collection, helping to create an environment that is physically and mentally stimulating for the animals. Assisting with the concept development and design new animal exhibits, curators work with the contractors during the construction process.

Education: Bachelor's degree or equivalent in biological sciences; in some cases, scuba certification. Initial training: Ten years experience, seven of which are at a managerial level, are required. Works closely with: Supervisor of Mammals, other animal services departments, Horticulture department, Maintenance department, Education department, Graphics department, Design and Engineering department, and the veterinary staff. Challenges: Maintaining a close relationship with the veterinary staff is essential. Animals often don't show symptoms until they are very ill. Proper preventative health and treatment procedures must be developed and implemented. The Curator must also have an intimate knowledge of the individual animals with regard to animal compatibility. He or she must place animals together that will get along within the space of the exhibit. In addition, he or she is often required to travel on short notice and for extended periods to meet with other zoological professionals, and when transferring animals from one park to another.

Supervisor of mammals Main job duties: Responsible for overseeing the daily operation of the department, the Supervisor of Mammals trains new personnel, schedules staff, manages record keeping, and directs animal transports. The supervisor, by training and instructing staff members, implements the behavioral enrichment programs designed for the animals in the collection. The supervisor often participates in education programs. Education: Bachelor's degree in biology or zoology; in some cases, scuba certification. Initial training: A minimum of two years experience as an Animal Care Specialist is required. Works closely with: Curator, Animal Care Specialists, other animal services departments, and Education department. Challenges: The supervisor of this department must manage and direct personnel so that animals receive proper care. The accuracy of records is also essential to the success of the department's breeding and behavioral enrichment programs. Developing effective safety protocol is also an crucial responsibility, especially when working with large and potentially dangerous animals such as polar bears.

Animal care specialist/animal keeper Main job duties: Animal Care Specialists/Animal Keepers are responsible for the daily care of the mammals, which includes cleaning enclosures, preparing and distributing food, and maintaining records on each animal's diet and behavior. With the exception of veterinary procedure assistance, most Animal Care Specialists/Animal Keepers have limited physical contact with the animals under their care. This is often for the safety of the Animal Care Specialists as well as that of the animal. An important aspect of a keeper's job, however, is careful and frequent observation of the animal's behavior. Education: Bachelor's degree in biology or zoology; in some cases, scuba certification. Initial training: Experience working with animals such as in a veterinary hospital, animal shelter, pet store, or ranch is essential. Works closely with: Other animal services departments, Education department, laboratory and veterinary staff. Challenges: The daily work of an Animal Care Specialist is very physical, and includes some heavy lifting. This position also might require 24-hour care of critically injured animals. Regardless of these and other conditions (such as cold, rainy, windy, or hot weather), animals must be fed and their exhibits cleaned on a regular basis.

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