I feel like I don't even really need to write this post. And yet, I will.
There are a lot of reasons being a zookeeper is Pretty Freaking Awesome. Just like there are a lot of reasons it's a tough job. Working with animals is rewarding and frustrating. But here are some of the best perks:
You get to meet the MOST interesting people. Ha! Bet you thought all the perks would be about animals, huh?
Believe it or not, even on my more introverted days, some of my favorite work moments come from the people who visit us. Why? Because...
You get to make a difference. Zoos, back in their infancy, used to be displays of wealth and power. Shows, menageries, circuses, royal collections. But over time, zoos have discovered their true purpose: to educate the public about the animals that live there. When you walk into a responsible, accredited zoo, you should do more than see animals. You should learn to love them, the places they come from, and this planet we live on. Every single day I go to work, I get the chance to show people those things. I get to share the love I have for this planet and its inhabitants with every face I talk to. Whether they listen or not is up to them, but at least I get to try.
Plus, there are some really cool people out there who have done some really cool things. And I love hearing about them.
It's awesome working for a place that literally makes a difference in the world we live in. When I go home at night, I know that I haven't just done my job. I've helped climate change. I've encouraged a donation that might save a cheetah, or a tiger, or a lion's life. I've changed someone's mind about buying rhino horn or a tiger pelt next time they're in Asia.
I've told someone why it's important to keep certain weeds in their yard, and turn off their porch lights when they go to bed.
You get to learn so much. I LOVE learning. LOVE it. My job is awesome because I get to actually use the knowledge I've amassed over the years. (As a side note, I get to use a lot of my favorite skills in my job, too-- public speaking, time management, interpretation, etc.). And I never, ever, stop learning. I pick up new facts every day. The animals teach me something new every day.
You get to work with like-minded people. Zoos are FULL of people who are just as passionate about animals and the environment as you are. If you love either of those (and really, you can't just love one or the other, they are irrevocably intertwined), it's awesome having a workplace where everyone feels exactly the same about those things as you. There's no awkward conversation because everyone is already on the same page.
Of course, the best part:
You get to work with animals. I said before that there's not very much time for this. But there is some. And those moments? Are the best of my day.
I play with babies, snuggle pocket-sized marsupials, scritch antelope backs, talk to parrots, handle the world's second largest frog, maneuver pythons into my arms, and pet animals we didn't even know existed a hundred years ago. I go to work every day and see things I would never see in my lifetime otherwise, and I am so, so thankful that they let me do my job. Some days, I can't believe they PAY me for it.
So. Being a zookeeper?
It's not an easy job, no. But it is, to me at least, the best job in the world.
Being a writer is a pretty close second, though. :)
Interested in pursuing a career as a zookeeper? See my ultimate guide here.