10 of the Craziest Things Zookeepers Have Seen on the Job
Animals can wreak a lot of havoc.
“At night the roof window of the Orangutan’s building would always be open. Nobody knew why. After installing cameras they found out the Orangutan would open them and relax on the roof for the night.” These are the weirdest jobs you didn’t know you could apply for.
“We were working on a sedated female ibex (mountain goat) who was having problems with giving birth. The female had been in labor for hours and was exhausted from trying to pass the baby, which was twisted around and couldn’t fit through the birth canal. We soon found out that the baby had been dead for hours and was starting to decompose.
The shoulders were stuck and the vet couldn’t pull hard enough. She asked one of the zookeepers to grab hold of the legs and help her pull. He was fairly new at the zoo and this was the first time he had ever participated in this sort of procedure.
He knelt down next to the others and got a good grip on one of the legs. Soon someone commented that they could feel it start to move. Suddenly, the baby’s shoulder gave way and the new keeper found himself holding the unattached leg in his hands. His face expressed quite plainly that this possibility had never crossed his mind; in fact, for a few seconds, he looked as if he might lose his lunch.
The vet, however, was thrilled. It was the shoulders that were stuck; if they could get the other one off too the baby would practically slide out. So, having fought once to keep his lunch down, that keeper gamely did the same for the other leg. Only this one was worse because he knew what to expect.
In the end, though, as the veterinarian had predicted, with both shoulders gone, the baby was pulled out easily. And, although she was no doubt sore for a while, the female ibex came through fine.”
Inconvenient nap location
“A lioness had leapt the fence at a new exhibit. They evacuated the zoo and called the authorities. She was shot with a tranquilizer and was asleep in 15 minutes. She decided to take her rest in a patch of poison oak. At 300 pounds, she needed two cops and the man who shot her to gurney her back in. The people who were not itchy afterward found it all very amusing.” If you’re looking for less deadly animals, a petting zoo may be the place to go, but make sure you know about their health risks before going.
“We had an outdoor free-flight bird show, meaning the birds are free to fly wherever they wanted in the zoo. On this particular day, something spooked our Eurasian Eagle Owl and he took off. Eventually, someone found him on the railroad tracks. As a keeper cautiously approached the owl, we hear a train horn, look to our left, and a train is coming right towards us. We realized it was moving really slow and we could easily leave the bird to take off again and get out of the way. But, in what seemed like a second later, one of the keepers had the owl in hand and was putting him into a crate. We all quickly got out of the way of the train.” These are the craziest things Walmart employees have seen at work.
“Long story short, I was in a hurry. I opened an enclosure and startled a pine snake (non-venomous). He struck and bit me on the nose. That brief moment when I realized what was happening was crazy! I caught the snake before he hit the floor. He was fine. We had a long, lovely relationship.”
“I’m not a zookeeper, but I was a former groundskeeper. One morning, at 5:30 a.m., the man that was training me said, ‘Don’t move a muscle.’ I peer around and there’s a cheetah cub just chilling in the middle of the path. He slowly reached for his radio and called it in. Cheetah keepers very gently caught it and put it back in its cage. Walking by later I saw another groundskeeper cutting off all the branches near the top of the cage. The cheetah had jumped out and was just exploring when we found him.”
“A woman used to frequently bring in live lobsters she had bought from the grocery store and expected us to take care of them. She really thought she was ‘rescuing’ them. When we finally tried to explain that the store would just replace them with more lobsters, she got angry and stopped coming.”
“We had this old female chimp who was always cranky—she was around 60 years old. The indoor rooms for the chimps had big windows made of bulletproof glass. Whenever this chimp would get excited or mad she would run up and kick the window. This one time a nine-year-old boy was teasing her at the window for quite a while, and she was getting really mad. She kept kicking the window and finally kicked it so hard she broke it. Fortunately, she freaked out and hid in the corner rather than escaping. I heard the call on the radio and rushed down to the scene. The windows are expensive and not readily available, so facilities just put some plywood in its place for a couple weeks while the window was on order.”
“I worked at a zoo with a blue and gold macaw named Gomez. He was two years old so still a baby, and he was learning to mimic us. Whenever he was too loud, one of the keepers would tell him, ‘Shut up, Gomez.’ So one day she does this and we all hear back, “Shut up!” He had learned to tell himself to shut up.”
“I worked at a zoo for three years, my best stories involve zoo guests. Once a grown man threw a huge tantrum because a bird pooped on his brand new shirt. Not a zoo bird, a regular bird like a robin or cardinal.” Next, read about these innocent looking animals that are surprisingly dangerous.