What is it like to be a zookeeper for the Minnesota Zoo? Here is a blog that provides some insight into the different areas working with various species via interviews of zookeepers by Marketing and Sales Intern, Jordan C. 

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a zookeeper? What the people in the green shirts and khaki pants do and which animals they take care of? Well, I had the joy of sitting down with Jessica Campbell, a Tiger, Red Panda and Dhole zookeeper here at the Minnesota Zoo to talk about what working with the Amur tigers is like.

Jessica starts her day off like we all do, with breakfast – “The tigers get a breakfast of ground meat that we weigh out according to their diets,” Campbell explains. Since the zookeepers maintain a hands-off approach when handling tigers, Jessica feeds the tigers using a shoot that sends the food into the holding where the tigers are. The tigers are fed daily, with their larger meal in the afternoon.

“After the tigers have been fed,” Campbell continues, “we do fence checks and walk around the fence to check that everything is secure.” While taking care of tigers is fun, there is also the dirty work that must be done. “We have to do maintenance like weeding and mowing the exhibit so guests can see the tigers and so that the tigers may also be more mobile.” Once the outside work is done and the tigers are on exhibit, Jessica starts cleaning in the barn where the tigers sleep at night.

The tigers take turns being out on exhibit. A set of tigers goes out at 9:00 a.m. and the tigerJessica says. Even though Jessica does training with the tigers, she is never in direct contact with them. There is always a barrier between the tigers and zookeepers to keep both parties safe and contact to a minimum.

Tigers also receive enrichment on and off exhibit. You might notice new sticks, logs or even snowmen (during the winter months). “We try to have fun with winter and we will even drizzle blood on the snowman for the tigers and they enjoy having something new in their exhibit,” Campbell says. At the end of the day, the tigers come in around 4:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. (depending on the season), shortly after the Minnesota Zoo closes.

Then just like everyone else, Campbell returns home, and gets up and does it all over again. “I enjoy what I get to do and I mean, how many people get to say they work with tigers?! It’s a great opportunity and I’m glad I get to do it.”