There are many tasks in a day in the life of a zookeeper, from cleaning habitats and feeding to training, making enrichments, special care, and record keeping. On one day, a zookeeper might be working the elephant shift and the next day with primates or reptiles.
Introducing zookeeper Sheena!
I grew up in Calgary. My family used to take me to the Calgary Zoo and the Butterfield Acres Petting Farm, located just outside of the city. At Butterfield Acres I visited the cows, sheep, turkeys, and goats. Some of my best memories as a kid were spent there! There was this huge pasture full of sheep that I loved to watch grazing, and I could pet them. Butterfield Acres fostered my love for animals and inspired me to learn more about them. The up close and personal, hands-on experience at the petting zoo pushed my passion for animals and definitely shaped my career choice.
I had a few careers before landing here at the Edmonton Valley Zoo. I studied Recreation and Tourism at the University of Alberta and then worked on a cruise ship. I also did an internship in the U.S. that focused on nutrition, fitness, and the outdoors, and studied to become a personal trainer at NAIT. One day, I thought about my true passions and a light bulb came on – I LOVE working with animals. So, I went back to NAIT and studied to be a Veterinary Medical Assistant. Since then, I’ve worked with exotic species and lots of farm animals. I love it all.
Why I like zookeeping
I like working with people as well as animals. They each offer a different perspective. Animals communicate in a different way and I really enjoy being part of their world.
I tend to be headstrong and go after what I want. Animals teach you patience. I have learned to move slower. I still have goals that I want to achieve with the animals – like training, for example – but I have learned to work more slowly, so we approach the work at their speed instead of mine.
I have always had so much passion for animals. Now, I have this huge variety of animals to learn about and get to know. When I first met Lucy the Burmese python I was a little bit nervous. It took me some time to feel completely comfortable around her. I would watch her and think, “What is she doing?” I would try to read her behaviours, get to know her so I could build a relationship. It took time to build our relationship but it was all worth it.
I am much more aware of how I am coming across when I’m with animals. What am I telling them with my actions, my body language, the tone of my voice? I am very aware of their movements and behaviours when I am in their environment, too. This idea of self-awareness spills into every aspect of my life and relationships outside of the zoo.
I hope to be able to work with every species we have here, everything from their cleaning, feeding, and building enrichments to training. I think animals teach you so much about yourself and how to live a better life.
New Urban Farm
I think this is an amazing addition to our zoo! It allows visitors to be on the same level as the animals and to experience a real connection with them. Farm animals tend to be overlooked for the more exotic species, but you can feel a complete oneness when you are in the contact yard with the goats or sheep. You will know what I mean when you visit!