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JULY 17 to JULY 23

Photo Credit: Toronto Zoo

National Zoo Keeper Week recognizes and promotes dedicated zoo and aquarium professionals year round, culminating in an annual celebration during the third week in July - National Zoo Keeper Week! As the need to protect and preserve wildlife and their vanishing habitats continues to increase, the animal care professional's role as educators and conservation ambassadors has become essential. Zoo and aquarium professionals care for hundreds of species, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates.

Toronto Zoo Keepers devote their lives to caring for animals and have become advocates for vanishing wildlife, promoting the critical need to protect endangered species and preserve nature's wild lands. Animal populations worldwide are declining at an alarming rate with many species facing extinction. Zoological institutions, including the Toronto Zoo, have become the final hope for many endangered species recovery programs through conservation research, release programs and by providing an environment in which the general public can view and appreciate disappearing wildlife. The Toronto Zoo has been instrumentally involved in such programs as the breeding and reintroduction of the black footed ferret, Vancouver Island marmot and the Puerto Rican crested toad, to name only a few.

Zoo Keepers play a vital role in the ongoing fight for species survival and the presentation of the natural homelands inhabited by the animals they care for. National Zoo Keeper Week provides the opportunity to recognize the efforts of our Zoo Keepers and increase awareness about the importance of animal conservation.

Toronto Zoo has highlighted two Keepers from the Zoo and their hard work caring for our 5,000+ animals.

Follow the Toronto Zoo on Facebook to meet a new Zoo Keeper every day this week!


Photo Credit: Toronto Zoo

Meet Zoo Keeper Amanda! She has been working at the Toronto Zoo for nine years and during that time has worked in Outreach & Discovery, Australasia, Eurasia, Americas, African Savanna, and is currently working in the Indo-Malaya region of the Zoo. With a strong passion in primates, her focus is working with Sumatran orangutans.

Sumatran orangutans are incredible animals to work with because they all have such different personalities. Puppe makes you really work to gain her trust, Sekali is a problem-solver and enjoys a challenge, Budi is very sweet and gentle, Kembali is the class clown, Ramai is more introverted and task-oriented, and Jingga likes to test boundaries. They enjoy interacting with people, not only the keepers, but if you're lucky, they will sometimes interact with the public too!

Sumatran orangutans can be a very interesting species to work with because they are very intelligent, as well as inquisitive. Besides general husbandry, such as cleaning and food preparation, the keepers spend a lot of time training and enriching the animals to keep them active and engaged. Orangutans are trained using positive reinforcement in a protected contact environment and is completely voluntary on the animal's part. They will voluntarily offer body parts for the keeper's and vet staff to examine, such as opening their mouth to get a look at their teeth, showing us their belly, back, fingers and toes. They also voluntarily allow us to give them medical treatments such as vaccines or antibiotics. Currently the keepers are working with the orangutans voluntarily allowing them to take blood samples for our vet staff to test for general health exams, as well as urine samples, by peeing in a cup.

Amanda is a hardworking and dedicated leader in areas of training and enrichment. The keepers are always looking for new ways to enrich these animals; new puzzles for them to have to figure out how to get food out, or novel items for them to play with and explore, that don't pose a safety risk to them. They love making nests and hiding under different material such as blanket, tarps, large sheets of kraft paper or cardboard, and large leaves. They'll also spend time playing with water from the hose or a big bowl of sudsy water.

In her spare time, Amanda dedicates countless hours to volunteering for multiple conservation initiatives and also helps promote animal conservation through her keeper talks. She is also an active member of our American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) Toronto Zoo Chapter and we're happy to have her as part of the Toronto Zoo family!

To learn more about Sumatran orangutans


Kasia (right), Photo Credit: Toronto Zoo

Kasia has worked at the Zoo for 15 years and has worked in Australasia, Eurasia, the Wildlife Health Centre, and currently works in the African Savanna region of the Zoo. Kasia has a particular interest in felines with her primary focus on cheetahs.

The Zoo is home to seven cheetahs, and working with them involves training and enrichment alike our other species around the Zoo. All of our cheetahs are now trained to sit on a scale in order to monitor their health and they also are offered enrichment items such as jolly balls or boxes, some with food and some without.

By far their favourite enrichment is the lure used in our daily Cheetah Run at the 1:00 pm Keeper Talk. As the fastest land mammal on earth, cheetahs love to run! Four of our cheetahs like to chase the lure, catch it and then return back for another cat to take their turn. Afterwards, each cat enjoys a bowl of meat or bone. It is amazing watching them as they all run very differently. The older cats seem to enjoy it for the exercise while the youngsters are in total hunting mode and they are very fast! Cheetahs are also the only big cat that purrs and it is very rewarding hearing that sound, making us keeper staff feel like they are in their happy place.

Kasia also has helped to organize three Cheetah Awareness Days at the Zoo that occur in the month of June, which have raised over $3500 for the Cheetah Conservation Fund, Iranian Cheetah society, and Action for Cheetahs! She was involved in getting the cheetah lure up and running (no pun intended) and continues to aid in the success of the program that enriches the lives of our cheetahs. Her efforts were rewarded when she was sent to the Felid Taxon Advisory Group in 2015, where she gained knowledge on how to improve the lives of all felids at the Zoo. Kasia is an integral part of the Zoos cheetah program, her knowledge and skill set allow her to engage and educate the public on the issues facing cheetahs in the wild and we're happy to have her as part of the Toronto Zoo family!

To learn more about cheetahs


Don't forget to check out the following activities
NEW! Rhino Open House - Saturday, July 23 & Sunday, July 24, 2016

Join us for the Toronto Zoo's first White Rhino Open House! This event will be open to all visitors who offer a 'loonie for look' into the white rhino house and will help raise funds for rhinoceros conservation through the Endangered Species Reserve Fund. Drop by the white rhino house in the African Savanna for an up close encounter to learn about rhinos and conservation first hand from our dedicated keepers. PLUS, rhino merchandise will be available for purchase!