When asked in kindergarten what she wanted to be when she grew up, Alyssa Padmos replied, “a mermaid zookeeper!” While she may still be working on the tail, Alyssa has achieved part of that lifelong goal as a Wild Florida keeper here at the Zoo.
Growing up in rural North Carolina, Alyssa always had a menagerie of her own to look after, and cultivating relationships with those animals shaped who she is today. In the small town where she was raised, Alyssa was known as “the animal girl”—a moniker she maintains well into adulthood.
“I knew I always wanted to give the best life possible to animals, especially the ones facing extinction,” said Alyssa. “It’s so important to educate the public on why conserving these species is such a vital and special thing.”
Alyssa’s journey to keeper-hood began with a three-month internship in the Petting Zone and La Selva. She was then hired on as an apprentice keeper in La Selva before taking on a full-time keeper position in Wild Florida in 2018.
As her background suggests, Alyssa loves taking care of hoofstock and carnivores, especially white-tailed deer Clementine. Her primary focus, however, is with siamangs Pete and Sapphire.
Alyssa’s favorite part about working at the Zoo is that she is fulfilling her childhood dream—except for the mermaid part. “Not many people can say that they love their job,” said Alyssa, “but I am, without a doubt, one of them.”