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Africa keepers work with giraffe

Happy #NationalZookeeperWeek! This week, we’re putting the spotlight on the incredible animal care staff at Brevard Zoo. Read on to learn about our Africa team!

A keeper feeds two Grevy's zebraThe largest team in the animal department – our Africa team – also works with the largest animal residents at our Zoo! This team of 15 (and growing!) cares for 81 individual animals, including our lions, giraffes, Southern white rhinos, Grévy’s zebras, meerkats and other mammals and birds in our Expedition Africa loop.

Our Africa team is unique in that it’s split into two areas, the guest-facing giraffe platform and our behind-the-scenes barn – but these two areas work very closely together. Top-notch communication is vital to coordinate moving animals from one area to the other and to accomplish big training projects such as hoof trims for zebra and giraffe. It takes the entire team to train the giraffe herd for hoof trims as each giraffe is thoroughly excited to participate!

The Africa team has no shortage of accomplishments to be proud of, said area supervisor Alyssa Simon. Nearly all our giraffe and zebra now voluntarily participate in hoof trims. Their work also contributed significant data to rhino artificial insemination research with our voluntary ultrasound training program. Africa has been flexible and resilient in working around ever-changing construction schedules, knowing that at the end of the work, we will have a beautiful new lion habitat, as well as other improvements!

“Every day in Africa, and working with animals in general, is a challenge! No two days are exactly the same and each day is a bit of a surprise,” Alyssa said.

Plans are set and plans inevitably change to adapt to the situation at hand, sometimes within the hour.

“Sometimes rhinos decide they’d like to graze on the veldt until noon or after 6 p.m. Sometimes an impala (or zebra) we’ve been monitoring for weeks (or months!) finally goes into labor. Sometimes we get an idea to improve animal wellbeing and we try something we’ve never done before!” Alyssa said.

Each day brings a unique challenge and Africa faces it head on, all while moving hundreds of pounds of poo. Did you know a rhino can defecate up to 50 pounds in one bowel movement? Africa cleans and removes the most fecal matter in the Zoo!

Brevard Zoo is an independent, not-for-profit organization that receives no recurring government funding for our operating costs. Your generous support enables us to continue to serve our community and continue our vital animal wellness, education and conservation programs.