It’s #NationalZookeeperWeek! This week, we’re putting the spotlight on the incredible animal care staff at Brevard Zoo. Read on to learn about our Animal Ambassador team!
This team of seven cares for our 57 Animal Ambassadors – the stars of our educational programs as well as a few familiar faces who you may interact with at the Zoo! These animal residents include Shelley the prehensile-tailed porcupine, our Barnyard residents, and even Thor the Hyacinth macaw!
Our Animal Ambassador keepers do extensive training with their animal residents not only for behaviors in their habitats, but also to be comfortable in program settings.
“These spaces can be very stimulating with a lot of sounds, smells and sights,” said Madison Polk, the area supervisor for our Animal Ambassador team. “We have to do a lot of desensitization training so the animals feel comfortable being in these types of environments.”
Ultimately, our Animal Ambassadors have a choice of whether they want to go on a program. If their keepers see signs of the animal saying “no,” they respect that and do not bring the animal that day. Our Ambassador keepers spend a lot of time making our program spaces very positive so the animals enjoy being there.
One accomplishment this team is particularly proud of: training our four goats, Charm, Pebbles, Puff and Trix, to stay by their sides during Zoo walks without a leash! This gives our foursome an enriching experience – while keeping them safe.
“Goats can be very curious animals, so it took a lot of training and consistency to accomplish,” Madison said.
Being on the Ambassador team requires a lot of flexibility! They are responsible for staffing the Barnyard in addition to bringing animals to different programs and events. Sometimes scheduling everything in a day can be a bit of a balancing act and everyone knows the schedule could change at any minute due to a variety of reasons.
“While challenging, it does keep our day interesting, and everyone is great at adapting to the day-to-day chaos that can sometimes occur,” Madison said.
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.