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Herps & Aquatics keeper holding snake's head

Celebrate National Zookeeper Week with us by reading on to learn about our Herps & Aquatics team! While most of our other animal department teams stick to a certain loop, our five-person Herps & Aquatics team works throughout the Zoo, caring for 240 reptiles, amphibians, aquatic invertebrates, and fish.

A keeper looks at a poison dart frog in a container“We have to communicate well, stay informed, be innovative, be efficient, work really hard, walk really fast, and have excellent teamwork to get it all done,” said Herps & Aquatics area supervisor Nicole Payne.

The needs, capabilities and habitats of these animals are different than most. The Herps & Aquatics team goes through extra safety trainings and drills to make sure they can keep themselves and their teammates safe when working in some of the unique spaces their animal residents call home — like underwater or in the Venom House.

“We need to build a lot of trust within the team, since a lot of our job involves relying on another to keep you safe when working with potentially dangerous animals,” Nicole said. “It keeps us on our toes, we put tons of sweat and heart into our work, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Nicole’s proudest moments are when positive reinforcement training resulted in her animal residents voluntarily choosing to participate in their own care. Thanks to this team, Sheldon the Komodo dragon runs laps to get exercise and stay fit, crocodiles Lilly and Golum calmly allow injections into their legs if needed, and alligators Toothless and Martha can walk into our restraint tools for vet exams.

The team is also very proud of the fact that the care and environment provided in our Venom House is so ideal that our emerald tree boas successfully reproduced last season — not typically an easy feat!

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.