Why do we need a zoo keeper

economy : Cleaning, feeding, looking after Profession animal keeper: The apprenticeship lasts three years

“How cute!” - that's what many people think when they see zoo programs on television. Because they often show cute baby animals that look to be cuddled. But petting is not very high on a zoo keeper's to-do list. “We're not in the facility all day to play or cuddle,” says Christina Schweigert, who trained as a zoo keeper at the Hanover Zoo. “We clean most of the day.” Animal keepers spend around 70 to 80 percent of the day cleaning.

The cages have to be mucked out and the windows wiped. "That can be quite dirty and stinky," says Carsten Knott, spokesman for the professional association of zoo animal keepers. Disinfecting the cages is important. Because where many animals are together, diseases can easily spread.

"The heart has to beat for animals", says Thomas Trenka, career advisor at the IHK Hannover. Zoo keepers need patience and empathy. A zookeeper shouldn't be squeamish either. Vegetarians also have to kill food animals, feed guinea pigs or touch insect larvae.

To become a zookeeper, you don't need a specific school leaving certificate. However, zoos mostly prefer middle maturity. “You have to be able to calculate well,” says Knott, for example to determine the area for an enclosure or the amount of food. English is also important because zoo keepers exchange ideas with zoos around the world.

There are apprenticeships not only in zoos, but also in laboratories and animal shelters. There is training in the fields of "Research and Clinic" or "Animal Shelter and Boarding House". Animal keepers in clinical facilities have to be aware that they come into contact with animal experiments, says Trenka. And pet carers have a harder time looking for a job later on.

The training to become a zoo keeper usually lasts three years. Learning takes place alternately in the vocational school and in the company. Sometimes zoos exchange their trainees with one another if they have different animal populations.

If you have six years of professional experience, zookeepers can do their masters, explains Carsten Knott. With enough experience you can become a district manager. There is also a zoo inspector. He is responsible for the entire zoo and organizes the operational processes. Zoo keepers can also become self-employed and open a boarding house.

As a guide for your salary, the Federal Employment Agency gives a gross wage of 2180 to 2412 euros per month. dpa

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