A Day in the Life…

With any job, attending professional conferences are a great way to learn and present new ideas, connect with colleagues at other locations, and refocus on the mission of your organization.  And, it is no different while working at a zoo.

There are a number of conferences and workshops around the country, and the globe, for people working in animal care. These meetings offer attendees a way to gain further understanding of ideas and principles and offer a forum for sharing. Recently, I had the chance to attend the International Congress of Zookeepers (ICZ) conference that is held every three years at different venues around the globe. This year it was held in Leipzig, Germany hosted by Zoo Leipzig.

My main focus on attending the conference was to present a paper on a research project entitled Formation of a Bachelor Herd of Reticulated Giraffes at Zoo Atlanta.  The intent was to inform other colleagues about what we, at Zoo Atlanta, experienced with giraffe behavior. Since there is not other published work on this topic, it was important to share so that other animal care staff could benefit from these leanings.

Around 240 keepers from around the world, and from every continent (except Antarctica) attended the conference to listen to presentations (like mine) and sit in on workshops discussing topics such as animal management and husbandry, veterinary medicine, communication, exhibit design, conservation and enrichment.  All of these are different topics that we in the zoo field deal with on a daily basis.  Though maybe the specific paper may not have dealt with an animal that we manage here at the Virginia Zoo, there is always a potential that the principle could be applied.  You never know where that next great idea might originate!

Sharing information is an important aspect of working with animals, as we are always learning and trying new ideas to improve the quality of life that our animals have each day.

Besides the papers and presentations, there is always tons of networking that is done.  It is  interesting to speak with colleagues and learn what is commonplace in their country, but may not be in North America, and visa versa.  This can be so impactful, as it forces you to evaluate the way you care for your animals and how you accomplish your job.  Luckily I had the chance to meet and hang out with three great keepers from the Netherlands all week!

And that is what you want out of a conference: being engaged to learn, meeting great people, and recharging passion for your job.

Joseph Svoke
Zoological Manager