Keeping up with the Keepers

At the Virginia Zoo, visitors can learn an abundance of information about our animals through many mediums including signage, observation, educational programs and events, and by downloading our app. But there is also another way to get to know the animals better while additionally becoming acquainted with the people who care for them every day.

Keeper Chats provide visitors a unique opportunity to hear about 50 of the Zoo’s residents in a small-group environment. During the summer, these chats are held daily at designated times in front of specific animal exhibits, however, the rest of the year these Keeper Chats are only held on weekends. Keepers Chats are an excellent opportunity to ask any questions you have about the animals, as well as learn more about our animal collection from the Keeper’s perspective. Talking to a Zoo Keeper gives guests a more personal insight as to how each animal has a different personality and preferences.

During a Keeper Chat, Keepers provide a variety of information about an animal’s diet, conservation status and behaviors. The rest is up to the audience as Keepers take all sorts of questions from guests. Some common questions include what the animal eats here at the Zoo, and what their native range is. Other questions that dive deeper and are more personal are often favored by Keepers – What’s the animal’s name? Favorite enrichment items? How do they spend their day? These questions are exciting for Keepers because they enjoy educating guests on information they may not be able to find elsewhere.

The Keepers get some creative questions from guests on a daily basis, but not all of them are about the animals. Occasionally the Keepers get asked personal questions about their past education, work experience, their favorite or least favorite part of their job, and even their favorite animal!

Not everyone knows everything about every animal, so you may end up asking a Keeper a question they may not have the answer to. This will ultimately challenge them to do some research and learn even more about the animals! A Zoo Keeper can learn something new every day, too!

One of the Keepers’ favorite areas to give Keeper Chats is in the ZooFarm. It is a very interactive area for guests to get a close up look at the animals while they interact with enrichment or participate in training sessions; however, guests can help to make a Keeper Chat great in any area of the Zoo! Having guests be excited and interested in the animals can make any Keeper’s day, so all you have to do is simply show up ready to chat with them!

Next time you’re planning a visit to the Zoo, you can check our Keeper Chat schedule here or posted on the board in the Zoo’s Plaza. ALSO: Don’t forget to thank a Keeper for all of their hard work! It’s always appropriate to thank a Virginia Zoo Keeper for everything they do for the animals, but be sure to show your appreciation this week in celebration of National Zoo Keeper Week!