Meet the ZooFarm Keepers
Happy National Zoo Keeper Week!
Today we’re talking to team that keeps North American, the ZooFarm and the Program Animals safe and sound.
WHO ARE THE KEEPERS?
Patti Bernhardt Lead Keeper, 13 years of service
Carl Roycroft North America, ZooFarm and Program Animal Zoo Keeper, 3 years of service
Chelsea Hohlweg Roving Zoo Keeper, 3 years of service. Also the President of the local Zookeeper Association, Tidewater AAZK.
WHAT IS YOUR EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND:
Carl I have a Bachelor of Science in biology from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.
Chelsea I have a Bachelor of Science in biology and a minor in psychology (behavioral studies) from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Fla.
TELL US ABOUT A FUN EXPERIENCE AT THE VIRGINIA ZOO
Chelsea Working with my co-workers on a daily basis. Even though what we do is often hard work, they make the day fun! Also having the opportunity to travel to the Philippines to train and teach zoo keepers and veterinarians basic zookeeping principles. It was amazing getting to see another country and their animal facilities.
WHAT IS ONE THING PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE VIRGINIA ZOO?
Chelsea How deeply the keeper staff cares for each and every animal. We care for, love, and treat them as they were one of our own family members. They receive the best care possible.
WHAT’S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE FOR THOSE WANTED TO BE A ZOO KEEPER?
Chelsea Do your research! Some people think all we do is feed and play with animals all day. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. While we do get to interact with them, there is a lot of responsibility that comes with the job. We are also out in ALL types of weather, good or bad. It’s a very rewarding job but physically and emotionally demanding at the same time.
WHO/WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ANIMAL AND WHY?
Chelsea Alfred the Southern White rhino!!!! He is a very lovable oaf. Being 48 years old (one of the oldest rhinos in captivity), we do everything on “Alfred Time.” It’s so cute to watch him shuffle around and become excited (as much as an elderly, 5000+ pound animal can be) when we give him new bedding or special enrichment. He loves his scratches and brushings and generally just wants to be near the keepers when they are in the barn. He really is a keeper’s dream animal to work with: clean, gentle, and fun to be around!!!
Carl My favorite animal species overall is the dromedary camel; they are very interesting animals with several unique adaptations and are a lot of fun to work with (although sometimes challenging!). My favorite animals that I work with here at the Virginia Zoo are our female red-tailed hawk, Kele, who is a program animal, and one of our female American bison, Lily.