What’s The Low-Down, Dirty, Inside Scoop On Zoos?



This isn’t a zoo I worked at but did visit often. Operators couldn’t figure out why the sharks in the mixed species tank kept turning up dead so they set up a couple cameras and it turned out there was a [freaking] psycho octopus just killing for fun. Hiding between rocks, waiting, and then just strangling them to death.



Our lions will urinate on guests if they get too close, which is always funny to see. Not so funny to smell.



If you’re a guest feeding/touching animals outside of the petting zoo or an encounter, you might just kill them.

I could rant about this forever. The number of zoo animals that die from incorrect food in their systems is staggering. The average person has no idea which animals can be killed from an apple core, a piece of bread, or a grape. Even just picking leaves and grass from outside of the enclosure. A guest has no idea what an animal’s digestive system cannot tolerate and can place a death sentence on an animal just because they wanted a special interaction.

Let’s talk about diseases! Our good pal rabies is a great one! Rabies vaccines are NOT produced specifically for every exotic animal species, so a vet will do the best they can by giving high risk animals the closest version of an appropriate rabies shot. The closest version does NOT guarantee no rabies! You tried to touch a monkey that is undoubtedly covered in saliva from grooming? Better go get your rabies shots! Not to mention the abundance of parasites and human foreign diseases that exotics can carry or we can pass on to them.

TLDR: If you feed or touch a zoo animal that you weren’t supposed to, you might kill it and should probably go to the doctor.



I spoke to a zoo keeper at the national zoon in DC. We where watching another keeper inside the cheetah enclosure and I asked him about the danger involved. He said a cheetah is harmless to an adult human because it only hunts smaller creatures. I asked which creature was the worst to go in with, expecting hippo, elephant or croc as an answer. Without hesitating he said “zebras” then leaned close and whispered “They are the biggest [jerks]. They will bite and kick for no reason.” I still think it’s hilarious that off all the teeth and claws out there, it’s stripped donkey horses that are the worst.



Our camels will spit if you piss them off, and it’s not saliva like most people think. You really, really, really, really don’t want to upset our camels if you have any plans the rest of the week, please and thank you!



I worked at a zoo in a northern country (can’t say which as it’ll give it away) which had a white tiger, and was quite famous for it. One day the zoo announced the tiger had died of ‘natural causes’. Whilst working there a few years after he died, I was told by a keeper that there was actually a problem with the electric fencing in his enclosure that the zoo managers refused to pay to get fixed, thinking it would be fine.

He was electrocuted to death a few weeks after they found the problem.

They covered the whole thing up by saying they weren’t sure how he died, but that he was old. It’s still a zoo secret to this day.



Some people like to bring fruit and stuff to throw into the animals cages, even though they’re not suppose to. If you’re around and someone throws a pineapple into the gorilla or chimpanzee dens, gtfo. They will throw that thing full blast at someone. I saw a man get hit full force right in the side of the head and he was lights out. Pineapple exploded on impact. Paramedics came and everything.



Those free-roaming peacocks are really stupid and sometimes go in the lions exhibit and get torn up.



I work three jobs to support my zookeeping habit, I’ve been in the game for about three and a half years now and it’s a constant fight to keep my head above water. But I love it so much I don’t think I can give it up.

Most of my day is spent cleaning up animal [poop]. It’s not glamorous. I have sustained a concussion and herniated discs in my spine from my work. I’m constantly covered in bruises and scrapes. I have so little vacation time that I see my family about once a year. I have to buy a lot of my work supplies and gear on my own dime. My benefits are so trash that the medication I need to survive is $220 a month with their insurance.

But I really, truly, honestly believe that I am doing good and worthwhile work, and I wouldn’t trade anything for that moment during a training session where you see it dawn on an animal what you’re asking for. My zoo is very conservation minded and avoids charismatic megafauna so that we can support smaller, lesser known mammals that don’t get the same hype. I love it and I’m not giving it up.



The zebras are ruthless and will tear apart any unfortunate kangaroo that dares break into an enclosure. They love the thrill of the chase…and the subsequent kill when they get bored.