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



When you’re cleaning underneath the perches, parrots will wait for you to look up before [pooping]. They have good aim. That’s how you get [poop] in the mouth. Don’t look up.



The amount of injuries you can just casually pick up from animals is crazy. I’ve been kicked in the chest by a kangaroo, almost sexually assaulted by an emu, attacked by a wombat and a bat, bitten by a monitor lizard and a carpet python, had a rhino charge at me, and been scratched by a macaque. My old boss has this badass scar from a snow leopard attack, and this guy I work with now has his entire left forearm mangled from an orangutan attack.



Lions know fully well that they can’t get through the glass. They do that just to get attention.



Dead zoo animals are sometimes fed to carnivores.



One of our most popular exhibits was this incubator with baby chicks. We were told to tell visitors that the older baby chicks would be sent to schools as classroom pets or to the petting zoo. In reality, we did send the chicks to the zoo…as live animal feed for the snakes and other carnivores.



I worked with large tortoises. We had these five-gallon buckets for cleaning the poop out of enclosures, and other buckets for feeding them fresh grass we cut. The first day on the job, I took both buckets into the pen. … I heard this awful, loud grunting and something breaking. One of the 300-pound males tried to bang the bucket in front of visitors and flattened it. He would even follow me around just in case I might leave more innocent buckets unattended.



The dolphin trainers are stuck up. They are like the jocks in high school. They usually try to stay in shape because wetsuits aren’t flattering. They perform daily and people love them, so they have an ego.



Fun fact bout the local zoo i learnt when i worked maintenance, there is a wolf enclosure. There is info bout the wolves, its maintained. “They are just shy/in their shelter atm” . There are no wolves, never was.



Went on a behind the scenes tour of the zoo.

Saw quite a few bunnies come out during the tour (the neighboring park had a problem with people abandoning pet rabbits). It was pretty clear the dumb bunnies were getting into predator enclosures. Tour guide confirmed they were regularly getting eaten.

Tour guide also indicated other urban wildlife: raccoons, possums, squirrels, birds were regularly eaten by predators. Said that when they drained the lion enclosure moat for maintenance it was filled with the bones of small mammals.

The most amusing stories were about the orangutans who are wicked smart. Zookeeper trained them to give over items in exchange for food in case they needed to get something from them in the enclosure. But orangutans are smart, and realized if they break things up and hand it back in lots of little pieces they get more food. They disassembled a radio that accidentally got left in the enclosure and when there was an opossum in the enclosure the results were a bit more gruesome.



Not a zookeeper, but worked at one for a long time. We had a tram tour that drove over a bridge where there were a bunch of crocodiles below. If someone were to fall out of the tram at this point, the protocol was to speed out of the area as fast as possible so the remaining visitors on the tram would not see the unfortunate person get teared to shreds by the crocs



Not a zookeeper, but someone who has designed equipment and caging for zoos. I was told many horror stories how some animals would get hurt or even killed because of trying to find ways out of their caging. They can range from really stupid to incredibly brilliant.

Had to replace a giraffe indoor pen. The previous one had vertical bars, think old jail cell bars. A bull giraffe stuck his head out then turned and went back in to the side to see what’s behind him. He freaked out and essentially hung himself. So we couldn’t use vertical bars that they could stick their head through.

Witnessed a silverback gorilla having a bad day. He seemed tired of the crowd and put a box on his head to make the world go away. People kept watching, he kept getting annoyed and finally threw the box off, charged us and pounded on the glass. I’m well aware that glass can take several shots from a .50 cal. rifle. But the explosive bang from the gorilla hitting the glass was insane, and terrified everyone.

Ostriches run on instinct primarily. I designed a cage for the vet. to treat them. It was entirely enclosed and had multiple small doors all around the cage. The reason is the vet told me about an instance where an ostrich got its foot cut and needed stitches. They got the bird in the cage and one vet fed bird and the other stitched up the cut. No anesthesia, just a diversion. The bird just kept eating and didn’t care about getting the stitches.

In a different zoo they needed to replace the caging of a very large bird of prey. I don’t remember the species, but I do remember seeing what it’s claws did to the aluminum tubing cage they kept it in. The aluminum was shredded, and whoever was on the other side was either going to have a bad day or get what they deserved for pissing off this bird. I of course went with stainless steel heavy gauge rod for the cage. The shop hated all the welding but in the end the cage was way nicer and stronger than the old one.

I didn’t get to travel much with the installation crew but I was in the shop supervising the building of caging. There were many times I had to have things rewelded or redone because of safety and Q.C. issues. Remember when you visit a zoo, that often times your life is depending on someone that wasn’t qualified, underpaid, and overworked. Whenever I visit a zoo, I look at the structure design and how it was put together. Too many times I see welds that are of poor quality and barely hold the structure in place let alone stop something big and heavy that’s pissed off..



If any animal escapes before the zoo opens to the public, the zoo is supposed to shut down completely for the day. Often, though, smaller zoos can’t afford to lose a day open to the public, so if some specific types of animals escape (such as reptiles or small animals), they will just stay open while having keepers look for the animal. … I remember hearing from coworkers that they listened to our boss and opened even though a small but somewhat venomous snake was on the loose.



Next time you go to the zoo, ask someone which animals are ‘kill on sight’ in an escape. The answers will surprise you. Lions and tigers are typically on the ‘tranq and capture’ list, but a jaguar the size of a golden retriever is ‘KoS.’ The zoo I was with, the two jags were the only animals on site that were on the shoot-to-kill list. Even the silverback was on the tranq-first list.



The poor penguin keepers can never quite get rid of the miasma of dead fish that envelopes them. As for me, the stinkiest job I ever had to do was cleaning out the duck ponds. Managed to empty a whole train carriage that evening, even though I had changed and my work clothes were double-bagged.



Because their external genitalia look similar, many spotted hyena populations in captivity are facing extinction due to groups being made of the same sex.