A word from our keepers – Part 1: African ungulates
For many animal keepers their job isn’t just their profession, it’s their passion. Since 2015, the 4th of October has been “International Zookeeper Day” – a day that focuses on the remarkable efforts and achievements of animal keepers in zoos around the world. This year, Tierpark Berlin is dedicating an entire week to its staff – by celebrating “Zookeeper Week”. Each day, different members of staff report on their daily work and the challenges they face. They also talk about why they chose this profession and give valuable tips for aspiring keepers. The series kicks off with Enrico Rödiger, who started his career as a trainee at Tierpark Berlin 32 years ago.
“I always wanted to work with animals in some way,” says Enrico. But he didn’t rush into the decision to train as an animal keeper. First he gained an idea of the job by helping out at the Tierpark during school holidays, and later he joined the Tierpark project group. These days he works with African hoofed animals – “ungulates” – which include giraffes, zebras and antelopes. “We feed, care for, and muck out ungulates of all sizes. And we’re always happy to answer visitors’ questions.”
Out and about whatever the weather
Back then, Enrico’s father wasn’t too impressed by his choice of profession. He felt that his son should learn a “proper trade” first. “Now, my father is very happy about my job. Especially when he considers other people we know, many of whom have had to retrain for another job over the years. I’m delighted to have had the privilege of working at the Tierpark for 32 years.”
Anyone who wants to be an animal keeper must first and foremost love animals and enjoy spending time outdoors. At the same time, they need to be aware that it can be a tough job. “You have to work outside in all weathers. This hot summer was quite a challenge.” Last but not least, animal keepers should be good at manual work.
There’s always something to discover at the Tierpark
Enrico sees comparisons between Tierpark Berlin and the island of Mallorca. “The Tierpark is a lovely place in all seasons. If anyone tells me they’ve explored the whole place in a single day, I know that can’t be true. The Tierpark has 160 hectares, so there is always something new to discover however often you come.”