In celebration of National Zookeeper Appreciation Week, we are going to showcase the hard work, passion and dedication of our animal care providers! The zookeepers at the Sacramento Zoo work incredibly hard to help everyone learn the best possible ways to take care of the animals here. We always want our team members to exhibit our core values and in doing so, we can learn what is necessary for the conservation of each one of our animal residents. There are over 500 animals representing over 125 unique species at the Sacramento Zoo and our qualified zookeepers bring their experience, knowledge and devotion to provide the highest quality of care for the animals. Our animals are all extremely unique and have their own specific preferences. Our zookeepers work passionately and tirelessly to ensure that those needs are met. This week, we are giving some much-deserved appreciation to the keepers of the Sacramento Zoo by profiling a member of our team each day through Friday! They will share some of their favorite stories, experiences and how they got started in their fields. Stay tuned!
Let’s Meet Rachel Winkler!
Q: What’s your current position? What does your day-to-day entail?
A: I’m the co-primary ungulate zookeeper. Day-to-day I make sure all the animals in my area are taken care of. Foremost, making sure they are in the best possible welfare. That entails that they have food, are clean (including their spaces) and they are given enrichments.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: In the East San Francisco Bay, Pleasant Hill.
Q: Do you have a favorite memory?
A: It was when I was a volunteer when I was in school. It was the first time I got to feed and be near a giraffe.
Q: What’s the most challenging thing about being a zookeeper?
A: It’s a double-edge sword because the most challenging thing is dealing with the animals. They do what they want, when they want. We can’t make them do anything. And giraffes are notorious for doing exactly what they want. So if they want to sit inside all day, they will.
Q: What’s something you want everyone to know?
A: I’m here to help the animals and zoos do so much for conservation efforts. Zoos help make sure animals don’t disappear by preserving species. This job is more than just cleaning and feeding animals, it’s saving species.
Q: Why do you think it is important to support the Sacramento Zoo?
A: It’s important if you want to keep seeing animals in the wild. If things keep going the way they are, zoos might be the only place left to see wild animals.
Q: What motivated you to want to become a zookeeper?
A: I’ve always been into animals! As I got older I realized veterinary medicine wasn’t for me, which was my original career track. The day after I started my first volunteer shift at the Sacramento Zoo I went into the dean’s office at UC Davis and changed my major to Animal Science.
Q: What is your favorite animal?
A: That’s like picking a favorite child! We all have one, but we aren’t supposed to say! But probably giraffes, bongos and meerkats. That’s my top three!
Q: What is the best part about being a zookeeper besides, obviously, the animals?
A: Getting to teach the public about animals. Touching individual people to make a call to action when they learn something. It’s a good day when a visitor walks away knowing something they didn’t before!
Q: What is the first zoo you worked/volunteered at?
A: First zoo I volunteered at was the Sacramento Zoo. The first zoo I worked at was the Oakland Zoo.
Q: How long have you been a zookeeper?
A: I’ve been at the Sacramento Zoo for 5 months, but a zookeeper for a total of 6 years.
Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to be a zookeeper?
A: Start volunteering. Even if it’s a dog and cat shelter. A zoo is ideal, but just get your foot in the door. And make sure you’re okay with getting dirty!
Q: What is the most fun thing you’ve done at the Sacramento Zoo?
A: Training animals for husbandry behaviors. Which makes it easier to get exams done. It’s a nice interactive experience we both benefit from.
Q: Any comments or statement you would like to add about your life as a zookeeper?
A: It’s a quote from Dr. Seuss’s, The Lorax; “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” We do it for the animals because they need us to. We have a voice.