CMZoo keepers share valuable lessons learned from their animals

CMZoo keepers share valuable lessons learned from their animals

COLORADO SPRINGS — Wish the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (CMZoo) and its keepers a very happy National Zoo Keeper Week!

The animal care team works hard every day to educate and inspire future conservationist-zoologists, states CMZoo. The zoo is grateful for the team’s commitment to conservation and the animals in their care.

CMZoo says their keepers often learn valuable lessons from the zoo’s animals. To highlight a few of these lessons, CMZoo’s keepers answer the question, “Which animal has taught you the most?”

The animal at CMZoo that has taught me the most is Tulip, our Holland lop rabbit. I’ve been her primary trainer for over five years and we have developed a very close, trusting relationship. Tulip has taught me to be a better trainer. She is an incredibly independent and, at times, sassy rabbit, which has challenged me to look at the behaviors we train together in new ways to help her be successful. She has inspired me to take on new and exciting projects like the creation of our daily rabbit parade and the redesign of the rabbit yard.

Alia Cooper | Keeper in The Loft & My Big Backyard

Juju, our 41-year-old female gorilla has definitely taught me more about the value of trust, patience, and relationship building than any other animal at CMZoo. We had a rocky start to our relationship as I was new to working with gorillas and Juju was wary of having a new person in her routine. Over time, though, as we got to know each other’s behaviors, she started getting excited for training sessions with me and making happy grumbles when I would walk into the service area. Now, she will participate in pretty much all parts of her husbandry training with me willingly. It has been so rewarding to be a part of her life!

Carrie Supino | Keeper in Primate World

CMZoo also asked their keepers what their favorite commonly asked question is, and here’s what they said!

In Australia Walkabout, our mob of red-necked wallabies has the choice to spend time in their grassy yards or to come right up to guests on the walkways. There are little ropes along the sidewalks that help our guests stay on the path, but the wallabies can go wherever they want! Guests often say ‘How do you keep the wallabies off of the pathways with just those little ropes? It seems like they could just hop right onto the sidewalk.’ Then, I usually ask one of the wallabies to hop under the rope to come over onto the path and tell the guests the ropes aren’t for the wallabies! It’s always fun to see our guests’ surprise and to help them connect with the wallabies this way.

Bailey Jones | Senior Lead Keeper in Australia Walkabout and Scutes Family Gallery

My favorite guest question is, “What is that animal? Is it a zebra mixed with a donkey?” They’re talking about our okapi, Bahati. I love this question because it gives me an opportunity to talk about Bahati and okapi (my two favorite subjects) and teach people about a species that they didn’t even know existed! It’s really special because okapi are so rare and we get to teach guests about a species that is brand-new to them.

Rachael Hahn | Lead Keeper in African Rift Valley

A few CMZoo keepers even shared about their path to zookeeping.

Courtney Rogers, Senior Lead Keeper in Rocky Mountain Wild and Asian Highlands

My path to zookeeping started when I fell in love with an elephant named Judy at the age of four. She inspired me to consider all of the possible careers I could embark on. Otter doctor? Dog supervisor? Elephant researcher? Zookeeper!? That last idea stuck. While working on my degree in college, I did a few internships at CMZoo. It’s the Zoo I grew up visiting, and I loved spending time here, so I got a job in guest services while I worked on my degree. I did everything from operating the carousel to working in admissions, and I learned how to tell every giraffe apart while I handed out snacks for guests to feed them. I have also worked in our EdVenture department, at the front desk and even doing data entry. Four years and many job applications and interviews later, I finally got my first full-time keeper position. I worked with hippos most days and helped in commissary, Primate World and Asian Highlands. When a keeper position in Rocky Mountain Wild opened, I jumped at it. It had been my long-time goal to work with the people and animals in that area, so I was very excited when I found out that I got the job! After all of that meandering about, I finally made it to my current role: senior lead keeper in Rocky Mountain Wild and Asian Highlands.

Courtney Rogers | Senior Lead Keeper in Rocky Mountain Wild and Asian Highlands

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Zoology, I started my path to zookeeping as a summer camp mentor at CMZoo. After camp, I continued working with the EdVenture department as a program mentor. I led all of their various programs and was trained as a relief keeper in The Loft and My Big Backyard. This role taught me so much about connecting our guests to wildlife and wild places, building relationships with our animal ambassadors, and mentoring the next generation who volunteer at CMZoo. After learning so much from the wonderful EdVenture team, I went on to become a keeper assistant at CMZoo and then an animal ambassador keeper at Pueblo Zoo before arriving in at my current home in Australia Walkabout and Scutes Family Gallery.

Amber Callen-Ward | Keeper in Australia Walkabout and Scutes Family Gallery

My adventure at CMZoo officially began in the summer of 2019 when I was accepted into the internship program. For as long as I can wanted, I have known that I to help save wildlife and work with animals. I interned in my favorite area of ​​the Zoo, Rocky Mountain Wild and Asian Highlands. I met the incredible keepers, also known as the Wild Women, and a mountain lion named Kaya who will forever have my heart. After beginning my internship I knew that I wanted to be a keeper at CMZoo. Once my internship ended I was hired part-time as a keeper assistant. Then, in June 2021, I joined my team as a full-time keeper in Rocky Mountain Wild and Asian Highlands. I’m grateful for every choice I’ve made and every direction I’ve been steered in life because it all helped lead me home to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

Amanda Holden | Keeper in Rocky Mountain Wild and Asian Highlands

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