Like a lot of kids, when I was a boy I talked my folks into getting lots of pets. Dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, turtles, snakes, parakeets, and tanks and tanks of fish were all mine at one time or another. I learned an awful lot about animals that way. I saw that all animals needed certain things: the right food, a place to rest out of too much heat or too much cold, usually a place they could go to be alone if they felt like it, and above all, someone able to devote the time to care for them properly.
Taking good care of animals requires commitment.
Curiously, that sense of commitment is what many people fail to take into account when they bring an animal home. Maybe folks lack an understanding of exactly how great that commitment can be. Of course, people who care for animals need to take time to feed them, ensure they get proper health care, and clean up after them, but a higher level of commitment is necessary to properly take care of an animal.
To do this right, you must learn about the animal’s wants and needs—not just what it eats, but also how it likes to spend its time, its health risks, and its social requirements. Is the animal more active at certain times of the day? Do its needs change as the seasons change? How long does it live? These are just a few questions you need to answer to correctly care for the animal throughout its life.
And those are just for starters. Animals sometimes get sick or injured. Often (but it seems always) these emergencies happen at the most inconvenient times, but require immediate attention. So the decision to care for animals should not be taken lightly.
This brings me back to my job. I am responsible for choosing which animals to keep here at the zoo and how to care for each and every one of them. No two animals are alike, and we have over 70 species of animals. My work entails accounting for lot of different needs, and tackling a mountain of never-ending obligations for their care and well-being.
Thankfully, I work with people who are dedicated to the care of each and every one of our animals everyday. If it is 101 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, Queens Zoo staff grab bottles of water for themselves and go to work feeding, cleaning, and setting up misters for our animals.
During a recent winter, 12 inches of snow fell overnight, and every single one of the zookeepers managed to find a way to get to work in the morning. They knew the animals needed them. When a tree fell on the bison exhibit fence in the middle of the night last spring, the keepers were there to see if the animals were safe. They all understand what it means to have animals depend on them.
Not only do I have the privilege of selecting which animals to bring to Queens, but I am surrounded by people who love these animals as much as I do, people who have made caring for animals their career and their life. Like I said, I may have the greatest job in the world.