It is National Zookeeper Week!

Posted in: About Us, Goings on


We are so lucky to have a dedicated group of animal caregivers that work endlessly to provide the best possible lives for the animals that call Safari West home. Through fires and pandemics, melting heat and torrential rains, our animals still need food and care, and our animal staff show up every day to provide that care and help the animals here live healthy, enriched lives. Thank you so much to our keepers and to anyone out there caring for animals.

This year, each of our keepers had their photo taken with one of their favorite animals!

Ellie with Giraffe

Ellie and Nikkita the Giraffe: “Nikkita has always held a special place in my heart. I not only appreciate her striking beauty but also her constant curiosity, strong headedness, feisty spirit, and her ability to be motivated by a tasty snack! I like to think that we are very alike! While she may be fairly short for a giraffe, she makes up for it with her enormous personality!”

Rose with Lemur

Rose and Baby the Ring-tailed Lemur: “Baby was the first lemur I made a more personal connection with—he was social, and he loved to be groomed and spoiled. He is one of those animals whose eyes light up when they hear you or see you. We appreciate each other’s company and he has always been an enjoyable animal to work with.”

Tammy with Hornbill

Tammy and Hank the Abyssinian Ground Hornbill: “Hank is just perfect! He has so much personality—he can be so sassy, but also be the sweetest bird—I just love him. I mean, just look at him! I don’t know exactly how to describe it or why, but he’s perfect. Oh, his eyes are really cool. Really, all of his adaptations are cool. He looks cool. He’s a sweet bird. You can’t ask for more.”

Erica with a Bongo

Erica and Bingo the Bongo: “Part of why I like Bingo is that I don’t usually work with him, so I don’t get to see him too much. I love how he’s got a really slobbery tongue. I also like how as a species, bongo are really mellow, and they carry themselves like they know what they’re doing. They’re nonchalant, but confident, and I love that. He does whatever he wants, and he doesn’t care who’s in his way. He owns that pasture, and he knows it.”

Naz with a Nyala Antelope

Naz and Sierra the Nyala: “I like how scruffy Sierra is. Whenever I give her a treat she always sticks her tongue out first—it’s like her little homing device. She’s just a sweet old lady. She can be a sassy old lady sometimes too, but mostly sweet. Also nyala look like they belong in the movie Princess Mononoke, which I love.”

Bailey with a Patas Monkey

Bailey and Mimble the Patas Monkey: “I find patas monkeys the most interesting out of the monkey species here—I think they have tons of personality. I picked Mimble because she’s a bit crazy and I really like her energy. She tends to interact with me more because she’s a baby, so she’s exploring which I really like. She’s kinda just a butt, and I love that about her.”

Marie and a striped hyena

Marie and Ed the Striped Hyena: “I am completely enamoured by their beauty and sweet nature, while at the same time possessing incredible jaw strength. It truly is extraordinary to get to work with such a majestic species.”

Nikki with a giraffe

Nikki and Mara the Giraffe: “We’re kindred spirits.”

Kate with a rhino

Kate and Otto the White Rhino: “I grew up hearing about how rhinos are endangered, so getting to work with them has been really special to me. I’ve also been very involved in our ongoing research on tracking rhino pregnancy via thermographic imagery, so watching him grow in his mother’s stomach and watching him kick, and then getting to be there for his birth (my first time seeing a live birth of any animal!)—he’s just a really special animal to me.”

Veronica and a serval

Veronica and Abuto the Serval: “I picked Abuto because I’ve built up a really strong relationship with him. Before, he was a little bit more on edge, but I’d like to think that the relationship that we’ve built has helped improve his welfare and live a more enriched life. I’ve seen him change a lot for the better, and he just has a great personality.”

Fae with a lemur

Fae and Kai / Ziggy the Ring-tailed Lemurs: “My background is in hoofstock, so getting to work with lemurs has been a lot of fun, and a new challenge as far as learning how to make enrichment that they love. Kai is super inquisitive and curious, so he’s a lot of fun to make enrichment for. Ziggy is just a sweet man who needs some extra love. And that snaggletooth, it gets me.”

Margo with a giraffe

Margo and Mali the Giraffe: “She’s a very cautious giraffe, and I’ve gotten to work with her a lot, so seeing her open up and accept me has been rewarding. It’s been fun seeing her grow—watching her personality develop—she’s so different from when I started here. She’s a very spirited giraffe.”

Kellen with a rhino

Kellen and Ongava the White Rhino: “Honestly, I partially picked Ongava because everyone was picking Eesha and Otto, and I felt kinda bad that he was getting left out! But also, rhinos are just my favorite.”

Indigo and dama gazelle

Indigo and Cadenza the Dama Gazelle: “She was a hand-reared baby, so I got to spend a lot of time with her since she was really young, and I just love her so much.”

Bri with a giraffe

Bri and Louie the Giraffe: “He’s my favorite because he’s one of the underdogs—he’s smaller for his age. So, I think you pour a lot of love into those animals, and when you do that, they tend to reciprocate. He’s also really brave, and really smart, and really present. Not all the giraffe are.”

Lindsey and a fennec fox

Lindsey and Seraphina the Fennec Fox: “The very big ears and very small noses on fennec foxes are the best. I love how huge their ears are compared to the rest of their body. And our girls, they are always just so happy to see me in the morning. They’re so much fun to work with.”

Erika and Eesha the rhino

Erika and Eesha the White Rhino: “I started here a few months after Eesha got here, so I’ve worked with her almost the entire time she’s been here, which has been pretty special. And then, we of course had this amazing birth that we never in a million years thought was going to happen. And on another side, we’ve been working on an incredible research project, tracking her pregnancy with thermographic imagery, which I’ve spent a lot of time on. So it’s just been a really special year, and led to a deeper connection with Eesha.”


Photos by Mark Pressler