As a kid, the zoo seemed like a fantastical place where the animals poked their heads out to see us behind the glass panes or the metal bars, and happily retreated to their expansive lair whenever they felt like it.
Unfortunately, the logistical realities of zookeeping aren't quite so posh.
There often seems to not be enough space for the animals; feeding, mating, and cleaning is a constant, overwhelming battle for zookeepers; keeping ticketed customers happy around somewhat unpredictable animals far from their home habitats can be a nightmare.
If you ever wanted to know just what goes in to maintaining a the average zoo, a recent Reddit thread is for you. Who knew how many experienced zookeepers use Reddit so much?
Many people talked about their zoos' emergency preparedness. The plans in place for when disaster strikes might surprise you.
So Basically Unarmed
"Partner was a zookeeper in Dallas. Safety protocols for when a large, dangerous animal escapes its enclosure dictate that you lock yourself in whatever room you can get to quickest and grab the nearest weapon..."
"...which, for most zookeepers, was a broom or rake for cleaning up animal poop."
Get In Line
"I had to draft the zoo's contingency plan for all sorts of emergencies. Flood, tornado, extreme heat, war or attacks, you name it. The plan included a prioritized list of which animals in the collection we would have to sacrifice to feed to the other animals in extreme situations."
"I literally created a zoo food chain. Humans were left off the list entirely."
"I used to volunteer weekly at a large zoo and at one point management started doing monthly dangerous animal escape drills. Someone would run around in a lion onesie and we'd have to react as if one of the large animals had escaped."
"It was hilarious but one of the funniest things I was taught was that if an incident did occur you have to tell the nearby guests to get inside only once. If after that they refuse to follow you indoors (the protocol was to hole up in the large activity centre buildings) , you're to leave them there, go inside yourself and lock the doors."
"It makes sense because people can be very stupid and you don't want to risk everyone's lives because of one Karen, but it amused me no end that the protocol was to just let them get mauled."
Other zoo workers described the rather bizarre behavior of some animals they've taken care of on the job. Animals, as we know, are often smarter than we think.
So it's best to keep zoo-goers a little in the dark about what's going on.
Keep Your Fruits to Yourselves
"Some people like to bring fruit and stuff to throw into the animals cages, even though they're not suppose to. If you're around and someone throws a pineapple into the gorilla or chimpanzee dens, gtfo. They will throw that thing full blast at someone."
"I saw a man get hit full force right in the side of the head and he was lights out. Pineapple exploded on impact. Paramedics came and everything."
Former Flat Earthers Explain What Finally Made Them Come Around | George Takei’s Oh MyyyScience is science. Fact is fact. Truth is truth and simple is simple. These are things we must now attest to in 2021. Can we please all get onboard with wha...
"We closed the baboon exhibit because a baboon had a still birth and the troupe was 'grieving.' "
"In reality they were throwing parts of the infant corpse around and there was nothing we could do about it."
Loving on the Buckets
"I worked with large tortoises. We had these 5-gallon buckets for cleaning the poop out of enclosures and other buckets for feeding them fresh grass we cut. The first day on the job I took both buckets into the pen and started by dumping out the grass."
"Then I went around to collect poop. I heard this awful loud grunting and something breaking. One of the 300 lb males tried to bang the bucket in front of visitors and flattened it. He would even follow me around just in case I might leave more innocent buckets unattended."
"Aquariums have captive breeding programs for some of the dolphins and whales, but they are too difficult to transport for mating. So they have to use artificial insemination. Which requires semen samples from whales."
"Which means that it's someones job to get the dolphins and whales in order to collect the sperm. It's part of the animal's training, and the whales will roll over and present their genitals on command."
Finally, some focused on the smell. We know, intellectually, that their must be some truly vile stenches kicking around in the zoo profession.
But apparently, know amount of mental imagination could possibly prepare one for the reality of it.
Train Car for One
"The poor penguin keepers can never quite get rid of the miasma of dead fish that envelopes them. As for me, the stinkiest job I ever had to do was cleaning out the duck ponds."
"Managed to empty a whole train carriage that evening, even though I had changed and my work clothes were double-bagged."
A Solitary Life
"If you work with the animals there's a good chance you'll not be able to have any kind of social life, between the long hours/weekends and the stench."
"I've been kicked out of stores after work because I apparently stunk way worse than I thought I did - even after scrubbing off!"
"And I'm around animals every day, but I still can't stand when otter / sea lion keepers are around me in 'all-hands' meetings. The rotten fish + ferrety otter smell combo is a gagger. Meanwhile, I work with apes, and they say that I smell like I haven't showered in a decade (again...even after I shower)."
"Our camels will spit if you piss them off, and it's not just saliva like most people think."
"You really really really really don't want to upset our camels if you have any plans the rest of the week, please and thank you!"
So next time you find yourself in a zoo, give a nod to the zookeepers you see. You never know that insane things they've seen or touched that morning.
Want to "know" more? Never miss another big, odd, funny, or heartbreaking moment again. Sign up for the Knowable newsletter here.
Everybody is watching it. Everybody is talking about it. You can't escape it. The memes, the tweets, the mystery, the over the top drama. It's going to go down as a part of cultural history... I'm of course discussing "Tiger King" on Netflix. You just can't look away. And as it turns out, many of us have a small personal connection... because who hasn't visited a zoo?
Redditor u/AndTCGW wanted to know who has a personal experience when it comes to the locales in this docuseries craziness by asking....
not a thing......
Funny enough Caro;e Baskins big cat rescue is about 15min from me. I used to live right next to Nebraska Ave. Honestly I've never been to big cat rescue but trust me the crap you see in Tampa sometimes shades what others might consider "crazy stuff". So idk maybe some crazy crap was going down but that's just a typical day. P.S. no one simply takes a stroll down Nebraska Ave at night, not a thing. mrguitare
I went to the G.W. park in Oklahoma when I was maybe like... 11/12 on a school field trip. Honestly all I remember is how many animals there were. It was like... over kill. And Joe Exotic smelled... musky. He talked to the class about wildlife conservation and how PETA are terrorists. I got a stuffed tiger and an energy drink from the gift shop. It was a good day. BunnyBlushShop
I went to BCR a couple years ago with my family. We spent a couple hours seeing different cats and made some "enrichment" toys for them. There were about 10 of us in the group, and 2 employees/volunteers who told us about the cats, and fed some with frozen meat popsicles (or something like that).
They had a checklist to make sure each cat was getting appropriate food. We were not allowed anywhere near the cats - there was a railing 10-15 feet in front of each habitat cage. The volunteers seemed to enjoy being there and seemed to love the cats we saw. I didn't get any bad vibes from the people. hyliston
Going to Jax.....
Not any of those places, but we do have a large cat "rescue" here in Jax. It's a very similar setup to what was seen in the doc. I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary, but now I'm wondering just what kind of crazy shit goes on behind the scenes. bohica1937
To the Zoo!Giphy
When I was a kid there was a "zoo" by our house. Never went there because it was never open, but you could hear lions from our deck. One time a kangaroo got out. I believe he also owned a "famous" reindeer that had been used in a Christmas movie. I don't remember much, I was really young.
Well, then one day the owner tried to hire a hitman to kill his ex wife and hired an informant instead and that was the end of that. He's in jail and it's an empty field. thebastardsagirl
I used to live near the BCR and almost applied for a "job" there, until I realized you didn't get paid and it was all volunteer based for like 12 hour days, yeah forget that. Carole Baskins is a crook lmao!! kdw97
I went to the one in Wynnewood,,,,,
Wow, finally a question I can answer?! I went to the one in Wynnewood probably close to 10 years ago now. I had gone camping with some friends the night before, and it was unseasonably cold, so I barely slept and was in a crappy mood and didn't want to go at all. I was skeptical of all the animals crammed into tiny cages and didn't really buy the whole rescue bullcrap.
The guide made some remark about how he'd rather be living in a cage than dead, and I was looking at the tiger in a tiny cage and thinking, damn, I'd rather be dead. They did have a baby white tiger you could pose with but I was too cheap and irritable to do it. IroniesOfPeace
I have been to BCR in Tampa. Though the cats were beautiful, I did not enjoy it. For the tour we were required to listen to pre-recorded info, mostly consisting of horrible stories of animal abuse. The guide was unenthusiastic. The whole vibe was depressing. At the end, they pressure visitors to make calls/emails about legislation. There's already a kiosk set up to do so. Not a fan. quarterinchseams
$15 for the win...Giphy
I visited the Great Cats World Park in Cave Junction, Ore. last summer. It's a good facility--lots of big cats, clean, everybody looks healthy and has plenty of room. No cub petting photo ops. No cubs on display at all, from what I recall.
OTOH, after watching the Netflix series, I wonder about their business model. The GW zoo couldn't make enough revenue off tourists wanting to see their mature cats, which is how they got locked into an overbreeding ponzi scheme. Feeding the grown cats required producing a steady stream of cubs for the high-dollar petting sessions.
So now I wonder: how is GCWP keeping all those grown tigers fed on $15 general admission tickets? Are they actually a cub mill? IDK. They do breed--the guide said that their endangered cats are all rotated through a species survival plan. But I'm suspicious that the breeding might have a profit motive, too. cortechthrowaway
holy crap look!
I am from Myrtle Beach and I've been to the themed animal parks there when I was like maybe 8 or 9 years old.
Funny story, I used to date a girl who lived right outside of Myrtle on the waterway. Well, one day we were hanging out and I noticed an elephant in the waterway and was like holy crap look! She brushed it off and said her neighbor had a bunch of exotic animals like tigers and stuff and they always took the elephant out there.
That neighbor was Doc Antel. mgtrypx
I went to the GW park about 8 years ago. Had no indication of all the crazy stuff going on because they do such a good job of billing it as a rescue. Plus I have been telling everyone since they should go because I got to play with baby tigers which I now feel horrible about. thebluebeagal
All for $5 Bucks....
When I was 19, I was driving from New Jersey to Florida with some friends. We stopped at a department store on the way for supplies. There were these two rednecks in the parking lot with two ligers. one was passed out on a table, and one was in a really rinky-looking wire cage.
The rednecks let us pet the ligers and take our pictures for five bucks each.
At the time, I thought it was really weird, but I figured they must have been educated and trained to handle big cats, because not any idiot could just buy a tiger or lion or whatever.
Come to find out, any idiot can buy a lion or tiger or whatever.
What's Up Doc?
My friend went to Doc's zoo in Myrtle Beach and said it seems really nice, which isn't surprising. He said there were only a few cats there so he was shocked to hear how many Doc actually has there, and wondered where the rest of them were kept.
Not quite the same but I lived in Zanesville, Ohio when all those animals were released a few years back. Some of the schools shut down and everyone was pretty scared. My grandpa was actually friends with Terry Thompson, the guy who owned the animals and released them. From what my grandma says Terry seemed perfectly sane and cared for the animals a lot, so she's always wondered why he would release them.
Oh and Terry also committed suicide after releasing the animals. They skipped over that part in the show and imply he was arrested, but I'm pretty sure he died on his farm. Joe Exotic actually wrote a song about Terry, my grandma sent it to me on YouTube a few weeks back and that's when I first heard about Joe's crazy butt. BoneAppleSkeetMF
I've been to Myrtle Beach Safari. It comes across as a great place, and they do a skillful job convincing you that they're doing good things. Weirdly, one of the only things that really raised a red flag for me was the way the women were done up. A lot of short shorts and makeup. It felt kind of weird that there was this obvious attempt at sex appeal, like I was being sold something rather than participating in a wholesome venture.
I actually looked into applying for a job there anyway, because I was kind of at a rather directionless juncture in my life. I remember there were some weird requirements, like you needed to watch The Devil Wears Prada before applying. The only reason I didn't follow through was because I would've had to give up my own cat. Scoozie
Moving the Cat....
I've been to Doc Antle's place in Myrtle Beach - i got the same vibe there that I did when I did one of those dolphin photo ops in Mexico - slimy. It was very quick and depressing. They moved the cat every 2 seconds to accommodate for all the people and felt like maybe the cats were drugged? very lethargic and just plain sad. once i saw tiger king i knew that i was right with my vibes.
Apparently that place got raided recently. RunTheHomemadeJewels
Tim pops up....Giphy
I've been to the Wildlife in Need Park in southern Indiana. It was advertised as a wildlife reserve/educational type place, and basically was a trailer park full of exotic animals. It was so upsetting, and not at all okay. I wasn't surprised at all to see Tim Stark pop up on the show, he's been in loads of trouble in Indiana for animal cruelty and probably saw helping Jeff Lowe with the park in Oklahoma as his way out. hayeday
I haven't been to the ones featured in Tiger King but growing up there was one near me in California that had cub petting and other things.
It closed down in a spectacular (in the worst way) crapshow when the "rescue" and the owner's home were raided and they found dozens of dead lions and tigers buried in shallow graves, malnourished animals, and dead cubs stuffed into freezers.
I was pretty young and my guess is the animals they displayed for the public were the healthy ones because I don't remember them looking sick or malnourished, but my mom refused to ever go back after our single visit so she probably noticed things I didn't as a kid.
After that experience I just assume 99% of "rescues" and "zoos" that are not properly accredited are like that. CSUSBro
back in 2014....
I went to GW back in 2014 since I was stationed nearby. I do remember seeing Joe Exotic and thinking he was a weird dude. But as for the park, there was no indication to all the crazy stuff going on. I did think the monkey cages were pretty crappy and felt bad for them. I was too cheap to pet the cubs so at least I don't have to feel guilty about that and I'm glad I didn't eat anything from the Zoo! AmenToThat95
A lot of my friends went to the GW Park and some even saw or met Joe. They all said basically the same things: the park was nice, there wasn't anything nutty outside of the fact there's wild animals, and Joe did not come across as crazy, but instead a conservationist who loved animals.
Something the doc doesn't really touch on is the location of the zoo, which is strategically located right off I-35 in between Dallas and Oklahoma City. soonerguy11
I want to plug an animal sanctuary type place that I got GOOD vibes from: the Duke Lemur Center in North Carolina. The tours are delightful and the lemurs seem to be having a good time. They're given free roaming time in a large forest, too. AggressiveExcitement
Okay so normally this is the part of the article where I have some relevant story to tell about what you're about to read. Not this time. I've never been a zookeeper, though I did really want to be when I was younger. The closest I got was working at an exotic animal vet's office - and mostly that just involved a lot of rabbit poop.
Reddit user @lukavwolf asked:
Yeah, these stories are WAY better than any of the ones I have to tell. I mean, do you really want to hear about the time I got felt up by a skunk when you can read stories about people slipping drugs to monkeys by slipping them into a wine cooler? Monkeys drink wine coolers?!?!
Psh, yeah they do... read on, my friends.
Everyday chit chat and normal conversation isn't as easy as it sounds to keep up. And there are some life stories and experiences we'd love to share but just can't. How do you fit in death, sorrow and misery? Some people have a gift to guide conversation in any possible way and the rest of us just shy away. But Lord the stories we could tell!!
Redditor u/MrGohan27 wanted everyone to dish about the one story that you can't escape.... What is the one story you want to tell, that you can never fit into a conversation?
The Animal Kingdom is a mighty mighty world not to be toyed with and there are so many facets the human race has yet to learn and discover about it. It may seem like we're just hoarding fascinating facts to one day show off in front of Alex Trebek (or on a first date) but to know all these things about our fellow planet dwellers is just straight up intriguing. Pick an animal or insect off the top of your head then go google, you'll be amazed. And that is just from the ones you can think of, never mind the species you didn't even know existed.