Keeper Profile: Memory Mays – National Zoo Keeper Week Series

From July 20-26, zoos all over the U.S. are celebrating National Zoo Keeper Week. Here at the Houston Zoo, we are honored and privileged to have such amazing professionals on our team. We got a chance to sit down with a few of our keepers and get the inside scoop on what it’s like to be an animal keeper. Be sure to follow along with our keeper profile series during this great week celebrating zookeepers!

Keeper Profile: Memory Mays
memory mays

Hi Memory! Tell us a little about yourself. Since we’re always asked what it takes to be a zookeeper, can you give us some details about your journey to the Houston Zoo?
Hi! I’ve been employed here for a little over 2 years now. I received a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Minor in Chemistry from University of Houston. The Houston Zoo is, so far, the only zoo I’ve worked at. I even volunteered here as Zoo Crew when I was 13 years old. And even then, I volunteered in the Hoofstock Department. I love hoofstock!

What is a typical day like for you?

Every day at 7 a.m., we start our day with a morning meeting where we all discuss the day’s upcoming events and projects that need to be done. After that, the team splits up to go to their assigned sections. This is when I say ‘good morning’ to all of the animals that I get to work with and check to make sure everyone was comfortable over night. Then, it’s time to prepare foods and distribute them to everyone and give medications to any animals that need it. After that comes the most time-consuming part of the job. Cleaning. We clean the exhibits, let the animals out onto exhibit, and then we clean all of our barns, dishes, tools, and much more. The afternoon is normally spent working on projects and, my personal favorite, animal training sessions.

What would you say is the part of your job that you enjoy the most?

My absolute favorite part of being a zookeeper is spending time with the animals and learning all of their funny little quirks. Just like people, animals have personalities and some of their quirks are really funny.

What is the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part of the job is definitely the fact that we work outside in the Houston weather. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, scorching hot, or on rare days…freezing; you’re going to see us zookeepers out there taking care of the animals, making sure they are happy and comfortable. Even if that requires us to sweat a lot, or wear 5 layers of clothing, we do it because we love what we do.

What is one thing you want visitors to know about being a zookeeper?

It takes a long time before you can call yourself fully trained as a zookeeper. In some other jobs, you go through a 4-week or 6-month training period. I’ve been here for a little more than 2 years now, but I’m still learning new things every day.

Do you have any good stories to share?

One very cold winter day, my co worker and I decided to give the rhinos and greater kudu antelope some natural enrichment. Enrichment involves different items, scents, or props we use to encourage the animals to use behaviors they would use in the wild. For this day, what we had in mind required one of us to climb into the rhino mud wallow and smear mud all over a barrel. Guess who drew the short straw… yours truly! After 15 minutes in the very cold mud wallow with mud up to my elbows, we hung the barrel up and left the exhibit. As we let the animals out on exhibit, we anxiously watched to see if they would play with it… Guess what happened. Nothing! All of the animals walked right by the barrel without a second glance.  That’s what happens sometimes when you put out enrichment items. That’s OK though because we got a good story and some funny pictures out of it!



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The rings are in! Shasta stands watch to guard rings for students at University of Houston. ... See MoreSee Less

1 day ago

The rings are in! Shasta stands watch to guard rings for students at University of Houston.

Melissa Nieto, Karon Matlock Goldstein and 3020 others like this

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Beth BanksOk...I am old enough to remember when Shasta was alive and well, strolling around campus! Needless to say, she was beautiful to see each morning!

23 hours ago   ·  16
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David RaffettoThis really is a cool tradition. Thanks, Houston Zoo!

21 hours ago   ·  7
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Patty PeErik I want my ring in there soon 😫

22 hours ago   ·  3

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Amanda FloresWish I was there to witness it

24 hours ago
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Stacey SandersOklahoma gonna take those rings come week 1!!!

20 hours ago

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Eliseoo HdzThis is dumb but oh well

19 hours ago

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Ryan AvCheryl Love Avina we need to go see Shasta!

23 hours ago
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Jessica FernandezI wish they started this in Fall 2010 not summer 2011.

14 hours ago
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Kandi Blalock ClarkKimberly Brown, I thought this was pretty cool. They have a sign all about UH at the zoo.

9 hours ago
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Denise NelsonLove these college tradition. Got my MEd there

22 hours ago
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Nallely ContrerasLariza Contreras soon your ring will be there :)

10 hours ago   ·  1

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Julie CooperCan someone explain about the rings for us English folk please xx

23 hours ago   ·  3

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Celeste MarquezOur rings are supposed to be in there 😭😭 Jesus Aguilar we are such procrastinators.

22 hours ago   ·  2
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Amanda BlankeHow cool is this Mary?! Love it!!

15 hours ago   ·  1

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Shannon RaffettoGo Coogs!!

21 hours ago   ·  1
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Leo N CandiceWill she be protecting them all weekend so that we can go and see

23 hours ago   ·  2
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Kloe WoosleyRyan Woosley you're lucky Beaumont is closer :p I would die to be a cougar.

1 day ago   ·  1
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Donna S. GuerreroWhat a beautiful cat !! ❤️

23 hours ago   ·  1
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Beatriz Medina-LaresTanya Torres is your ring in here???

24 hours ago   ·  1

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Jaime FrancoAnybody got pics of this?

16 hours ago
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Davi Case GarzaEsther Garza check out Shasta!

24 hours ago
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Austin VaughnYay Shasta!

18 hours ago
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Ronnie LeeI totally want to pet shasta. :o

24 hours ago   ·  1
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Jennifer DailyEva, check it out!

17 hours ago
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Casey Mcaninchwow thats a great pic

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Our pair of elderly male African painted dogs were excited to meet their new pack-mates, three female dogs that recently moved to Houston from a zoo in the UK! Check out the video and learn more about the new group here: www.houstonzoo.org/endangered-wild-dogs-form-new-pack/ ... See MoreSee Less

2 days ago

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Cathryn GaborLet's protect this spectacular endangered species! Fundraiser on May 3 in Houston benefiting Painted Dog Conservation. Thank you Houston Zoo!

2 days ago   ·  3

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Emilee MayberryI've never even seen them moving! They are always sleeping in the same spot. Maybe these new girls will revitalize the pack :)

2 days ago   ·  8
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Lilian CorriganIt's cool to see them so active. Whenever we visit the zoo they are usually just laying around.

2 days ago   ·  2
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Linda TidswellSure hope they weren't moved here because they mate then kill their mates😂

2 days ago   ·  1
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Michelle MungerThey were sleeping when I was there.

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De'jon BaptisteI love dogs

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Ashley NicholeJamie these are awesome

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Michelle Wheatley PajakRobin Roxburgh Kellogg 😄😄yay!! Makes me happy!

2 days ago   ·  1

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Lori Miller SouderGorgeous animals!!!

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Diana KimmelThat's awesome!

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Brooke LynnRy Edward

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