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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Status Update

Our corpse flower named "Reek" is showing signs of life! Our horticulture team is monitoring its progress daily for smells of death...

Learn about this interesting plant species and see more photos in our latest blog post.
www.houstonzoo.org/our-corpse-flower-is-alive/
... See MoreSee Less

9 hours ago

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Eddie Dudley, Jennifer Dinh Nguyen and 23 others like this

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Tammy ErwinWhere in the Zoo is Reek located??? We don't want to miss getting a wiff of it.

8 hours ago   ·  1
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Trish McIntoshDoes Reek have her own page? Lois at HMNS was hugely popular a few years ago.

9 hours ago   ·  3
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Rebecca Ann ColeSally Nergaard remember when you and Kevy went and saw this flower in bloom?

9 hours ago
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Ashley MaldonadoAwesome!!! I got to see the corpse flower at hmns 5 years ago! Would love to see it again!

5 hours ago
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Tasha BhagwandinNot Theon… Reek!

7 hours ago   ·  6
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Casey Jones"You are not Reek, you are Theon Greyjoy!"

6 hours ago   ·  5
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Maura A CampuzanoToo cool

6 hours ago   ·  1
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Lee Anne BayYay, I'm so excited! Watching Lois bloom was a rollercoaster, can't wait to see this one!!

8 hours ago   ·  1
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Angelique RodriguezI've always wanted to see one of these up close!!! ( and of course smell it he he)

8 hours ago
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Rachel PossoHa! Love the name.

8 hours ago
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Lauren CoxDanny Rubalcava Houston has one now too.. maybe we should get one for the back yard..

5 hours ago
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Shelby ColeWhen is it supposed to bloom?

6 hours ago
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Tyler NunleyI know I'm not the only one who thought of Game Of Thrones when reading this? Lol

4 hours ago
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Kim Kooser KeefeAWESOME name!!!!

7 hours ago
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Martha VillasenorWhere in the zoo is reek located ? Is it somewhere visible we could see it..

8 hours ago
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Nicki StacySaw this last week, looking forward to updates!

8 hours ago
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Maura A CampuzanoGaby Uribe, thought of you

6 hours ago   ·  1
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RickEy DentisPlease keep us updated on Facebook about it. I really want to go see this....thanks

8 hours ago
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Neva KloeselRoni Hopkins Glasgow LOOK, Another one!! Be sure to share with your sister!! ;)

9 hours ago
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Kayla RichardMelissa Shewbert take the daycare kids to smell this lol

2 hours ago
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Meghan Catherine BernalLaura N Rich lets go to the zoo hahah

6 hours ago
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Asiram Zellet YanezRose Chavez we should go see it!

8 hours ago   ·  1
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Betty TankYay!

8 hours ago
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Nubia ReyesNancy Estrada Gomez remember seeing Lois?

7 hours ago
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Kristin RowlandSara Tejeda I must go!

2 hours ago
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Recently, two of our staff members spent time in California with The Marine Mammal Center (California) to help sea lions in need of veterinary care. Check out this video highlighting their important work! ... See MoreSee Less

13 hours ago

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The Marine Mammal Center (California)Great vid! Thank you for coming out to help. We appreciate it!

13 hours ago   ·  2
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Katharine KearnsYay! I need a Sea Lion bag too! I have the Sea Turtle bag.

10 hours ago
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Penny GwenWonderful!!!! I was there in the 80's and it looks great now and obviously grown so much....wish I'd volunteered when I had the chance!

12 hours ago
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Dawn DonaldsonYay

12 hours ago
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We will be closing at 5:30 p.m. today, July 25 (last admission 4:30 p.m.) for a private event. ... See MoreSee Less

3 days ago

Jerrick Horton, Rosie Vasquez and 23 others like this

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Carla Medellin JonesVery very nice Memorial Hermann! Thank you!

2 days ago
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Melissa YemmaWe had fun! Thank you memorial Herman!

2 days ago
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Erica BootsSo much fun! Thank you Memorial Hermann!

2 days ago
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