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: Jeff Bocek
Hi Jeff. Tell us a little about yourself. We’re always asked what it takes to be a zookeeper, so can you give us some details about your journey to the Houston Zoo?
I’ve been a part of the Houston Zoo team for about one year and eight months. I currently work in the herpetology department, and my favorite animal is the crocodile monitor. Before the Houston Zoo, I worked at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.
What does a typical day entail for someone working in herpetology?
My mornings are spent cleaning, feeding, and performing general husbandry duties. Afternoons are usually spent maintaining equipment and completing ongoing projects.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
The favorite part of my job is designing new exhibits and training our lizards for husbandry tasks.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
The most challenging (and also most interesting) part of my job is staying on top of the knowledge one needs to have about animal natural history and staying meticulous when it comes to venomous snake handling.
Any good stories?
I’m pretty proud that through training one of our Anegada Island iguanas, I was able to use a target pole to get her onto a scale. A target pole is simply a stick with a little red ball at the end. Without lots of training sessions and dedication, it remains just a stick. But, by working a little bit each day, I taught her to recognize that the target pole was an invitation to move where I wanted her to go, and I would reinforce the good behavior with treats. This makes getting weight measurements much easier!