From July 19-25, 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 hear their stories. Check back each day to see new keeper profiles during this great week celebrating zoo keepers!
Michelle Witek – Senior Keeper Children’s Zoo
Since I was a little girl, I have always been drawn to animals. This most likely led me to having a career involving animals. My path to the Zoo was not as clear to me then, but once I got accepted to Texas A&M University, I simultaneously began volunteering at the Houston Zoo. During three years of volunteering I was also privileged in receiving the Exxon Mobile Internship, which assisted me greatly in furthering my experience in this field. Once I graduated college with a Bachelors of Science degree in Wildlife Management, I knew that the Houston Zoo was where I wanted to be. With the networking and relationships I built while interning and volunteering, I was able to begin my career at the Houston Zoo only 9 short months after graduating college.
I have worked as zoo keeper for almost 8 years now, 6.5 years with the carnivore department and the last 1.5 years as part of the Children’s Zoo team. The part of my job that I enjoy the most is animal training and enrichment, which helps keep the animals active and stimulated. It also allows me to build stronger relationships with the animals under my care.
I think people interested in becoming a zoo keeper should know that the job involves many fun and interesting aspects, but it comes with its share of difficulties as well. An unusual work schedule and dealing with the unpredictable and sometimes unbearable Texas weather are certainly difficult. But, at the end of the day it is all worth it. I get tremendous fulfillment from my work and enjoy what I do immensely. I am continuously learning and growing as a keeper every single day, and I cannot think of a better profession to be a part of.