Meet Jennifer Stevenson, she’s one of our Hospital Zookeepers and started her journey with the Houston 18 years ago working as a Zoo Crew volunteer and then as a keeper in the Elephant department. She enjoys working with all of the animals that come through the vet clinic and knew from a young age that she wanted to be a zookeeper. Read more about her experience working behind the scenes!
1. Where did you start your Zoo career?
I started my zookeeper career here at the Houston Zoo. I’m from Sugar Land and knew this is where I wanted to be.
2. What is your favorite thing about working at the Houston Zoo?
This is a hard question to answer when you love your job! One of my favorite things about working at the zoo’s hospital is being able to release an animal back to its’ animal section healed and healthy. Knowing that I contributed to this animal’s return is such a great feeling and I’m honored to be able to do what I do.
3. How did you know that you wanted to be a zookeeper?
I knew at a young age that I was going to work with animals. My great-grandparents had a small farm when I was growing up, and I would spend all day outside with the animals. My Grammy even called me Ellie May. Wanting to be a zookeeper came at a young age as well. I visited the Zoo many times as a kid and even had my 10th birthday party here. I remember envying all the zookeepers and knew that that’s what I was going to do when I grew up.
4. What does a typical workday look like for you?
Our day starts at 7 a.m. where we make our rounds checking on our hospital patients and quarantine animals making sure all look okay and are comfortable. After a short staff meeting to go over the day’s agenda, we begin our responsibilities for the day.
A hospital keeper takes care of all hospitalized and quarantined animals. Quarantined animals are new arrivals into the Zoo and are housed at the hospital for at least a month before being released into their animal section. A typical day is a day filled with cleaning, feeding, medicating and observing animals under our care.
5. What is the most challenging part of being a zookeeper?
One of the most challenging parts of being a Hospital Zookeeper is finding ways to medicate our animals without them knowing. We must find creative ways to disguise medications so that they cannot taste it in whatever food is being offered. Primates, by far, are the most challenging. They can look at a piece of food and know it has been tampered with. We once had a Patas monkey that would only take her medication in an oatmeal ball topped with raisins and honey. One missed ingredient and it was tossed onto the floor.
6. When you aren’t at work, what are some of your hobbies? Do you have any pets?
My family and I love to do any type of outdoor activity. Being at the beach is one of our favorites. We also enjoy going to our family ranch in Goliad, TX where we spend the days riding four wheelers and fishing. We have a 4-year old cat named Striker Lu and a young rat named Myke Stanley. My daughter and son were adamant that each animal get a middle name.
7. What is your favorite animal to work with?
This is one of the hardest questions I’m asked! I don’t have a favorite animal which is why I love working in the hospital. Cliché, but they are all my favorite.
8. What is your secret talent or something most people don’t know about you?
Unfortunately, I don’t have any secret talents. One thing most people don’t know about me is that I have an identical twin sister!