It’s National Zoo Keeper Week and we’re sharing the love! To recognize the dedication and hard work of our amazing zoo keepers, we are posting an interview of a keeper each day this week. Introducing….. Nicole Yeoman! This experienced zoo keeper has worked all over the world, from Australia to Canada, and her career journey has brought her to #yyc and the Calgary Zoo gorillas!
Meet the Zookeeper: Nicole Yeoman
Q: How did you become a zoo keeper?
A: “I knew that I always wanted to work with animals, but was more interested in conservation and working with wildlife. In high school my teacher suggested that I try a work experience at African Lion Safari in Ontario. I really enjoyed it, so I decided to pursue a Zoology degree at the University of Guelph. I went back to work at the African Lion Safari during the summers while studying at university and then was offered a full-time position after graduation.
The following summer (2005) I had the opportunity to travel to Australia. While in Australia, I volunteered at Western Plains Zoo, Taronga Zoo and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. After returning to Canada, I moved out to Calgary for an Intern position at the Calgary Zoo Wildlife Conservation Centre and then applied for a zookeeper position in 2007.”
Q: When did you start working as a zoo keeper for the Calgary Zoo?
A: “In October 2007 I started as an on-call zoo keeper, and by March 2008 I was a full-time keeper!”
Q: What’s your favourite animal to work with?
A: “All of the animals are so different and I have enjoyed working with so many of them. I really love the hippos, tigers, red pandas, rhinos and African wild dogs, but if I had to pick a favorite, I would say the elephants and gorillas. We get to build very strong relationships with them. I especially enjoyed working with Kakinga (our old male gorilla) and Spike (our old male Asian elephant). They will always have a specially place in my heart!”
Q: What’s a great zoo keeping story that you can share with us?
A: “I was working with the gorillas before I left to go on maternity leave for a full year in 2017. I did come in to visit them but not as much as I had originally planned. When it was time to return back to work I was very nervous on how the gorillas would react to me. But on my first day back (in my zookeeper uniform) it was a completely different reaction – they were happy to see me! Running around with excitement and coming to check me out up close in the back area. It made me feel extra special!
Another story is when I was working with the tigers. I was just about to shift in one of our older tigers Kita from her outside yard when she then pounced on a duck in the pond. I felt very sad for the duck and I knew that I wouldn’t have much luck trying to get her to come inside after that. But a few seconds later I noticed that the duck had somehow managed to get away, the lucky duck! Kita, however, was not impressed.”
Thank you for joining us for National Zoo Keeper Week 2018! Check out our blog to see videos of a different zookeeper each day from July 15-21, 2018.
The support of our community makes possible our critical work protecting wildlife and wild places. Your trip to the Calgary Zoo helps us sustain wildlife and wild places. Visit today and learn more about the work of the Centre for Conservation Research at the Calgary Zoo.