July 18, 2017 Calgary Zoo


It’s National Zoo Keeper Week and we’re sharing the love! To recognize the dedication and hard work of our amazing zookeepers, we are posting an interview of a keeper each day this week. Zookeeper number four is Caitlin, who has a soft spot for the greater sage-grouse, and for the conservation work she contributes to at the Devonian Wildlife Conservation Centre (DWCC). Also- the force is strong with this one… you’ll see what we mean.

Meet the Zookeeper: Caitlin Vavasour-Williams

Q: How did you become a zookeeper?

A:  “I have always loved animals, and as a kid I had (…and still have) an impressive collection of stuffed animals – they’re my own little zoo!

I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Prince Edward Island and focused my studies on Environmental Conservation and Wildlife Management. I knew that I wanted to find a career where I could help protect animals and the habitats that they call home.”

Meet the keeper: Caitlin Vavasour-Williams.

Meet the keeper: Caitlin Vavasour-Williams.

Q: When did you start working as a zookeeper for the Calgary Zoo?

A:  “I started as an on-call keeper in 2010 and accepted a full-time permanent position in 2013.”

Q: What’s your favourite animal to work with?

A: “That’s an impossible question to answer, because every animal you work with has a special quirk that makes you fall in love with them! These days though, perhaps a greater sage-grouse named Nellie. She was one of the very first greater sage-grouse, back when the zoo started our captive management program in 2014 for this endangered species. She has such a personality and she makes me laugh everyday!”

The Calgary Zoo is proud to open the first breeding facility in Canada for Greater Sage Grouse

Q: What’s a great zookeeping story that you can share with us?

A: “Every year, the Devonian Wildlife Conservation Centre (DWCC) keepers get together and choose a naming theme for that year’s Vancouver Island marmot pups. In 2015, we decided to go with Star Wars names as Star Wars: The Force Awakens was popular. On May 4, 2015 (May The Fourth), we spotted two pups in a nestbox with our female, Audrey.

Although we didn’t know and wouldn’t know the sex of the pups until they were processed by our veterinary staff in the fall, we felt compelled to name them Luke and Leia. How could we not!?

Months later, we learned that the pups were indeed a male and a female! We ended up with 14 pups that year and had a blast naming them all: Luke, Leia, Ben, Yoda, Jedi, Chewbacca, Ewok, Salacious B. Crumb, Jabba, Amidala, Anakin, Beru, C-3P0 and Han Solo. Some of these pups made the news this spring on Mount Washington, so they’re the zoo’s very own celebrity marmots!”

A group of Vancouver Island marmots

Thank you for joining us for National Zoo Keeper Week 2017! Check out our blog to see videos of a different zookeeper each day from July 16-22, 2017.

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!
Learn more about the work of the Centre for Conservation Research at the Calgary Zoo.

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