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. We’re introducing you to Joan Gellatly, who spends her time making a difference with our conservation species outside of the city at our Devonian Wildlife Conservation Centre.
Meet the Zookeeper: Joan Gellatly
Q: How did you become a zookeeper?
A: “I read a book when I was 15– A Zoo in My Luggage by Gerald Durrell. I became curious and interested in the field, so I studied Zoology at the University of Manitoba. While earning my Bachelor of Science Degree I started working at Assiniboine Park Zoo and I was hooked. Four years later in 1990, I was offered a position at African Lion Safari and Game Park, and in 1995 I moved to Calgary to work here at the zoo.”
Q: When did you start working as a zookeeper for the Calgary Zoo?
A: “In June of 1995.”
Q: What’s your favourite animal to work with?
A: “It depends on the day and where I’m working! I’ve been in Canadian Wilds for the last eight years, and recently started working at the Devonian Wildlife Conservation Centre. So I guess I could say bears, bison, elk, wolves, cougars, moose (we miss our moose!), otters, muskox, tigers, lions, giraffes, hippos—I worked with cheetah at African Lion Safari—amazing cats! In general I enjoy carnivores and hoofstock of any kind.”
Q: What’s a great zookeeping story that you can share with us?
A: “There’s too many to think of anything specific. All I can say is that I work with an amazing bunch of people—very dedicated to what we do. I think for me it’s somehow knowing I have made a difference, whether it’s part of our day-to-day husbandry, which is making sure that each individual creature we take care of has a good life, or part of the bigger picture of conservation through all of our different programs, both nationally and internationally.
I think the dedication that we have is amazing—I remember in my 20’s working around the clock with my co-workers to nurse a cheetah back to health. When I think of dedication, I think of the TransAlta Rainforest crew most recently; they experienced birth, illness and death all within a very short time span. Those ladies worked round the clock -there’s dedication! I think of the zoo’s Kathy Twamley and Scott Russell, and the amount of work these two have put in to make our captive programs work.
I must mention the floods (the most memorable being Spring of 2005, November 2008, and of course the famous one in 2013). I always think of how we came together as a team to get the job done. During the flooding in 2008 we had to try to load a moose into a horse trailer as his exhibit was flooding out, while simultaneously saving people on the bike path who had been stranded (all while it was -20C outside!)
Finally I can’t forget raising tiger cubs when I was 25. What an amazing experience that was!”
Don’t forget to follow the rest of National Zoo Keeper Week 2016! We’ll be posting a video of a different zookeeper each day from July 17-23.