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.”

Meet Joan Gellatly, one of the featured keepers during National Zoo Keeper Week 2016.

Meet Joan Gellatly, one of the featured keepers during National Zoo Keeper Week 2016.

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.”

Skoki in his Calgary Zoo home.

Skoki in his Calgary Zoo home.

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.

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