A Day in the Life of a Zookeeper

A Day in the Life of a Zookeeper

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88Nine Radio Milwaukee
Meet Joan Pappas, zookeeper at Milwaukee County Zoo


As a zookeeper for the Milwaukee County Zoo, Joan Pappas has a pretty wild job.

“We don’t play with [the animals] all day, I know people like to think that! But it’s still a great job.”

And as I was walking around the zoo the other week, I sat down with Joan and had to ask: What really goes into being a zookeeper?


“Most of the zookeepers here have bachelor degrees in some sort of biological science; so like biology or ecology or zoology… I’m the pachyderm supervisor.”

“Pachyderm is an outdated term that means ‘thick skin,’ and so technically the pachyderms would be the elephants, the hippos, the rhinos. But here at the [Milwaukee County] Zoo the pachyderms also include the giraffes the bongos the red-river hogs… we have a collection of larger hoof-stocked animals.”

… And Joan’s favorite animals to work with? The giraffes.


“We have five giraffes; our adult bull is Baja Tika, and then we’ve got three adult females, Rhana, Marley and Ziggy, and then we have our 7-month old calf… his name is Tafari.”



“It’s a really great job, it’s a lot of fun working with the animals.”

Have a question for Joan or any of the other Milwaukee County Zookeepers? This Friday (April 29) the Milwaukee County Zoo has their annual family-friendly event “Zootastic” which gives families the opportunity to meet all the zookeepers and learn more about their favorite animals. Want to learn more about Zootastic? Find information here. 

Want to learn more about the Milwaukee County Zoo? Check out the Zoological Society of Milwaukee’s website for events, animal information and more.