Animal caretakers recognized during National Zookeeper week

Animal caretakers recognized during National Zookeeper week

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - National Zookeeper Week takes place every year during the third week in July.

Chelsey Jones, a zookeeper at the Hattiesburg Zoo, explains how the honor feels.

“I think our biggest job as a zookeeper is not only, you know, caring for all of these guys, but we also offer a great opportunity for the community to see them,” said Jones.

The Hattiesburg Zoo gained some new furry friends that’ll soon be seen around the park.

“We just got two new zebra in. We’ve got a new male, a new female and our goal for these guys are to start having babies. We also have gotten a new ostrich. We previously lost our male ostrich,” said Jones.

The new animals will soon make a debut to the public. But before they do, they’ll undergo a 30-day quarantine.

“Basically, what that does is that gives us time to get to know them. It gives us the chance to make sure that they are clean of parasites or any kind of diseases that can be transmitted to our current population, and so we want to make sure that they are healthy and ready to go before we go introducing them to everyone else, animals and public,” said Jones.

COVID-19 is also playing a huge role in the zookeeper world as to how they care for and maintain the animals.

“The more and more research that gets done, the more information that we get. So basically right now we have a handful of animals that have been proven to be susceptible. That just means that we take extra precautions to keep them safe. We are always wearing masks, gloves when we are preparing their food, masks and gloves. We try to cut down on the amount of interaction they have with the public or with us in general,” said Jones.

As we wrap up National Zookeeper Week, Jones explains the impact being a zookeeper has had on her.

“I grew up around horses, and so anything with hooves, they have my heart. That’s where I am at. I’m so lucky and privileged to get to work with these guys. Growing up, like zookeeping, was not really on the radar, but I kinda fell into it. I absolutely love it. I’ll never go back to anything else,” said Jones.

The Hattiesburg Zoo plans to feature its new exhibit Africa in the fall. That exhibit includes new giraffes and hyenas.

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