This article is based on the AskReddit question “Zoo Workers of Reddit, which animal is the biggest jerk in your facility?”
[Source can be found at the end of the article]
1. I used to volunteer at a zoo and the biggest jerks were the ravens. They were smart and awesome for teaching activities but if they got bored they would find a way to entertain themselves.
One time a raven decided to place some of its food right outside its caged to lure a peacock. When the peacock got close and began to eat the raven would sneak up and pluck the tail feathers off of the peacock.
2. Ex-Zookeeper here. Orangutans are super smart, super strong, and super jerks. Well, some are. We had a female who, if you were standing in front of her indoor inclosure, would spit and hit you in the mouth every damn time, then grin. She grinned so big when it happened. Lesson learned.
3. Swans are pure devil spawn.
They want to kill anything that moves near them. Sweet harmless baby ducks born on the pond? Initiate murder instinct. Man who feeds me and cleans my awful poop everyday? Start up the murder protocol.
Even the dumbest of invertebrates knew that we fed them and would be kinder. (continued)
(Continued from previous page) Swans see you bringing them food from across the park and are furious that “YOU STOLE MY FOOD I NEVER HAD AND PUT IT IN THAT BUCKET YOU’RE BRINGING TOWARD ME AND I AM GOING TO BEAT THE HELL OUT OF THIS GROUNDHOG NEAR ME BECAUSE OF IT, AND THEN TRY TO MURDER YOU.”
Swans are the worst.
4. A hand-raised wallaby named Wallace Montgomery. He was hand-raised and then given to us when he became a wee bit overwhelming for his previous caretaker.
Feeding time? Prepare to be be gouged by his razor sharp nails, bit on your softest parts, and the bowl WILL be knocked out of your hands.
Cleaning time? He will grab your rake and shovel, hit you with them, and kick you when you bend down to pick up your stuff.
Trying to give him fresh straw to sleep on? Nope. He shredded the bag it came in. He kicked the fresh straw into the yard. He picked up the dirty pissy straw and rubbed it all over you.
I love him immensely. Fun fact: if you pick him up mid-tantrum, he will lay his head on your shoulder and give you three solid minutes of snuggles before recommencing your attempted murder.
5. THIS ONE OCTOPUS.
I was volunteering at an aquarium in the cephalopod section. One day the power was out, so we were on backup generators and we were running all over to make sure everything necessary to keep the animals alive was still running. The tanks where we kept the giant pacific octopuses (these octopuses are about 8 or 9 feet across) didn’t have a solid top to close it up – instead the top portion of the tank is covered by astroturf. Octopus suckers can’t work on astroturf, so they can’t climb out. In theory.
This one jams herself into the water outtake in her tank while no one is paying attention. Water keeps going in, but none can get out. She makes a waterfall out of the tank and tries to ride it to freedom. We caught her just after she flopped onto the floor.
They’re just too smart.
6. Right now it’s the short tailed leaf nosed fruit bat.
I’m an intern in a well known zoo. We have a wet cave filled with probably 1000 of them. The door is surrounded by a wire cage. When we go to feed them we just let the door open and let the bats fly in the cage. When we leave we have to hear them into the cave. As an intern I’m not allowed to touch them. So I put my hand up to guide them.
Except they don’t like that and they’ll fly right in my face and hover there for a few minutes.
One day I was by myself doing it and one of them would not get in the damn cave. I stood there for like 10 minutes doing jazz fingers and he just hung there.
7. Have worked in various wildlife rehab/research facilities, including a bird sanctuary where we did mist-netting (setting up very fine nets between trees to catch songbirds) and banding of wild birds for research/population counts. Handled everything from thrushes to woodpeckers to crows to sparrows…and the biggest jerks?
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Most of the birds were scared or curious when we took them out of the nets. The chickadees? Were pissed. There was something bizarrely respectable about it. Here I am holding a bird smaller than the palm of my hand whose head I could crush with my thumb, and it’s going, “You may be bigger than me but if you don’t let me go I will rip your cuticle off.”
On an aside, the woman who owned and ran one of the wildlife rehabs where I worked had rescued and care for wolves, bears, lynx, mountain lions…the one animal that put her in the hospital? A white-tailed deer. Gored her.
Ooh, same facility, our female black bear loved rainy days. She’d wait until a school or tour group got up nice and close to her enclosure, then give the wet ground an almighty whack with her front paw. Sprayed the entire group with mud. She did it every damned time.
8. I wasn’t there at the time that this has happened, but I used to volunteer at the Omaha Zoo, and there was the story of Fu Manchu, the orangutan.
Apparently, one of the keepers found Fu and some of his buddies hanging out outside of their enclosure and ushered them back in. When it happened again, the keeper thought someone was leaving the enclosure open. It happened so much that someone was about to get fired over it.
Finally, someone witnessed Fu climbing through an air vent to get to the door, pulling it open enough to expose a gap, then pulling a piece of wire from his mouth and using the wire to undo the latch and open the door. He’d been hiding the wire in between his gums and lips to engineer his escape.
A bad move because he almost got people fired. Otherwise, it was slick as hell.
9. Aldabra tortoises. They have an outdoor pen, but obviously they are stuck in a smaller indoor enclosure during the colder months.
They won’t leave you alone. I was watering the plants at one point, when two big males came up behind me and pinned me to the wall. I pinwheeled my arms and fell onto one’s back…sort of got to ride him.
Other times, the decide to sit RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE DOOR. So you’re stuck until you convince them to move. You certainly aren’t going to move 500 pounds of turtle on your own.
If you put a squeegee against the wall, the simply HAVE to knock it over and sit on it.
Got the hose out? Yup. Gotta sit on it.
Bringing out food? Sit right in the feed troughs.
10. I used to work at an Arabian farm and exotic zoo and rescue. Servals are jerks. The male hated everyone. He didn’t care if you were feeding him or letting him out he voiced his utter hate to you. Then the morning of one of our open houses he killed his mate. Blood everywhere we had to put a curtain up over his window and lock him in until we could clean up.
Oh and black swans they are just assholes well swans in general but yah.
The reindeer were pretty cool, several were very friendly after they got used to you and would come up to you for head scratches.
They had an arctic wolf who was really cool. I could hand feed him towards the end of my time there. That was as close as I could get to him which was still pretty awesome.
They had two bobcats the female was so friendly. She loved to rub on me and play with my muck bucket. She was a goof. I never petted her without a glove on but I could pet her.
I miss this place but I worked their during the recession and they based their pay for employees off sales of horses. They were barely paying me as it is so it worked out but the experience was amazing. Something I will cherish.
11. The hippos at our zoo will defecate on their tails and helicopter it all over people.
12. Monkeys. Definitely the Monkeys. They are cunning, fast and incredibly strong for their size. And they would find any opportunity to mess with you.
Ironically, we had an enormous tiger that had been part of a circus and while it weighed a couple of hundred pounds and could have killed you with just a swat of it’s paw; really just wanted to be petted. It was more likely you would be crushed when it pushed it’s head against you for a good scruffing.
13. We have lions and the females are always jerks to the male lion. We had to separate them multiple times because they would beat the crap out of him. To be fair he is a wuss, like the females roar all the time and he tried once and puked instead. Once he had a seizure and they ran over to just beat, not claw or bite but just beat the crap out of him with their paws. Now the females are growing manes because they’re so dominant. LITERALLY took his manhood.
14. I have kept a wide variety of animals, ranging from bears to cheetahs, to bobcats. The nastiest tempered critter I ever dealt with was an Iguana. This was a big lizard close to 6 feet long counting the tail, and had a head the size of a softball. He would whip the crap out anyone that got remotely close to him, and bite anyone that touched him, and loved nothing more than to get high up in a tree and piss on anyone that walked under him.
15. When I worked at Chester Zoo I was always so uncomfortable being near the lion enclosure on my own (especially early in the morning). Once I had to get there at 6 am and I was the only one around, walked past the lions and couldnt see them, so I stepped a bit closer to try and get a better look, suddenly the large male leapt up from just inside the fence where he had been obstructed by some tall plants and he roared deafeningly loudly in my face. I nearly poo’d myself. Never went near them alone again.
16. Doing volunteer work at a science center made me realize how terrible sugar gliders are.
We had 3 of them. 1 of them was pretty old and didn’t do much. The other 2, named Cookie and Belle, were the worst. They always got out of their cage during feeding time, they always jumped onto kids when we took them out for a show, and one got outside and ended up in a small shed. In that shed was a very large snapping turtle. So me and another volunteer have to catch a sugar glider while not upsetting the snapper.
17. I worked with birds of prey at a wildlife rescue center, and in addition to caring for them day to day, we also took them to local events and schools for education programs.
As far as care goes, we had a turkey vulture who was a total jerk.
Every time you came near his enclosure, he acted excited to see you and would run up to the door to greet you. The second you walked inside, he would peck at your feet until you fed him and pull at your hair if you were handling him on the glove. Fucker took a good chunk of my hair once.
As far as taking them to events, the owls were always the worst.
Don’t get me wrong, they were my favorite to work with, but they loved to be picky and stir up trouble. My barn owl would rouse on my glove and tuck his little head into my chest when I was transporting him, but as soon as we got in front of a group of people he would start bating and screeching and refused to cooperate. This owl was also afraid of live mice. If you tossed a live mouse into his enclosure for him to eat, he would hide from it and hiss. This elite predator was afraid of mice.
18. Previously was a zookeeper in a small hometown zoo when we were allowed to go in with many of the animals.
A ring-tailed lemur, only one of them tho. The other was precious. This particular lemur was a rescue from a pretty shitty situation. He was kept in a man’s kitchen in a bird cage. Yup, a bird cage. We guessed he was only ever handled or fed by the man of the family. He was rescued after the man passed away. When given to the zoo, the blonde woman had scratches up and down her (continued)
(Continued from previous page) arms. Because of his past he HATED females. He would freak out, scratching his arms, rubbing and biting his tail, and attack the holding whenever a female was near. It was really sad.
I was a newish keeper was just trained in a new area including the lemurs. I wanted to get to know the lemur better and earn his trust. The other keeper of the area had a relatively good relationship with him so I knew I could build one. After a few days of working with him, I decided his improved behavior meant I would be able to go in with him during lunch time. Everything was going well until I threw the food into the holding. This huge gesture freaked him out. He jumps onto me and bites THROUGH my ear.
Easily, the biggest scum in the zoo. I loved him though. It was clearly not his fault. I ended growing a better relationship with him through feeding him grapes. Needless to say, I knew better than to go in with him again.
19. I work with squirrel monkeys, and I go in there with a little bowl of live mealworms for training purposes. One day one particular monkey was being fairly grabby, reaching for my hair and whatnot. I had closed up their cage and was getting ready to leave when I noticed I hadn’t slid a hatch shut. I moved closer to the fence to do it and someone – I don’t know who, but I’m betting it was the grabby one – shot a hand out of the cage, reaching for the mealworms, and knocked the bowl out of my hands. I don’t know if you know this, but individual mealworms are hard to pick up off the floor, especially when they’re crawling away as fast as their little legs can go. And so then of course all the monkeys are on the ground reaching through the fence to grab the worms while I’m trying to scoop them back into the bowl as fast as I can. That must have been the greatest thing ever, like WOW FREE WORMS EVERYWHERE.
I did also have a capuchin monkey throw food at me. I ignored it because I was observing a different monkey at the time, and out of the corner of my eye I saw the one that I assume threw the food come up to the fence and stick her arm under the door to try to reclaim the food she’d thrown at me, but it was out of her reach. Karma.
20. I don’t work there but I have visited a popular wildlife rehabilitation centre in South Africa called Moholoholo (I know right, great name) about 7 or 8 times.
They have at the centre arguably the world’s most famous honey badger, called Stoffel. Now I am sure none of you need an introduction to how savage these animals are, but this particular guy has actually featured on multiple TV shows because of his antics.
In the first few years of his life at the centre, he dug his way into the Lion enclosure TWICE and attacked the alpha male of the pride both times. When he kept digging his way under the wall of his enclosure, it had to be rebuilt 2 metres deeper into the soil. When he opened up cracks in the concrete and escaped, those had to be covered with metal sheet. When he used rocks/sticks to create a tower and climb over the wall, they removed them… only for him to steal a zookeeper’s broom and climb out using that.
I know many more stories of his antics, but my favourite is how after years of living on his own they decided to find him a female companion to join him in the enclosure. First thing Stoffel did?
Stood on her head and used her to climb over the wall.
21. When I worked as a zookeeper intern, I think the biggest jerks were the emus. It was the summer of 2004 and the emus shared an exhibit with the wallabies. The exhibit wasn’t high-security. It was essentially a fence made of dried bamboo stalks.
Wallabies are super cute and while we didn’t have an area where they are in the same space as visitors, some zoos do. Wallabies are not typically threatening in any way.
The emus were big jerks. They constantly pecked at the wallabies and were generally a pain, but they weren’t separated because they didn’t cause actual injuries. The wallabies eventually got their revenge and freedom. One night, one of the emus ran into the fence and sort of gently-impaled itself. It wasn’t badly injured, but it did fall down after the injury. What did the wallabies do? They kicked it in the head until it was dead.
The wallabies and emus were separated the next day.
22. zebras are jerks, too. Our zebras shared an exhibit with the giraffes. We had a giraffe platform where visitors could feed the giraffes carrots, grain, and other goodies (according to the giraffe diet, of course). The zebras wanted the goodies and would kick the giraffes so the giraffes would drop their food, then the zebras would eat it.
23. So no one here will believe me but….Literally Harambe.
About a year ago I interned at the Cincinnati zoo in the primate department. I helped prep diets, clean enclosures, develop and deploy enrichment etc. I didn’t get to work directly with gorillas because they were deemed too dangerous for non-employees but I walked by their enclosures often and could see them through the housing. We had two family groups, one usually hung outside for part of the day and when they came in, the other would go out.
Well Harambe was in a group with two females and he usually was separate from them when they were indoors and hung out at the far end of the indoor enclosure. Well I had to walk by his enclosure to get to another animals’ to clean it and EVERY SINGLE TIME I walked by his enclosure he would charge the enclosure door closest to me and slam it with his fists. Every goddamn time. Scared the hell out of me every time.
Apparently he came from a zoo where the keepers were less than kind and they were all guys so he associated guys with bad memories. A good portion of keepers at Cinci Zoo were ladies so he loved them just fine.
24. I did a stint at my local zoo as part of my degree. I had a monkey fling itself at the window every time I walked past. The first time it did it I screamed. Maybe he was just hoping to get me to scream again, haha!
25. Grew up in St. Louis and went to the zoo a lot when I was a kid. Once I watched three jerky kids throwing stuff at a hippo. I was furious but just stood there because I didn’t want to get beat up and I swear to god that hippo turned slowly, backed up as close as possible to the moat, and then targeted those kids with a spray of hippo diarrhea that was truly unbelievable in volume and accuracy.
26. Male ostrich. 6 feet tall, several hundred pounds, and very protective of his girls. On the bright side he would do his mating dance for the landscaping crew constantly, and occasionally the visitors.