1. An orangutan gestured to a guest at the zoo to give him his ice cream. The guest knew he couldn’t give his food to the orangutan so gestured back, “no-no” or “I can’t/what should I do?” Then, the orangutan gestured to the man to throw an ice cream cone to them over the fence, like it was the most obvious idea ever.
2. I’m not a zookeeper, but my dog once thanked me. He was trying to find a comfortable position on his pallet but it was all wrinkled and folded over itself. So after he grumpily plopped down, I went over and tugged at the corner of it. My dog looked at me and then got up. I fixed it for him and he laid down, so I went to sit down.
A beat later, my dog got up and walked over to me. He licked my knee and went back to lay down.
That’s one of the reasons that I consider my dog was a person instead of an animal.
3. I work at the San Diego Zoo and the peacocks LOVE attention. They fan out their feathers at routine times every single day in the same exact spots just for the crowds of people to come and give them attention. They do this with no peahens in sight. Its kinda funny.
4. A chimpanzee saved a piece of newspaper she’d been given for enrichment until keepers showed up the next day. She climbed up to my eye level, held out an ad for Chips Ahoy cookies, then pointed at me. She wanted me to buy them for her.
5. During penguin nesting season, I once saw a rockhopper couple who had built a nest way up high at the top of a mountain of rocks. The lady of the house decided that she needed to redecorate the home and sent the male to find a suitable rock to add to the decor. As he hopped down the rocks, he was squawked at and pecked at by several other rockhoppers with nests, getting beat up all the way down to the ground where he started looking for pebbles. He finds one he likes and ascends up the mountain to once again brave the very territorial, biting, screeching rockhoppers along the way. She lays the pebble down for his Mrs…
And she slaps the crap out of him. She hates it.
Immediately getting the point, he returns for a third pass at now even more pissed off rockhoppers back to the ground. This time, he’s not playin’. He spends a good ten minutes looking for a rock that he likes…and BOOM! There it is!
He tries to pick the rock up and immediately drops it. He tries again…drops it. He tries one final time and it’s just too big for him to carry. So his response?
He throws his head back, flails his flippers about and cries to the sky. I did not see him return home for the rest of my shift.
Another good one with birds… The other day our Blue fronted Amazon parrot was pulling my hair a few strands at a time out of my hair tie…and laughing at me as he did it.
6. Not a zookeeper, but I worked in South Africa for a bit last year.
We have four giraffes on the property, one of which was a lovely lady named Camille. One day they were roaming at the fence neighboring the farm next door, where a Kudu named Charles lived. A Kadu is a species of antelope. Camille and Charles absolutely fell in love. For days they stayed at the fence and wouldn’t leave. Finally, Charles decided he’d had enough. He proceeded to (Continued)
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He proceeded to jumped the huge fence (a fence large enough for a giraffe) and now spends his days roaming our property with Camille. The people next door were really awesome and let him stay with us.
7. While I’m not officially a zookeeper yet, I’m the girl in charge of scooping poop out of the Komodo Dragon cage and various other reptiles. Mr. Komodo and I have a little tradition. I go into his fine establishment, mop away a basket-ball sized slosh of excrement, and taking a step away, he’ll immediately “let it go” in the same spot that I cleaned up. Through this isn’t really what can be considered human-like, I am always amused about how the moment I appear Mr. Komodo spreads his legs in preparation. He doesn’t lash at me either, which is something he does even at the person who feeds him.
8. Zoo keeper here
Seeing ring tailed lemurs literally laid out flat on their backs on the grass on a sunny day
Also a lemur casually sat on a post with one knee raised and resting his arm on said knee, the other hand was holding onto the mesh. Casual as heck.
Oh and a Mandrill getting pissed off and throwing his toy away when he couldn’t figure out how it worked.
9. Actually a zookeeper, and one of our ocelots will eat anything and everything, even though he has a sensative stomach, and knows he’ll puke. His specialty is catching opossums or squirells and eating everything but the head, which he carefully positions in full view of the public next morning.
We also have a family group of gibbons; parents, a subadult, and a baby. In the wild, young adult gibbons stay with their parents for a few years and learn how to take care of their younger sibling, to prepare them for parenthood. Our young male, who is the equivalent if a 12-13 year old human, once tried to grab the baby from Mom, who smacked him upside the head.
She then went back to teaching the toddler to climb by sitting next to the wire of the fence, letting her baby get six inches off the ground, then clutching him back to her chest because that was “high enough.”
10. I work with exotic animals, though not in a zoo, yet. We have a Marmoset (little monkey) that does lots of little, oddly human things, but her most recent/most creepy thing is her new method of “asking” for food. If you’ve got something and you aren’t sharing, she’ll sit in the corner of her enclosure then turn, look over her shoulder, and look up at you with big round eyes until you give in or she gets mad. She looks just like a little girl bribing her father. We aren’t really sure where she got it from….
12. I’m a zookeeper.
Dolphins are manipulative jerks. They put every new hire through a hazing process. Here’s how they do it: (Continued)
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Some dolphins will bait the new trainer into petting them. As soon as the hand gets close enough, they’ll swipe their heads over really quick and pretend to try to bite them. Not because they actually want to bite, but because they like to illicit reactions and think the terrified trainer jumping backwards is the greatest thing ever.
Another thing they do is completely ignore new trainers or pretend to misunderstand what behavior the trainer is asking for. Dolphin toys with trainer until it finally decides to cooperate. Exasperated trainer gets excited and ‘jackpots’ – or showers them with fish. Dolphin laughs and noms fish.
They are smart, finicky little jerks.
Macaws are also jerkwads. When I first started working with scarlets, one butthead decided that if I didn’t give him a peanut every time I dared entering his cage, he would attempt to peck the top of my head. It worked for a while. That stupid bird trained ME.
13. We kept a wood duck in our butterfly house exhibit at my previous workplace.
When he was in his full glory, with his beautiful colors and feathers, he would be all up in everybody’s face and would want attention, attention, attention. But as soon as he molted into his drab colors for the summer, he would sulk and be cranky and hide in his pond.
Shows off when he’s pretty, hides out when he’s not at his best. Pretty human to me 🙂
14. Former zookeeper here.
I mostly worked in the reptile house and with reptiles and large rodents for educational shows, however I did a bit of work with some mountain lions and a very fat black bear named TJ.
The mountain lions were an absolute trip because, get this, they played HIDE AND SEEK, not even 100% predatory behaviour. They would run behind trees until you “found” them (they are still cats, with the impression that hiding their heads makes them invisible), come out, swat you on the butt and go hide behind something else.
15. Not a zookeeper, but at a nearby zoo they’re teaching the orangutans to use iPads. They even got them to (Continued)
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They even got them to Skype with one of their favourite keepers who was in a different country. Nuts.
16. I know this sounds stupid, but I’m pretty sure my dog went through a grieving process and period of depression when his mom died. She was 7 when she had him, and he was the only puppy to survive. They never spent a day apart until she died aged 15. When she died, I literally think he cried. Like his eyes leaked.. Maybe it was just windy that day or maybe he always does that but I never picked up on it, but it broke my heart.
He’s a very very big, energetic springer spaniel, and he is the best dog in the world. He is a ray of sunshine and my best friend. He would never do anything to hurt anybody. He always wants to cuddle and play. But for two or three weeks after his mom died, he didn’t want to play, and he had no energy. He only got out of his little bed to eat and drink and poop. He wouldn’t even come for walks (again, he’s a very big, strong dog so if you put the leash on him, he’d just resist until I gave up) I could hear him whimper every night until I went downstairs and stayed with him until he fell asleep. It was so similar to human loneliness.
I brought him to the vet and she couldn’t find anything physically wrong with him, and she put it down to grieving. Thankfully a year on he’s the happiest dog in the world again.
17. I think the most human-like thing I’ve seen a zoo animal do was a baby gorilla teasing its dad. Just swinging around on a vine and stealing little bits of food from in front of its dad. And the dad ended up jerking the vine like, “Stop it, you dumb kid!”
18. Polar bears are smart as ef. They will purposely try to deceive you, and even mock you.
You always work protected contact with polar bears – fencing barriers between you and them. There is usually a small gap running along the bottom which is large enough for a bear to get the front part of their paw through so you never stand up close to the stainless steel fencing. The fence is usually some kind of 2×2 holes that you can pass food through, and there are food chutes too.
Mocking me: One time I decided to have a play session with one of the bears. I took bucket lids (which are small enough to slide under the gap I mentioned earlier) and smeared them with peanut butter, honey, and other treats. Then i got on the ground in front of the pen and was zipping the lid back and forth on the ground, just out of reach. The bear was pouncing along and having fun, and finally when I faked him out and he pounced left, I shot the lid under to cage to the right air hockey style. He went bounding after it, ate the treats, and came back with it in his mouth.
This is the mocking part: He sat down in front of me with the lid still in his mouth and just looked at me for a few seconds. Then he dropped the lid to the floor, put a paw on it, and proceeded to (Continued)
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zing it back and forth just out of my reach like I did to him. Bears – 1 Keepers – 0
The deceiving part: One bear I worked with was very sneaky and would try to trick new people. They love it when you act startled, so if you’re a jumpy person you might as well paint a giant target on your forehead because they will try to act like they’re not paying attention to you, and then Randy Orton-style, OUTTA NOWHERE, leap up at hit the bars at full height and make freak out.
So back when I was new to this bear, I accidentally dropped a fish on my side of the bars. Your instinct is to pick it up, but that is exactly what you should NOT do because that puts you too close to the cage. He tried to stick his paw under and get it, but couldn’t quite get it. He tried and tried, made sad puppy sounds, etc, but I ignored the fish on the ground, finished our session, and walked away.
After I got a few paces away I looked back just in time to see him stick his paw under the bars, fully engulf the fish no problem, and pull it back under and eat it.
19. In fifth grade, we went on a school field trip to the zoo and I witnessed the most amazing trolling ever done by a gorilla.
So, all these kids are swarming the glass of the gorilla exhibit and are banging on it because kids suck. Now, this gorilla is sitting there taking it like a damn champ, but then he gets up.
He presses his buttocks to the screen, spreads his butt cheeks and begins to defecate everywhere. It was the most disgusting display I have ever seen, but us ten year olds being ten year olds thought it was hilarious.
Then he begins to lick the poo off of the glass; that’s when everyone is grossed out. Of course, the teachers are yelling that we needed to be mature… I’m sure they were disgusted too.
After King Kong here is done licking his crap, he plops back down on the ground and just stares at us. Oh, he knows what he’s doing. He begins to masturbate and bares his teeth; literally a “shit-eating” grin.
The teachers dragged us off after that, but we got the message that this guy wanted to be left alone.
20. I want to be a zookeeper. So I did a volunteer thing at the San Diego Safari Park.
Our instructor was an elephant trainer.
She said it’s normal for the zookeepers to leave dead elephants in their enclosure for a day or two, so the elephants can mourn the loss of an elephant.
Cries, standing around the body, signs of depression.
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21. My grandfather had a brackish water pond in his backyard. He would go down to fish, and “joe” the alligator would creep to the opposite side of the pond and scare all the fish over to my grandpas side. Then like clockwork after he caught 4 to 5 fish, joe would swim closer to where my gramps was fishing, and wait for gramps to throw him a dead fish. After he ate it he would go back across the pond.
22. I was working with wild monkeys in Thailand that had been taken in for rehab, and we had this one little sneaky one who used to wait till after you’d fed him (throwing food over the fence) then run to the gate, put his hand through the gap, and try and use his finger as a key to open the lock. He had obviously seen us on occasion open the lock to get in and out, and worked out that it was something about our hands and that hole that was linked to his freedom.