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ZookeeperAlternative titles

Kaitiaki Rawhi Whakaaturanga

This job is sometimes referred to as:

Aquarium Manager
Zoo Manager

Zookeepers care for animals in zoos, wildlife parks or aquariums.

Contact us

Call us on 0800 222 733


Pay for zookeepers varies depending on experience and qualifications.

  • Trainee zookeepers may start on between $30,000 and $40,000 a year.
  • Zookeepers with between three and six years' experience usually earn between $35,000 and $50,000.
  • Senior zookeepers, with more than six years' experience, usually earn between $45,00 and $65,000.
  • Zoo managers at large zoos and aquariums can earn between $60,000 and $80,000, or more.

Sources: Unitec and Auckland Zoo.

What you will do

Zookeepers may do some or all of the following:

  • clean and inspect animals and their enclosures/habitats
  • feed animals and ensure their nutritional and health requirements are met
  • observe animal behaviour and provide activities for the animals
  • treat animals for minor injuries and illnesses under veterinary supervision
  • design and maintain animal environments, including looking after the grounds, caring for plants in animal habitats, and repairing animal homes
  • assist the public, answer their questions and give educational talks
  • maintain records and carry out any general office work relating to animal care.

Skills and knowledge

Zookeepers need to have:

  • knowledge of animal biology and the scientific classification of animals
  • skill in caring for and handling animals
  • an understanding of laws relevant to their work, such as the Animal Welfare Act.

Working conditions


  • usually work regular hours (including weekends) but may work overtime or be on-call
  • work at zoos, wildlife parks, aquariums and nature reserves
  • often work in smelly and noisy conditions, with animals that can be dangerous
  • may travel locally and internationally on conservation programs.

What's the job really like?

Lauren Booth - Senior Zookeeper

What people don't realise about zookeepers

"People think zookeeping is all cuddling cute animals but what they don't realise is that it's a lot of really, really hard work. Cleaning is a big part of your day when you are zookeeping – but the physical side of things is really enjoyable if you get stuck into it."

Opportunities to learn new things

"The great thing about being a zookeeper is the variety you get in your job. Now I'm more senior, I'm more involved in population management – managing very small populations to maintain genetic diversity within those populations.

"You can go from population management to visiting conservation projects around the world. I was actually lucky enough to go to India and Nepal last year with the Red Panda transfer."

Working with the public

"One of the highlights of my job is being able to interact with the public and connect them with the animals that we have here, especially when they are asking questions about different individuals."

What's hot

  • Spending time with animals while feeding them
  • Interacting with the public
  • The variety of work

What's not

  • Working outside in all weather conditions
  • Heavy physical work
  • A lot of cleaning


Zookeepers with one to six years' experience usually earn
per year
Zookeepers with more than six years' experience usually earn
per year
Source: Unitec and Auckland Zoo
Lauren Booth holding a meercat and checking its conditon

Lauren Booth checking a meercat's health

Updated 21 Feb 2014