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Meet a Keeper: Sandi Shoemaker

How long have you worked at the Memphis Zoo?
14 years    

What is your educational background?
Bachelor of Science at Oklahoma Christian University     

What interested you to pursue your current career path?
As a child, I used to watch Joan Embery bring baby animals on The Tonight Show. I just assumed she lived with all of those animals and wanted to be her.


 Briefly describe what your typical day looks like.
The mornings we are usually very busy checking on all of the animals to be sure nothing has gone wrong overnight, then medicating several of the primates including insulin injections for 2 diabetic monkeys. We spend the next couple of hours setting up the yards with breakfast and enrichment, then putting animals out on exhibit. The bulk of the rest of the day is spent cleaning the night houses. At 1:00 it's feeding time for the gorillas and keeper chat for the visitors.The afternoons are spent finishing up the cleaning, getting the night rooms ready for the animals to come back in, then adding in some training sessions. The training sessions are either keeping up the behaviors the apes already know (fingers, head, toes......) or training for immediate veterinary needs.       

What is your favorite Zoo memory?
I absolutely loved spending quiet time with "Elok," the baby orangutan.  His mom didn't raise him, so we took care of him for a year until he was old enough to go to a surrogate orang mom at the Houston Zoo. In the evenings when everyone had gone home, Elok and I would spend some time in the orang yard. He would play in the grass and climb on the low ropes, then fall asleep in my lap. I was also very privileged to see the baby bonobo 30 seconds after he was born. I watched the group taking care of him and "Mpingo" take his first breaths. Its an honor that the group trusted me enough to be near.      

What is your favorite animal (and why)?
That's a tough one. The bonobos have huge highs and lows. They make me laugh out loud, but they also sometimes make me want to pull my hair out in frustration. I do love the gorillas. They look so serious, but have this hidden sense of humor that just pops out sometimes. Some days its hard to get any work done, because "Mwelu" is shaking his head and patting his head with both hands trying to get me to play chase with him (Mwelu on his side of the mesh, me on my side, of course). Or "Penny" drumming on the floor then jumping up on the mesh showing me how happy she is at the moment. I love "Kebara's" diva attitude like she's a little silverback, and "Kwizera's" spunky "I'm a gorilla don't mess with me" attitude.

Posted by Zoo Info at 3:30 PM

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