You know you’re a zookeeper when…

A little while back I was working on a paper for a linguistic anthropology class and I reached out to some zoo keepers on Facebook to ask them what some terms were that applied (or had meanings specifically) to zoo keeping. These are some of the terms that they came up with! I provided the definitions. Now keep in mind that every zoo does things just a little bit differently, so don’t be offended if a definition is different from one you may use, just leave it in the comments!



Enrichment is something given to animals to stimulate their brains, give them something to play with or recreate natural behaviors.

Positive enrichment-

Positive enrichment is an enrichment that an animal really enjoys

Negative enrichment-

Negative enrichment is not strived for, but occasionally happens when keepers try new enrichments. This may mean that the animal showed no interest in the enrichment or was afraid of it, but it is still considered enrichment because it put something new into the animals environment

Food motivated-

This is a term for an animal that prefers to be rewarded with food during training exercises

Weight trained-

This is an animal whose weight is monitored daily to keep it in a good zone so that they do not stay over weight(like most zoo animals) and are more likely to respond to training exercises


Animals mating, often times in my experienced used during daily animal logs where animals attitude, behavior and health is documented daily it was used in a slightly joking manner if an animal tried to “copulate” with you. ex. “Cheryl the crow copulated with my pony-tail today”


A radio term meaning,” okay, I heard you”


A type of enrichment that may include perfume, feathers from another bird, snake shed, herbs, or extracts

Attention motivated-

An animal that prefers human attention or praise for preforming a behavior rather than food.

1.0.0 / 1.1 / 0.0.1 …ect.-

This number system is used to document sex. 1.0.0 is a single male, 1.1.0 is one male and one female, 0.0.2 is two of unknown sex.


More common than albinism and most often seen in animals in zoos that the public labels as “albino.” This is a reduced pigmentation rather than a total lack of it.

Hoofed Stock-

Animals that have hooves, like antelope, giraffe and zebra.

Temp check-

Reptiles need to be kept at higher temperatures and need both warm and cool spots in their enclosures, so the temperatures need to be checked throughout the day.

Diet prep.-

This is the time in the morning spent preparing all of the diets for the animals in the keepers care.


This is the place where diet prep takes place. No human food allowed!

Keeper 1, 2, 3… ect.

This refers to the level of the keeper. Normally you enter a job at keeper 1 and move up through the ladder.


This isn’t exclusive to zookeepers but I have not yet met a non-zookeeper who participates in “herping.” It refers to the act of going out into the wilderness and catching amphibians and reptiles either to keep as pets, but most often just for fun to release after catching.


Refers to tree branches that are used for enrichment. Either as something fun to tear apart or to eat.

Puzzle feeder-

A type of enrichment that forces the animal to make an effort to get their food, normally by moving around plastic pieces or twisting something.


Stands for Species Survival Plan, which is an internationally organized breeding program run by the AZA.


AZA stands for Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Only accredited zoos are considered to be held to the highest standards. There is a European version as well.


American Association of Zoo Keepers. There is normally a chapter at each zoo and they will meet up to have talks given by keepers on new techniques. Basically its a community to encourage everyone to constantly know the newest information around the zoos.

crate baiting-

You place a treat in a crate to get an animal to go inside of it.

Positive reinforcement training-

The only approved type of training at zoos. This means that there is no punishment, but there is no reward if the asked behavior is not preformed. Normally the animal is ignored for five seconds and then asked again.


Moving an animal from one enclosure to another.


The signal that tells an animal to do a behavior. It could be visual or auditory.


For large or dangerous animals they are knocked down for medical procedures. Meaning that they were knock unconscious with the use of drugs.


A postmortem for a human it is called an autopsy, for an animal it is called a necropsy.


A command that tells an animal to be in a specifically predetermined place.

Binturong Popcorn-

After giving some attention to a biturong, or a malaysian bear-cat (related ot neither the bear or the cat) you will smell like binturong popcorn. This is because they will normally rub all over you to scent mark you and they happen to smell like freshly popped (if slightly dirty) popcorn! It is a very distinctive smell.


Stands for Bird of prey. You can talk about a BOP run, or an area with a lot of BOP, or BOP meat which is ground meat specifically for BOP. At the zoo I worked at in Florida, it got started because that is how the meat came labeled.



3 thoughts on “You know you’re a zookeeper when…”

  1. Hi, it would have been nice to contact european zookeepers too…to have an idea of what is done on the other side of the atlantic…and the different associations…

    1. Well when I posted the question on the zookeepers page I got a lot of responses, I didn’t ask who was from where, but there are plenty of European keepers on the page, so you never know, some could be from other zoos! But also because this was a school assignment and not originally constructed for this blog, it was focused more on my experiences, so that is where the definitions came from.

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