Meet the Keeper: Melissa McCartney, Primary Keeper for Ungulates at the Sacramento Zoo

Describe your job:  Within my institution I work daily on the care, enrichment, and operant conditioning of the Zoo’s collection of hoofstock, macropods and ratites. That includes developing and preparing diets, cleaning and maintaining enclosures, training the animals to voluntarily participate in their own medical and husbandry care, educating guests and providing enrichment to stimulate the animals. Within AZA, I serve as a studbook keeper and Species Survival Plan® (SSP) manager for the sub-Saharan Oryx. I track all the captive members of this species and help make breeding recommendations and find suitable homes within AZA accredited facilities.

How long have you been in the position? I have been a keeper at Sacramento for over three years and a zookeeper in general for almost ten.

What in your background helped you get the job? A willingness to work hard! Education is important in any field, but what makes a good zookeeper is getting out there and volunteering while in school. I worked three-to-five days a week at a zoo as an unpaid apprentice to learn the hand’s-on skills I needed while I was getting an education. And I try to keep up with the changes in my field by attending conferences and workshops, communicating with other zoo professionals, traveling to other facilities and participating in conservation and research.

What’s your favorite thing about the job? Being outside all day with my animals. It is a lot of hard, dirty work but I see the payoff immediately. And it has allowed me to be involved with conservation for animals in the wild.

Describe a favorite memory/experience in your current position: We recently completed a new state-of-the-art giraffe facility and going through our first winter in the new barn was also the first winter our giraffes had heat and cushioned floors. They clearly enjoy being in their new home, and I rest easier knowing that the animals are warm and content even on the coldest of nights.

Do you have a favorite animal? Why is it your favorite? Even though I could never imagine working away from hoofstock, years ago I got to work with giant anteaters. They were my favorites when I was young, and it was a dream come true. They look so odd and their personalities are a bit crazy, but they are magnificent. Here at Sacramento, I sneak over to visit our two giant anteaters whenever I can. And we recently started caring for tamaduas as well – anteaters are so unique they remain in my top five to this day.

Tim Lewthwaite

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One Response to Meet the Keeper: Melissa McCartney, Primary Keeper for Ungulates at the Sacramento Zoo

  1. We have been to your zoo twice (I am a docent at Cameron Park Zoo, Waco, Tx). We & our grandchildren love your zoo. You are truly doing a great job. Suzanne

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