The conservationists of ZAA-accredited zoos and aquariums


ZAA-accredited zoos and aquariums are made up of passionate conservationists who contribute to conservation and environmental sustainability efforts through many and varied approaches.

They put their hearts into conservation and positive animal welfare, striving to make a meaningful difference through wildlife hospitals, breeding programs, partnerships, conservation research, education initiatives, visitor engagement, environmental sustainability work, behaviour-change campaigns and fieldwork in the wild.

With International Zookeeper Day coming up on the 4th of October, we want to introduce you to some of the incredible keepers from ZAA-accredited zoos and aquariums.



Auckland Zoo - Odin Neil, Keeper Elephants and Seals (kekeno)

Auckland, New Zealand


About helping sea lions in the wild, Odin says: “I really enjoy it, just getting the opportunity to do something that is directly helping the most endangered sea lion in the world. Working with wildlife, when you know you’re doing something of value for a species, it’s rewarding, valuable, and you feel a great sense of achievement.”


Odin wanted to be a zookeeper since he was a toddler. By three years old, he’d already befriended everything from toads and snakes, to cows, insects and even ferrets in the family’s hayshed. He says he can’t remember a time when he wasn’t fascinated by animals, and after 10 years at Auckland Zoo says he is still living his “dream job”.

For the past five years, he’s been part of a talented team of conservationists that visit Stewart Island every year to tag rāpoka, the most endangered sea lion in the world. It’s the skills he’s learnt working with the rescued fur seals we have at Auckland Zoo that enable Odin to help these marine mammals in the wild. This tagging work is vital to informing how to better protect their habitat against threats.

Odin is super generous in sharing his knowledge and skills (he’s helped train DOC staff in Auckland in how to work with seals – a species can present on our shores and may have to be handled as part of assisting them).  As a lover of the sea and a surfer, he’s always appreciated marine life. “I see fur seals out surfing and it’s just automatic for me to pick up rubbish at the beach.” VIDEO:  We’re giving sea lions a fighting chance, featuring Odin Neil



Brooklands Zoo - Maxine Jenkins, Exotic Mammal Keeper

New Plymouth, New Zealand


"There aren't many jobs where every day you get to make a difference to the world we leave for the next generation. Whether it's ensuring the best welfare for the animals in our care, educating our visitors on simple ways they can reduce their impact on the environment or helping rehabilitate injured native wildlife for release, I still wake up excited to go to work every day."


Maxine is very passionate about and committed to her role as an animal keeper and she is always keen to share her knowledge and enthusiasm with our visitors.

She excels in animal training, something that truly helps to enhance the day-to-day welfare of our animals. Brooklands Zoo are currently able to weigh all the exotic mammals regularly through scale training alone.

She is also dedicated to conservation and helping species further afield, and this year shaved her head to raise funds for Proyecto Titi. Dedication indeed!



Caversham Wildlife Park - Cassie Bell, Bird Keeper

WA, Australia


“I love my job and am forever grateful for having the opportunity to work with animals I’ve always wanted to get close to, such as penguins and cassowaries, but also animals I never would have thought about, but are now among my favourites, such as bustards and fruit pigeons. My favourite part of the job is getting the opportunity to hand rear animals at home.”


The team at Caversham Wildlife Park are a big fans of all of their keepers, so choosing just one to feature was an impossible task. So, we put it to the keepers to vote and Cassie was nominated by her colleagues!

She is well known for her passion for ALL of the animals in their population and is always striving to gain as much knowledge as she can. She is a fantastic mentor to the newer keepers in the team.



Hartley's Crocodile Adventures - Emma Delarue, Mammal Supervisor

QLD, Australia


“Working with animals is a very rewarding job. I get to share my passion with customers every day and help promote a positive relationship with people and wildlife through conservation and education.”


Emma is a Senior Keeper at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures who has been with the organisation for five years. She is a very well respected and hard-working member of the team, who is exceptionally passionate about conservation both in and outside the workplace.



Kuranda Koala Gardens - Bridie Coupland, Assistant Manager

QLD, Australia


“Every day is different, and you never stop learning about the animals.”


Bridie is one of our most creative keepers when it comes to problem-solving, which comes in hand in many different ways when working for an organisation that works with animals. She is always willing to get dirty and lend a hand whenever it’s required.

Bridie is also great at coming up with ways to keep our keepers motivated and engaged.



Monarto Safari Park - Jaimee Button, Carnivore Keeper

SA, Australia


“Being a zookeeper isn’t just a job – it’s a passion! Every day I consider myself lucky to work closely with such amazing animals and to be surrounded by likeminded, passionate work colleagues and to actually get to call this my occupation. No two days at Monarto Safari Park are the same – they’re always unique and exciting. Watching and learning from the animals you work with closely is a pleasure. I excitedly jump out of bed every morning to get ready for work  - it’s such a pleasure working here.“


Jaimee is a very level-headed keeper. She is calm, organised and can be always relied upon. She displays Zoos SA’s values and leads by example in everything she does.

Jaimee has worked with a range of roles and taxa at both Adelaide Zoo and Monarto Safari Park and has also been a valuable mentor to new keeping staff.

“It’s unfortunate that many wild animals now face tremendous danger in the wild, however, this gives me even more motivation to be their voice, to make a difference and to educate others. I work closely with the Spotted Hyena and love being able to educate and show how incredible this species is; they are often misunderstood with most people’s impressions coming from the Lion King movie.”  



Oakvale Wildlife Park - Angus Hobbs-haigh, Wildlife Keeper

NSW, Australia


“Growing up on a rural property I was lucky enough to experience wildlife every day of my childhood, so when it came time to decide on a career what could be better than to work outside with the beautiful wildlife I remember from growing up.

This industry teaches you so much and not only have I gotten to work with animals and contribute to their conservation but I have been privileged enough to educate others and further my own knowledge along the way. I can’t think of anything better than to work outdoors in a job where every day is something new you never live the same day twice.”


Angus is a charismatic and knowledgeable keeper. He is always a great team player who collaborates well with the team to achieve our goals.



Parc Zoologique et Forestier Michael Corbasson - Beatrice, Wildlife Keeper

Noumea, New Caledonia


“Being so close to our animals is a privilege. Taking care of them, making them feel the best possible, and even cuddling some of them, although they are wild animals is everything I ever dreamt of. Even in difficult moments, when they are sick or pass away, I’m still very passionate about this job after all these years working at the zoo.”


Bea likes sharing her passion about animals with everyone. She’s also a bit of a geek, so she has a really nice selfie collection, which helps to illustrate all this, plus she was in her day off and was the first one to volunteer.



Port Moresby Nature Park - Emma Oliver, Keeper

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea


“I like working with native wildlife of Papua New Guinea because each individual animal has their own personality. There is no better job than being an Animal Keeper. I have always had the passion and love for native wildlife and working here at the Port Moresby Nature Park has given me the opportunity to get to know the animals better and how best I can care for them on a daily basis.”


Emma cares for the animals in the off display and research areas of the park. This includes supervising the head-start program for the Pig-nosed turtles. She provides daily husbandry on the animals in her area making sure that their welfare is taken care of. Emma recently returned 15 pig-nosed turtles back to their origin in the wild as part of the head-start program, the first time an animal has been successfully returned back to the wild in PNG

Emma has the passion for the job and a keen interest in developing herself in the sector. She is dedicated and always willing to learn and has been involved in and has an interest in research, particularly the head-start program for Pig-nosed turtles.



Territory Wildlife Park - April Stubbs, Keeper Woodlands/Nocturnal House

NT, Australia


April is coordinating Territory Wildlife Park’s black-footed tree rat breeding program. She is a real team player and enjoys sharing her zoo keeping knowledge with other staff, rescue organisations and other interest groups.

April is an enthusiastic wildlife educator, and has fantastic interpersonal skills that allows her to interact with the public and convey the Park’s conservation messages.



Wildlife Reserves Singapore - Sandra Dewi Binti Nur Muhamad, River Safari Aquarist



“I feel like I have my dream job – a role that allows me to grow my passion and interest in wild animals. The chance to work with endangered and iconic species, being a part of their lives and watching them grow up happy and healthy is an awesome feeling that is deeply satisfying!

One of the most rewarding aspects of the job is bonding with the animals through all the conditioning training sessions we conduct. That’s when I feel truly connected to nature and my animals. “


Sandra is a dedicated and conscientious worker. For example, she started conditioning training on a regular basis for Saan, the giant freshwater stingray starting November 2018. Her perseverance paid off by March 2019, when the first successful ultrasound was conducted, and vets were able to view Saan’s kidney and liver.

This team player has excellent interpersonal skills and interacts well with her colleagues. When her section head is not around, Sandra is always the one who takes it upon herself to ensure things in the section are taken care of.

Sandra is enthusiastic, competent and never misses deadlines, making her a reliable worker and one who can be depended on. She is also willing to take up new challenges and takes great pride in her job.



National Zoo and Aquarium Canberra - Danielle Johinke, Senior Wildlife Keeper and Head of Australian Natives

ACT, Australia


“I love my job because no two days are ever the same! I love that a single day can include feeding and looking after my animals, creating enrichment puzzles for them to solve, redesigning enclosures for them to explore and passing on the passion for animal conservation.”


Danielle (DJ) is a passionate Wildlife Keeper and although she is Head of Australian Natives which keeps her very busy, she is always wanting to grow her skillset and learn other keeper rounds! She is currently learning how to care for some of our large carnivores! 

DJ was one a founder of the National Zoo & Aquarium’s Green Team and has since become the Sustainability Coordinator. She introduced our water minimisation management initiative by putting flow metres on majority of the taps used around with Zoo within enclosures. This has decreased our water usage as keepers and other users of the taps are now aware of exactly how much water they are using and are responsible for it. DJ also introduced quarterly “clean up days” inside and outside of the Zoo and represented the NZA in Singapore for a sustainability conference.

DJ is the Secretary of the National Zoo & Aquarium’s Conservation Team (NZACT) and has been a vital part of all meetings, cementing processes and with the preparation of fundraising events.



Australian Reptile Park - Dean Reid, Head Mammal Keeper

NSW, Australia


When you love what you do, it isn’t work!”


Dean Reid is the Head Mammal Keeper at the Australian Reptile Park. He’s an incredibly dedicated keeper and has so much love for both the animals in his care and the team that he manages.

He has successfully hand raised 35 baby animals, including kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, wallabies, wombats, koalas, cockatoos and Eastern quolls.

Dean’s passion for Australian wildlife is infectious and is an inspiration for the whole team at the Australian Reptile Park!



Bunbury Wildlife Park - Bec Kop, Trainee Wildlife Park Keeper

WA, Australia


“No day is ever the same. I am constantly challenged to take on the unexpected and this is a really enjoyable part of my role. Being creative to ensure the animals are happy and ensuring exceptional standards of animal welfare is kept is an extremely satisfying and pleasing part of my job. The animal cuddles aren’t bad either!”


Bec is an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and fantastically positive member of the small but dedicated team of keepers at the Bunbury Wildlife Park. She was successful in applying for the traineeship role which incorporates the Cert IV Captive Animal Management certification for over 400 other applicants, having already attained a degree in Conservation and Wildlife Biology. Her ability to combine a full-time job and a demanding study schedule is to be applauded.

Her dedication to positive animal welfare, coming up with clever ideas for the enrichment program for our animals and ensuring their needs are met 100% of the time is second to none!



Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary - Chris Halliwell, Reptile Keeper

QLD, Australia


“I love my job because I leave work with a smile every day. Not only do I get the opportunity to educate a child, a family or an international visitor about our amazing animals, I also get to feed my fascination of reptiles and dedication for conservation.  I love that I have the opportunity to make a difference beside so many like-minded passionate people and that is the reason why I love getting up and going to work!  Happy International Zoo Keeper day to all keepers working for the same goal!”


Chris has infectious happiness and enthusiasm in his work at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. He is always full of ideas and looking for ways to make improvements to the organisation and improve his own skills and knowledge.

He’s very resilient. When his ideas are not possible to implement, he always takes it in his stride – nothing gets him down!



Kiwi Birdlife Park - Christina Becker-Fifield, Wildlife Keeper

Queenstown, New Zealand


“I love working at the Kiwi Birdlife Park. Working with a variety of native species for important conservation programmes, engaging with the public about how they can help the fauna and flora here, and releasing animals into the wild knowing they are now better off…I mean, what an incredible place to work!"

Christina is a dedicated and passionate member of staff who’s been with Kiwi Birdlife Park for three years. Adaptable, kind and compassionate, Chrissy is a vital part of the team who is in charge of the volunteer program and training new staff.

She finished her Master’s Degree in wildlife conservation and completed her thesis on New Zealand's Kea and has been heavily involved with our kea conservation work, including our rehabilitation work with injured kea!

She is upbeat, kind, passionate and loves working with the team for the betterment of our native wildlife. 



Maru Koala and Animal Park - Elysha West, Animal Park Manager

VIC, Australia


“This job allows me to share my passion for wildlife and forge a connection between the animals I care for and our visitors with the intent of educating them on ways they can help in conservation of animals.”


Elysha is a passionate and hardworking team member that we have enjoyed watching and supporting her growth and development from a park keeper, to a senior keeper and now our Animal Park Manager. 

She is dedicated to educating our visitors about the animals she cares for here at Maru and through that education portrays her passion for conservation. She goes above and beyond for her team in her role of Animal Park Manager.



Moonlit Sanctuary - Caitlin Ondracek, Koala and Mammal Keeper

VIC, Australia


“I love the connections I make! Not only with our animals, seeing them respond positively to enrichment and training, but with visitors, seeing them light up with joy and inspiration from the close encounters with wildlife I help them to experience.”


Caitlin contributes to many teams at Moonlit Sanctuary, she works mainly with our Koala and Mammal departments but is also an integral part of our record keeping team. Her compassion for her fellow keepers and animals is inspiring.

We love this photo of Caitlin and Banjo together. They have been working closely together since Banjo was born in 2018 and you can see in this picture the close connection they have.



Orana Wildlife Park - Catherine Roughton, Assistant Manager Native Fauna and Domestic Animals

Christchurch, New Zealand


”I enjoy the diversity of work from day-to-day care of a wide range of native fauna, the strong advocacy focus educating visitors through daily presentations on ways they can support native fauna conservation efforts as well as tasks such as animal records, collection planning and overseeing the team. The highlight of my role is being directly involved in conservation efforts for native fauna, particularly our breed for release work with local species such as South Island whio (blue duck) and orange-fronted kakariki a species mainly restricted to Canterbury.”


Cat is absolutely passionate about New Zealand native wildlife and has a particular affinity for reptiles. She enjoys advocating for all animals especially the ‘underdog or perceived less charismatic’, some of which are key breed for release species for the zoo.

Cat is a senior member of our Animal Management Team but is heavily involved in day-to-day husbandry of our native fauna collection.

She is a highly skilled native fauna practitioner particularly with regards to incubation. Her skillset is an important ingredient in Orana’s conservation efforts – the zoo breeds whio, pateke, orange-fronted kakariki for release to the wild and is involved in the captive component of the kiwi programme.



Perth Zoo - Kerry Pickles, Australian Fauna Zoo Keeper

WA, Australia


“Every day I work with a range of species, expanding my knowledge and appreciation of wildlife thanks to the range of diverse duties I get to do every day at Perth Zoo. This could be observing western ground parrots to learn about these cryptic animals, helping build knowledge about them whilst creating optimal conditions to support breeding to help save them from extinction, through to undertaking exhibit refurbishments, landscaping projects, providing behavioural enrichment activities and developing husbandry documents.

Developing conditioning programs for the Komodo Dragon and Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo is a favourite aspect of my job, allowing animals increased choice and control to facilitate their own husbandry and veterinary requirements, which often results in increased positive experiences and welfare. I find it so rewarding when a training goal is achieved that prevents the need for a stressful animal and human interactions.

Working with a variety of animals I learn new skills and thrive on making a positive difference to the health and welfare of animals I look after.  I'm also a qualified educator which is invaluable when speaking with visitors about the valuable role of zoos, conservation and the animals I’m passionate about. And I hope that each day, I help create memorable connections for visitors which spark a passion in children and adults to become advocates for wildlife.”


Kerry is a passionate and dedicated Technical Officer at Perth Zoo (Zoo Keeper). She is a standout staff member, who is committed to the animals in her care and exceeding animal welfare standards. Kerry also understands that creating connections between zoo guests and wildlife is fundamental to conservation success and can often be seen sharing her knowledge and talking with visitors, inspiring them to join us on our saving wildlife journey. She is a true wildlife advocate.



Taronga Zoo Sydney - Michael McFadden, Unit Supervisor Herpetofauna

NSW, Australia


“I like my job because we are in the unique position to work with some of the world’s most critically endangered species, secure them in conservation breeding programs and then undertake reintroductions and recovery efforts to establish the species back in the wild.”


Michael has worked within Taronga for over 16 years, he currently oversees the majority of reptiles and amphibians held at Taronga Zoo Sydney as well as the passionate and dedicated keepers that care for them on a day to day basis.

Michael and his team have played a leading role in some of the region’s conservation success stories with critically endangered species such as southern corroboree frog, Bellinger river turtle, yellow-spotted bell frog & Lister’s gecko.

On National Threatened Species Day this year Taronga, in conjunction with Parks Australia released Blue-tailed Skinks onto Cocos (Keelings) Island. The species was last seen in the wild on Christmas Island in 2000. Michael’s team maintains an insurance population off-display at Taronga Zoo Sydney.



Wellington Zoo - Kaitlyn Manu, Carnivores Keeper

Wellington, New Zealand


“We have an incredibly supportive team of professionals at Wellington Zoo who are passionate, motivating and full of knowledge. Their love for the animals, the environment and sharing conservation messages with our visitors is infectious and inspires me every day.”

“I also love that Wellington Zoo focuses so heavily on conservation and sustainability, which is the main reason why I became a keeper in the first place. From the incredible work that happens in The Nest Te Kōhanga (our animal hospital) every day with our New Zealand native wildlife, to the opportunities for staff to participate in local and overseas conservation projects on a regular basis, I know that the work we are doing here is substantial and is making a difference.”

“And of course, I love the incredible animals that I have the opportunity to work alongside with. We have some very special individuals and species on the Carnivores Team, included Sasa the Sun Bear and the gorgeous Caracal sisters, Tinka and Jasiri. I have also discovered my love for Tasmanian Devils since becoming a Keeper at Wellington Zoo, and feel so fortunate to work and train with such an interesting and wonderful species.”



Willowbank Wildlife Reserve - Bethany Brett, Kiwi Husbandry Officer

Christchurch, New Zealand


“My job allows me to experience different facets of kiwi work. There’s the brown kiwi living on site who are part of the captive breeding programme and promote conservation by inspiring our park’s visitors.

Through the Operation Nest Egg programme, I work with DOC and community groups to support the rowi, haast tokoeka, and great spotted kiwi populations. On top of this, I get to work with an awesome team in a beautiful part of Christchurch.”



Beth is a very dedicated staff member and is a passionate conservationist.  Her role with kiwi has incredible highs and lows, which Beth tackles with an amazing calmness and positivity.  She challenges herself and over the years has worked hard on her professional development, absorbing knowledge and learning experiences from others.  She is now one of the most experienced kiwi keepers in NZ, working with multiple kiwi species in the South Island.