Celebrating Keepers Week at Turpentine Creek
July 24, 2019
There’s always something to celebrate at the Refuge! This week, we are shifting the spotlight from our brave survivors of the Exotic Pet Trade to the people who care for them in honor of AZA’s National Zoo Keeper Week (July 21-27) and National Intern Day, July 25!
Throughout the week our team members received fun treats to express how much their hard work is appreciated. The team was gifted free movie passes, a lake cookout, a lunch pizza party, a cake, and breakfast treat, all donated by some of our wonderful supporters, team members, and board members, to show the whole TCWR team just how much their dedication means to the Refuge.
This year’s theme for Keeper Week is “Keeping it Real: A Keeper’s Life Beyond the Dirt,” with the goal of educating the public on what animal care professionals really do. On your visit to TCWR, you may see our team of interns and staff biologists wielding shovels and hoses, trudging across the dirt paths with wheelbarrows and food trays to address the needs of our animal residents. It’s clear they work hard to keep our residents healthy, well-fed, and comfortable in clean habitats, but what is their role beyond that? You may also observe the Wildlife Interpreters on our Education Team setting up well-organized tables showcasing biological wildlife models or guiding a group of children through a cute crafts project, but what are they actually accomplishing? And what about the people you don’t see, sitting behind desks with their fingers clicking across keyboards- how are those people even related to the mission?
We like to use Keeper Week to introduce you to all the working parts that keep TCWR functioning. This year’s theme opens up more doors for us to do so. Our animal care team aren’t only the people on pooper-scooper duty; they are well-educated professionals with a commitment to the future of wildlife. In addition to our staff animal care professionals, we have a group of animal care interns that come here to learn how to be the best animal caretakers possible, dedicating their lives to our mission six months at a time. You don’t always see the hours the team spends planning meals according to each animal’s dietary needs, coordinating the appropriate enrichment for each individual resident, monitoring their behaviors to get ahead of any health issues that might crop up, and using this information to create a custom plan that ensures any and every need our Exotic Pet Trade survivors have is met.
Our Wildlife Interpreters are much more than the people brave enough to keep 140 school children engaged and entertained at a time. Beyond their formal education and experiences, they have been certified through the National Association for Interpretation. For them, fall and spring are full of school groups and their summer calendars are dotted with programs, day camps and workshops. They spend winter researching, modifying, and planning their schedule of programs and activities for the coming months, as well as doing off-site presentations and outreach. By spreading education and awareness in creative, engaging, emotionally-charged format, our Interpreters are turning ordinary people into advocates and educators, paving the way to a brighter future for captive and free wildlife, as well as our planet as a whole.
TCWR also has important team members who do not work directly with our animal residents; this includes our maintenance staff, gift shop employees, Lodging Department, Marketing and Events Coordinator, and our Development/Communications Department. Maintenance fosters a safe, pleasant space for our guests while making sure all Refuge vehicles are functioning properly so our animal care team can travel across the hundreds of acres on property to perform their duties. They also partner with animal care to build and maintain habitats. Without them, it would be hard to keep our facility operating at GFAS standards!
Our gift shop employees are on the front lines; they’re the first people you meet when you visit the Refuge. This means beyond selling tickets and merchandise, they are often the first people to introduce our mission to visitors and are step one in creating advocates and ethical tourists. Our Lodging Department draws new supporters to the Refuge and creates a lasting connection with them by providing a top-notch overnight experience (due largely to our housekeeping team who adheres to high standards of cleanliness!). Our Marketing/Events Coordinator along with our Development/Communications Department raise the necessary funds to keep our animal residents in a safe, lifelong home and help communicate our mission while spreading education and awareness to a wider audience.
We would not be where we are without our entire team, as well as the former interns who continue to carry TCWR’s mission in their hearts. Of course, we couldn’t do any of this without you, our honorary “Keepers” who support our animal residents through donations, adoptions, sponsorships, memberships, visits, advocacy, and spreading education and awareness.
Keep on “keeping it real!”