Cathy Eser cares for a red fox at the Staten Island Zoo. (Brian Driscoll)
From taking care of baby animals to overseeing the handling of venomous snakes, Cathy Eser, supervisor of menagerie at the Staten Island Zoo, never has a dull moment.
Eser, 38, is on the go from the moment she punches in at 8 a.m., making sure the zoo is running smoothly for visitors and the animals who live there.
As supervisor of menagerie, Eser sets up feeding schedules and checks in on the animals. She makes decisions about how to care for “red flag” animals, which may be sick or not socializing well. She also plans exhibitions and helps select new animals for the zoo.
Getting a zoo job
Eser said interning and volunteering are great ways to get into the zoo business, or even get a job at that particular zoo.
“Just like in any business, we are more likely to hire people we are familiar with,” she said.
Eser herself worked as a zoo keeper before being promoted to supervisor of menagerie.
The Staten Island Zoo hires both seasonal zookeepers, who are paid by the hour, as well as salaried, union zookeepers, who receive city employee health benefits.
Starting salaries for zookeepers in the New York area are generally around $35,000. Hourly wages start at about $8.
Zoos in other places around the country tend to pay less, Eser said.
What you’ll need
Eser, who received her undergraduate degree in zoology from Rutgers University, said it’s important to have a background in a similar science-related field.
“Just because someone really loves animals, doesn’t mean they should neglect their education,” she said.
Continued professional development is important as well, Eser said. She’ll often attend international conferences to keep current on animal issues, and tap into online networks of animal scientists in zoos.
“It’s really a community of scientists in these living museums,” Eser said. “We set up displays that are attractive to the public, but need to be professional and scientific as well.”