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Elephant Keeper

Organization: Nashville Zoo (AZA Member)
Location: Nashville, TN, United States
Job or Internship: Job

Under general supervision, employee will perform a wide range of functions in the Elephant Department at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. Primary responsibility is to be able to function safely in a free contact elephant program of the assigned collection of animals; feed, clean; animal exhibits, yards, night enclosures, and contiguous areas; perform light exhibit construction; operate zoo vehicles; maintain integrity of existing landscape. Additionally, employee will be responsible for educating the public through keeper talks and other impromptu educational sessions as well as providing a clean and safe atmosphere for families to enjoy the Nashville Zoo.

Please Note: The Elephant program at the Nashville Zoo, while currently free contact, will be transitioning to a fully protected contact environment over the next 18 months. Qualified candidates should be able to work safely and comfortably in both management styles.

Duties and Responsibilities:

Animal Husbandry

• Prepare food and water for collection animals by cutting and measuring diet portions

• Feed collection of elephants

• Monitor assigned animals closely with regard to general appearance, diet consumption levels, condition of fecal matter, etc.

• Maintain feed intake records

• Maintain a keeper log book

• Record daily observations pertaining to the health and behavior of Elephant Department animals on a Daily Report to be submitted to the Elephant Manager

• Clean animal exhibits, yards, pools, night enclosures, and service areas

• Participate in capturing, incapacitating, and moving animals

• Assists Veterinarian staff in the treatment of collection animals

• Provide exhibit security and take appropriate actions to prevent vandalism and maltreatment of animals and facilities by the public.


• Clean and disinfect utensils, work tools, and containers

• Maintain plant life in and around enclosures

• Perform minor or routine maintenance of enclosures and report all other maintenance needs to supervisors

• Operate a variety of light and medium equipment

Public Education

• Participate in daily keeper talks designed to educate about the Elephant Department’s animal collection

• Respond to questions from the public concerning the animals and exhibits

• Model the Zoo’s image and code of professional ethics in words and actions at all times


General knowledge of:

• Knowledge and proven or potential experience to work with elephants in a free contact setting

• Principles and application of Operant Conditioning

• Animal behavior

• Care, feeding, and handling of exotic and domestic animals

• Safety practices around exotic and domestic animals

• Animal biology or zoology or other related field

• Current AZA guidelines and Regulations for elephant management.

Capable of:

• Completely performing the responsibilities outlined in the “Duties and Responsibilities” section

• Monitoring animal behavior and appearance

• Operating motorized vehicles and equipment; applicant must possess a valid driver’s license

• Taking and following work instructions

• Working in a team oriented atmosphere

• Effectively communicating with coworkers and supervisors

• Interacting and communicating with the general public in an appropriate manner

Physical Requirements:

Must be able to work outside year-round under typical Tennessee weather conditions and temperatures for extended periods of time. Must be able to work in uneven terrain with exposure to varying weather conditions, dust, and allergens. Must be able to move about on slippery surfaces, handle toxic and hazardous materials and work in cramped and confined spaces. Must be able to lift and carry materials up to 75 pounds.


This is a unique position requiring a highly skilled keeper. Candidates must demonstrate substantial experience in elephant care (preferably both free and protected-contact) and a strong background in operant conditioning.


Must have a college degree (Associate’s or Bachelor’s) in an applicable field: Animal Science, Biology, Zoology, etc.

Background Check:

Applicants for this position are required to submit to a criminal background check and pass a drug test.

Special Note:

Applicant may be required to work any combination of five days in the seven day workweek including holidays.

Qualified candidates ONLY - please send resume with cover letter to:

Lanny Brown

Ungulate Area Supervisor

Nashville Zoo

3777 Nolensville Pike

Nashville, TN 37211