Lead Keeper, Children's Zoo/Hamill Family Play Zoo

Organization: Chicago Zoological Society - Brookfield Zoo (AZA Member)
Location: Brookfield, IL, Country
Job or Internship: Job

The Lead Keeper, Children’s Zoo/Hamill Family Play Zoo contributes to the success of the Chicago Zoological Society by providing experienced care for animals and performing related work of maintaining buildings, grounds, and interpretives in assigned area, under the direction of area managers or supervisors. Perform a wide variety of departmental supervisory activities, including supervising and instructing Keepers in assigned area and to support innovations in Conservation Leadership and Animal Welfare. Relieve other Lead Keepers as directed. Perform all routine duties independently and new duties with minimal direction.

The Children’s Zoo supervisor(s) will be involved with the revamping of the Children’s Zoo area. They will be part of the “ground floor” planning of an exciting new encounter area as well as being highly involved with the training of staff and program animals for guest and special events.


Perform in a proactive leadership role and communicate regularly with area supervisors/managers regarding animal management, facility maintenance, and staff supervision and development. Assist in departmental hiring, scheduling, and work assignments, and the development of departmental goals and plans. Establish work priorities for the department. Routinely monitor and review the work performance of keeper staff in assigned area, and ensure completion of tasks in a timely and effective fashion. Prepare and conduct performance appraisals as assigned. Responsible for current animal and equipment inventory. Verify employee work schedules. Provide written reports as assigned. Handle personnel situations in a timely, objective, and consistent manner and in accordance with Society policies and the union contract. Order, prepare, and distribute food to animal areas as required. Ensure compliance with all Society policies and procedures. Observe assigned animals closely and objectively. Apply knowledge and prior experiences to affect or implement change where appropriate. Maintain and utilize animal records. Observe condition of assigned area(s), animal enclosures, and equipment. Monitor and clean public space(s), plants, and interpretives as required. Report maintenance needs as appropriate, and perform minor maintenance tasks. Clean animal enclosures, pools, and service areas as required. Maintain detailed and current knowledge of natural history, husbandry, and captive management of species and individuals in assigned areas. Maintain proficiency in area routines and specialized procedures. Monitor guests to ensure animal and human safety and protection of Society property. Communicate with and assist guests. Take initiative to facilitate guests’ appreciation of animals and enjoyment of their visit. Demonstrate knowledge of and implement Society-wide and area emergency procedures as directed. Train and direct work of interns, seasonal employees, and full-time keeper staff as assigned. Other related duties as assigned.

Bachelor's degree in relevant biological field or equivalent combination of training and experience required. Minimum 4 years Keeper experience or equivalent required. Experience with native North American and/or farm animals preferred; strong operant conditioning skills a plus. Additional qualifications and experience may be preferred or required depending upon the specific animals and work area where the keeper will be working. Generally, previous work experience with assigned taxa will be preferred. Detailed and current knowledge of natural history and principles of animal behavior and husbandry required. Must be able to work with live animals safely. Incumbent must demonstrate proficiency in perceiving and acting upon relevant changes in animal behaviors and conditions. Must be knowledgeable in the management of captive populations including related AZA conservation programs.

Must possess a track record of exemplary performance as a supervisory keeper or have equivalent, relevant experience. Strong supervisory skills. Demonstrated ability to promote good morale and productivity in the workplace. Proven ability to train and direct the work of interns, seasonal employees, and full-time keeper staff. Demonstrated ability to effectively mediate routine personnel issues and conflicts between staff. Must be able to serve in a leadership role in directing the management and operations within assigned area, and ensure short-term goals are developed and achieved. Solicit input on improving operations and animal management procedures. Demonstrated capacity to guide the professional development of co-workers. Must be able to maintain confidentiality with regard to personnel and other privileged matters.

Strong public speaking skills preferred; experience and enjoyment with public speaking skills and public interaction preferred. Good communication and interpersonal skills. The ability to interact in a courteous and professional manner. Must be able to maintain good working relationships with staff at all levels, internal and external to Animal Programs. Must be able to communicate effectively and promptly with co-workers, managers, and guests following appropriate communication channels. Successful candidate will be able to work effectively with children and families.

Ability to work in a fast pace and ever-changing work group preferred. Must be capable of dealing with emergencies calmly and efficiently. Must be proficient in learning and integrating information, knowledge, and direction quickly, and completing tasks as needed. Good decision-making skills. Ability to integrate and apply knowledge and prior experiences to affect or implement changes and make sound independent judgments where appropriate. Good problem-solving skills. Must be able to identify problems and utilize appropriate information to develop solutions. Must possess a track record of demonstrating initiative in analyzing and solving problems, and recommending ideas and viable suggestions to improve operations. Demonstrated record of making recommendations and suggestions that are well thought-out and researched. Must be able to work with minimal supervision.

Good time management skills. Must demonstrate flexibility, creativity, and responsibility in use of time. Ability and willingness to learn Society conservation programs as they apply to assigned areas. Must be reliable. Incumbent must demonstrate the ability to perform assigned routines and specialized procedures as directed. Must possess a proven record of consistently and accurately performing job duties.

Basic computer literacy required. Microsoft Office suite preferred. Experience and/or ability to work and interact effectively with a diverse, multicultural audience. Multilingual ability, Spanish fluency a plus.

Valid driver’s license required. Illinois residents must possess a valid Illinois license within 90 days of hire. Valid out-of-state license required for out-of-state residents.

This is a full-time position with rotating shifts, including weekends, holidays, and evenings.

The Chicago Zoological Society is an Equal Opportunity / Affirmative Action Employer - Minorities/ Women / Veterans / Disabled.

If interested in being considered for this opportunity, please visit the CZS Career Center to obtain more details about the position and to apply by submitting your profile. Please visit our website at www.czs.org/careers. Please look for requisition 336BR.