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The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is a nonprofit, accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, ensuring the highest standards of all aspects of animal care, education, conservation, public service, and operations. The Zoo is active in conservation research, habitat protection, breeding programs and education initiatives around the world, as well as in its own community. The Zoo has been a top attraction in the Palm Springs area for more than 50 years.

Animal Care Keeper - Wildlife Programs

The Living Desert is seeking a qualified individual to join our Animal Care Team as an Animal Care Keeper-Wildlife Programs.  This individual will work in a dynamic and innovative team to accomplish on and off-site programming goals.  This is a key performance position that requires an outgoing, creative, confident, self-motivated team player who is willing to make a significant commitment to the organization.  We are looking for an individual with enthusiasm, strong guest engagement skills, energetic stage presence, and the ability to work in a fast-paced labor-intensive environment.  This individual must value fun and have prior experience handling and training animal ambassadors.

The Animal Care team is expected to support the Zoo in its mission “to support desert conservation through preservation, education and appreciation.”  This position will help the Zoo achieve a forward-thinking vision of a modern zoo and inclusive culture.  This person must have the ability to make good decisions regarding the welfare of animals, staff and guests while working for the greater good of the zoo.  This person must be a cooperative and collaborative team member with a great guest service attitude. 

Position Summary:

Reports to Animal Care Curator.  This position will be focused in the Wildlife Programs section of the zoo.  This section is comprised of a variety of birds, mammals, and reptiles. Candidates with previous animal ambassador training and stage show experience are of value. Wildlife Programs keepers demonstrate exceptional public speaking and performance skills to conduct both formal and informal presentations, including scripted amphitheater shows, outreach programs, and private events.  This is a key guest interactive position that requires creativity and confidence.  Strong communication, flexibility, problem solving, and self-motivation are also necessary skills for this position. Wildlife Programs keepers work together as a strong connected team to deliver uncompromising excellence in animal care, welfare, and guest engagement. 

Specific responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Must represent The Living Desert in a professional manner, and act as a role model at all times
  • Strong observational and communication skills with the ability to accurately report daily information to management and team utilizing all forms--written, oral, and computer programs
  • Ability to work with others in a team setting, while maintaining a safe, positive, and productive working environment
  • Participates in the daily behavioral husbandry, operant conditioning, and enriching experiences for the ambassador animal collection
  • Performance in daily shows and presentations, both on and off site
  • Participates in script writing and stage design for show and programming productions
  • Application of operant conditioning techniques to accomplish behavior and program goals
  • Ability to use critical thinking skills to trouble shoot issues and reveal solutions to move the team forward 
  • Excellent guest service and communication skills for effective and engaging public presentations
  • Daily cleaning of animal habitats, service areas, holding units, and support areas utilizing various tools, instruments, disinfectants; and with the ability to do so safely 
  • Diet preparation, feeding, medicating, and restocking of supplies as needed and as prescribed
  • Keep accurate and detailed records of daily observations of area collection animals containing information regarding behavior, diet intake, fecal output, health, weight, breeding, aggression, enriching experiences, training progress, medical treatments, etc.
  • General maintenance and repair of habitats, service areas, and holding units such as: mesh repair, decoration, mister system, shade cloth, netting, fill holes etc.  
  • Complete monthly containment checks
  • Attend and participate in team meetings to discuss the needs of the animal collection and animal staff, resolve challenges, and learn new procedures and policies
  • Familiar with AZA and USDA regulations and comply with them
  • Ability to remain calm and professional in the event of an emergency or unpredictable situation and follow through until situation is over

Experience Required

Minimum Qualifications: • AA, AS or higher degree in Zoology, Biology, Animal Science, or other related degree or equivalent of at least two years of exotic animal care experience. Bachelor’s degree preferred • Preference given to candidates with formal presentation/show and animal training experience • Will substitute training and experience that provides the required knowledge, skill, and abilities. Generally, one year of full-time exotic animal experience will translate to one year of college • Valid California driver’s license • Must be insurable on The Living Desert’s automobile policy Working Conditions: • Standing, walking, twisting, climbing, crawling, kneeling, reaching motions, lifting (up to 50#) • Exposure to extreme heat, chemicals, and dust/airborne materials • Works with potentially dangerous animals (large ungulates, carnivores, venomous reptiles) • Holiday, evening, weekend work required. Available on as needed basis for emergencies and events.


Paid Time Off (PTO) is accrued at a rate of .769 days per pay period which is equivalent to twenty (20) days on an annual basis. In addition to PTO you will receive seven (7) paid sick days on an annual basis. Your paid sick time for your first year will be pro-rated from your date of hire and then earned every July 1st thereafter. The Living Desert offers to its employees: Health, Dental, Vision and Life Insurance that is either paid in full or significantly subsidized by the organization. We also offer voluntary Life Insurance, Short Term Disability Insurance and Flexible Spending Accounts. You are eligible to participate in our insurance programs the first day of the month following thirty days of employment. We also offer a 401(k) Plan to our eligible employees. You are eligible to participate in this plan after six months of employment here. A one-time annual discretionary match may be available to you on the last day of the fiscal year and paid after that time in the same calendar year.



How to Apply

To apply for this position: Qualified applicants must send resume, three (3) references and cover letter to Renee Barnett, Animal Care Curator at  Cover letter should include how you will be key in moving the Animal Department forward and how you will move The Living Desert mission forward. Position will remain open until filled.

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
47900 Portola Ave
Palm Desert, CA 92260
Phone: 760-346-5694
Fax: 760-568-4842

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