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Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo

Lead Keeper, Fragile Kingdom

“Enter a land where the ancient forest – magnificent and mysterious – dominates all life.”  Whether entering the Desert or the Clouded Leopard Rain Forest, visit some of our small mammals, reptiles and more!  With the treetop tunnels running overhead, take a quiet walk through either side.  From the fishing cat and rock hyrax to the Moholi bushbaby; the meerkats and binturongs to the naked mole-rats; the caracal, African crested porcupine, and the Prevost’s squirrels; and the mossy and yellow spotted climbing toads, this is all part of our Fragile Kingdom.

The Chicago Zoological Society's Brookfield Zoo is known throughout the world as a leader in animal welfare and conservation and has an exciting, fast-paced work environment and family friendly atmosphere.  Since the opening of Brookfield Zoo in 1934, the Society has had an international reputation for taking a cutting-edge role in animal care and conservation of the natural world.  We provide state-of-the-art care to thousands of animals representing over 500 species, and we are very customer focused as we host over 2 million guests each year.  The success of the Chicago Zoological Society’s mission depends on our ability to inspire people to become conservation leaders.  Our dedicated staff has a true sense of purpose and a strong commitment to animals and conservation. We take PRIDE in every aspect of our operation, and our employees enjoy a work environment that is based on respect, openness, cooperation and involvement. Brookfield Zoo is a portal to nature: a place for knowledge, inspiration, and spiritual introspection; a place for families to have fun that leads to education, awareness, caring, and action.  Dedicated staff also assist in contributing to the success of the Chicago Zoological Society’s mission and vision every day. 

The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature.

The Lead Keeper, Carnivores 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 successful candidate will be expected to: 

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.  Train and direct work of interns, seasonal employees, and full-time keeper staff as assigned.  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.  Handle personnel situations in a timely, objective, and consistent manner and in accordance with Society policies and the union contract.

            Observe assigned animals closely and objectively.  Apply knowledge and prior experiences to affect or implement change where appropriate.  Maintain and utilize animal records.  Maintain detailed and current knowledge of natural history, husbandry, and captive management of species and individuals in assigned areas.  Responsible for current animal and equipment inventory.  Verify employee work schedules. Provide written reports as assigned.  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. 

            Maintain proficiency in area routines and specialized procedures.  Order, prepare, and distribute food to animal areas as required. Clean animal enclosures, pools, and service areas as required. 

            Communicate with and assist guests.  Take initiative to facilitate guests’ appreciation of animals and enjoyment of their visit.  Monitor guests to ensure animal and human safety and protection of Society property. 

            Ensure compliance with all Society policies and procedures.  Demonstrate knowledge of and implement Society-wide and area emergency procedures as directed.  

The requirements for the position include:

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 large and/or small carnivores highly 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.  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. 

Must possess a track record of exemplary performance as a supervisory keeper or have equivalent, relevant experience.  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.

            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.  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 work with minimal supervision. 

            Must be knowledgeable in the management of captive populations including related AZA conservation programs.  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. Incumbent must demonstrate proficiency in perceiving and acting upon relevant changes in animal behaviors and conditions.  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.

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.  Good time management skills.  Must demonstrate flexibility, creativity, and responsibility in use of time.  Must be reliable.  Ability and willingness to learn Society conservation programs as they apply to assigned areas.  Must be able to maintain confidentiality with regard to personnel and other privileged matters.

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. 

$28.95 per hour is the union rate for this position.

The Chicago Zoological Society is an Equal Opportunity Employer / 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  Please look for requisition number 1326BR.

How to Apply

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 Please look for requisition number 1326BR.

Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo
3300 Golf Road
Brookfield, IL 60513
Phone: 708-688-8400
Fax: 708-688-8930

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