20 Unbelievably Wild Stories from Zookeepers

The depraved dolphin story will haunt you
20 Unbelievably Wild Stories from Zookeepers

Zoos might keep their animals out of the wild, but they definitely don’t take the wild out of their animals. Zookeepers, aquarium workers and conservationists can attest to the fact that things get downright unhinged in their line of work, and we’re not just referring to the time some dolphins killed a seal and wore its skin on their faces. Humans can get pretty savage at the zoo, too — like the visitor who started throwing packages of store-bought meat into the lion enclosure, styrofoam and all. 

To that end, we’ve rounded up some of the wildest things the animal keepers of Reddit have seen or heard on the job. Their stories will definitely make you respect the animal kingdom a little bit more.

koookoookachoo 4y Not really crazy, more amusing. Volunteered at a zoo, preparing the monkeys' and small apes' diets- chopping up mostly fruits, veggies, canned primate diet and insects/mealworms. I was alone in the monkey house one day, chopping away, when I got that feeling that I was being watched. We had a pair of white cheeked gibbons (found in SE Asia), and I looked up to find the female hanging from her branches, with her legs spread in what looked like a cheerleader's split and the male behind her as they mated. Не was busy with the task at hand,
AxelMontiello 4y I worked Visitor Education at the New England Aquarium in Boston for a few years, so close enough. So we had a touch tank called Edge of the Sea like most aquariums. It's full of tide pool animals; crustaceans, a few small flounder, and seastars (not starfish, they aren't fish but echinoderms!) One day, this little kid took a sea star out of the tank, and put it in his pocket. Then he ran away. I was working the exhibit alone. A field trip came right up after the sea star was taken. I quickly grabbed the microphone
wolfonweed 4y Not a zoo keeper, but was a primary zoologist for an environmental learning center I had some nature items on display on a table while I was holding a barn owl, talking about bird buttholes or something. A couple of the objects are fairly valuable in that they are difficult or illegal to acquire; gopher turtle shell, drained vulture egg shell, fox skull. Some kid decides he wants to take some nature home so he slips a porcupine quill in his pocket, pointy end down, with the rest of it tucked under his shirt. When he goes to
RRuruurrr 4y One time I was working at a museum with a live animal exhibit and a protester covered herself in animal blood. She tried to run into the building and got clotheslined by a security guard. ... 670
Aquariumpanther4 . . 4y Our pufferfish got wedged in a tiny hole and required divers to go in to the big tank and save him. Silly, clumsy animal, seriously clumsy. Cute, but graceless. ... 70
18bees . 4y Back in my zookeeping days, I had a big class of 4-6 year olds who I was giving a tour of the rhino exhibit to when our big male backed up to the fence and marked them all with nasty pheromonous urine. They thought it was hilarious! ... 11
alwysonthatokiedokie . 1y I worked at an aquatic theme park but I wasn't a zookeeper. Was walking by some guests and a mom was explaining to her child that they spray paint the flamingos. It could have been a joke, but she seemed very proud and happy to be teaching her child this fact. ... 188
entomology_fr3ak . 1 1y I work in the insect part of a zoo and one guy said How long do moths live for??? Around 10 years was it?? They live for a few weeks ... 149
liverstealer . 1y I was giving a tour to the elephant yard at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Someone asked if they could breathe into an elephant's trunk, because they heard somewhere that if you do that, the elephant will remember you forever. .. 226
aldenhg . 1y I overheard a woman ask a park ranger at Yellowstone when they were going to let the bison out so people could take pictures. She was mildly shocked to learn they're wild animals that come and go as they please. ... 190
2seeyousmile 4y No longer a zoo keeper so story is rather old. Was driving around during our closing time, duty was to make sure buildings were locked and shit down and to slowly start encouraging patrons to make their way towards our aquarium that stays open later. Well this family wouldn't get away from our lions or tigers. I just have driven past them several times trying to get them to head towards the front. Welp a damn mallard decided it was a great idea to fly into one of the pools in our tiger exhibit. I came back around
blanksketches . 10y I've a zoology degree and have done some internships (currently doing one now!) so while not officially a zookeeper, I have done a lot of zookeeper jobs. Big birds like emu's and cranes are the worst because they are actually terrifying. At one place I worked, they had two sandhill cranes as tall as me. I was advised to take a plastic snow shovel in with me to protect my face. Every time I had to go in to change their water and give them food, they would circle around my like raptors so that I was
under_glass . . 10y I worked in wildlife rehab and absolutely hated working with squirrels. Those fuckers were always running up my legs and trying to get into the sleeves of my jackets. I have had way too many squirrels stuck in my hair. ... 435
IAMTHUNDERGIRL 10y Freaking kangaroos. You never know what they are going to do. They lay there and look all lazy, and next think you know, they are trying to kick the shit out of you. One second, they're your buddy, the next, murderous. One time, while I was sitting on a flipped over bucket in their enclosure, and they were happy to have me there, one decided to try to rape me. I had fucking claw marks in my neck from it latching on, and spent the next month explaining to everyone that the reason I looked like I had
tomparker 10y I worked at a museum that kept a large turkey vulture tethered to a perch in the center of an animal room.. Children would tease this poor bird mercilessly despite the many signs and warnings. The bird sat in stoic silence. But almost once a day, at the perfect moment, he would hop down as one of the little chumps walked off, and he'd grab them with his huge bill just above the belt line by their pasty fat little french-fry infused love handles, clamp down hard, and then SNAP IT BACK. Imagine someone grabbing you by the
ohno_ohdear 4y Worked at a zoo during one of the government shutdowns and a lady became convinced that we had run out of funding to feed the animals. She bought a bunch of meat from the grocery store and threw it, still wrapped in plastic and styrofoam, into the lion enclosure. She got arrested and we had to quarantine the lion who ate the meat for a while. Besides that, the craziest thing I saw was parents dangling their small children over safety railings to get a better view of the animals. Most egregious was the dude who picked up
computer_is_hard . 4y Not a zoo but at the aquarium the dolphins have some sort of turf war with the seals. Apparently it all stems from some sort of pool detergent they use to clean the seals' glass enclosure, which the dolphins perceive as an 'insult pheromone' or something. They vomit fish up at the end of their pool and then fling it over the seal's enclosure with their tails. The seals on their part keep the dolphins up all night by taking turns banging on the pool's glass. One time a seal managed to sneak into the dolphins' territory
Givemeallthecabbages . 4y Used to work at a zoo teaching summer camps. Many of the chimps were rescues from shows and weren't very wild or shy, so would sit close to the edge of the enclosure near visitors. A couple teens were tossing rocks at them, and one chimp scooped one up that landed close by and just whipped it back. Guess what animal has better aim and can throw a hell of a lot harder than a 14 year old? Yep. Thankfully this was in the early 90s before people sued for everything. ... 93
vintage-tea . 4y Former zookeeper Mandrill openly masturbating in plain view in front of school kids. Also a tapir that liked to wave his penis about when eating. We would feed him during talks....so you can imagine. Also, tapir penises are like 5th legs so there's no missing it. ... 113
texacpanda 4y I was a keeper and tour guide at a small zoo in Oklahoma and one day when I was cleaning up the barnyard I looked up and out towards the monkey enclosures and thought... huh, that looks like a monkey walking along that fence.... and almost immediately realized who it was and what was going on. Got on the radio and alerted the entire place to the fact that one of our more dangerous capuchins was out and wondering the facility. Moses, as the story goes, was rescued from a travelling circus after he had witnessed his owner
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