TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Kaohsiung's Shoushan Zoo received zero resumes after its latest drive to recruit animal carers reached its deadline on Monday (Aug. 16).
The low salary of zookeepers combined with the physical risk involved in cleaning, feeding, and administering medicine to animals are the likely factors behind the keeper shortage, UDN reported.
Chang Shu-ping (張淑萍), a 39-year-old keeper, says she gets immeasurable satisfaction from developing deep bonds with the animals throughout her workday. Staff must have a deep love for animals to last in this “dream job,” according to the report.
The starting salary is NT$26,000 per month, which is not high, admits Chuang Hsuan-chih (莊絢智), the head zookeeper.
The older generation of keepers are very stable and usually continue until retirement, growing old with the animals they care for, Chuang said. The turnover rate of the younger generation, however, is much higher.
Workers are likely to leave if they come across a job they find more ideal, which creates vacancies at the zoo, he added.
There is no age limit for becoming a keeper, but applicants must have at least a bachelor’s degree with a biology-related major.
Chang, who has been at the zoo for four years, cares for pygmy hippos, crocodiles, snapping turtles, meerkats, Malay bears, and other creatures. She said you cannot ignore the risks of the job, even if you have known the animals for a long time.
Keepers must keep a safe distance during feeding, take care while physically engaging with the animals, and avoid treading too far into their territory, she added.
The job can be emotionally taxing too. When an animal is sick or passes on, the keeper will feel sad as they would for a family member.
For Chang, being a keeper has given her the opportunity to live her passion and hone her expertise. Sharing in the joys of life with the animals in her care brings her a happiness money cannot buy, per the report.