Have you ever considered a job or career working with exotic animals? Does the idea seem impossible, or one of those jobs that “other people do?” Sort of like acting in movies, or working as a race car driver or politician?
Well a career working with reptiles, zoo animals, amphibians, wildlife, and other exotic animals is more possible than you might think.
Almost every major city has a zoo full of these animals, and exotic pets are becoming more and more popular (as are the businesses that service them). Even online business is booming as exotic pet owners buy food and other supplies over the Internet.
Working with exotic animals is one of those “outside the box” careers that will amaze your friends and family. Most workers don’t handle anything more exotic than a copy machine at work, and everyone you meet will want to learn more about what you do and how you do it.
Imagine the possibilities at your next cocktail party, or when meeting new people at any type of social gathering.
What to expect from an exotic animal job or career
Okay, so a job working with exotic animals has the obvious perks, but what is this type of occupation really like? You may be thinking it’s all glitz and glamour, like those trained tiger acts at the casinos in Las Vegas, but the reality is usually quite different.
First off, make sure you have a real passion and enthusiasm for reptiles, amphibians, and other exotic pets and animals before you consider a job in this industry. You don’t want to spend a lot of time and money on training and education, only to discover this isn’t your cup of tea. And be prepared to work hard, and get your hands dirty when handling these amazing creatures.
Zoo keepers, for example, spend much of their time cleaning out animal enclosures, feeding the animals in their care, maintaining the grounds and the facilities, and other routine tasks. In fact, in some cases handling and interacting with the exotic animals at the zoo isn’t encouraged, as many of these animals are endangered or are in captive breeding programs, and too much human contact could be harmful.
And be aware that this type of work can be hazardous at times. Like other wildlife, exotic animals are often unpredictable, especially when hungry, frightened or agitated. An animal that seemed like your friend one moment, could be preparing to attack you a few moments later. Workers in this field have to always have their guard up, and be alert to what’s happening around them.
But there are also many moments of wonder and excitement when working with exotic and unusual animals. These wild creatures are a fascinating study.
They’re never boring to be around, they’re often highly intelligent and engaging, and most people who spend their workdays in their company feel blessed to be able to earn a living handling and caring for these animals.
The types of careers available in this industry
If you’ve decided to give this challenging and exciting career path a go, you’ll need to decide what type of animals you’re interested in working with, and what to specialize in. The following is a short list of some of the possibilities:
Exotic animal trainer
These specialized animal trainers work with a variety of exotic and unusual animals, and train them for performances in live shows. They also train exotic and wild animals for work in TV shows, movies, and training videos. We can all remember a favorite TV show like Flipper from the 1960s with the trained dolphins, or a Disney movie with killer whales who perform on command.
As you might expect, zookeepers interact with a variety of exotic animals on a daily basis, including reptiles, big cats, amphibians, exotic birds, primates and more.
Zookeepers perform a variety of roles, from feeding and animal care, animal study and research, cleaning and maintenance of exhibits and enclosures, and educating the general public about the animals and wildlife in their care.
You may never have heard of it, but herpetology is the scientific study of amphibians and reptiles, in the wild and in captivity. Herpetology is a branch of biology, and scientists and researchers working in this field are often university or college professors.
These professionals often work closely with zoos in an advisory or consulting role, or they pass on their passion for reptiles and amphibians by teaching in universities around the country.
Reptile pet store owner
With the increasing popularity of reptiles as pets, there are reptile pet stores opening up all around the country. If you’re the entrepreneur type, you might consider starting your own reptile pet store.
These shops typically carry a variety of snakes, lizards and other reptiles. They also carry food and accessories, cages and enclosures, books and DVDs, and other reptile-related items.
Exotic animal conservation
With the never-ending march of human population growth and development around the world, the habitat for exotic animals is shrinking every year. Conservationists work to ensure the survival of wildlife and exotic species, so that future generations will be able to experience these animals in their native habitats.
These professionals work in a variety of roles including captive-breeding programs, designing and maintaining parks and wildlife sanctuaries, and protecting wild and exotic animals from human development.
These are just a few of the career options for working with exotic and unusual animals. Many of these fields require at least a bachelor’s degree in herpetology, zoology, biology, veterinary medicine, or another animal-related field.
And as mentioned earlier, a love and passion for these animals is a necessary requirement for long-term job satisfaction and fulfillment.