Tanganyika is a wonderful and interactive place, but it didn’t just become that way over night! The people who work at Tanganyika are the ones who keep this whole place continuing on it’s path to becoming one of the best zoo experiences in America! So we want to give credit where it is due by giving some of our most talented zoo keepers a chance to talk about what they do and who they are! This also gives you a chance to understand the hard work and creativity that goes into making TWP operate well from day to day. This month I talked to Amalia Hawkins about his experience as a TWP keeper.
How long have you worked at Tanganyika? A little over two and a half years. I had my internship here in 2011 which I did for about three months and then later I came back and I’ve been back ever since!
What animals do you care for? I’m a primate zookeeper, so I care for all the primates!
Who is your favorite animal here? Willis. He is our black and white Colobus Monkey. He is super ornery, but I love him! He’s taught me a lot of patience through training, I’ve tried so many different methods of training over the last few years. It has taken every ounce of my will power trying to get him to work with me, but now he does so now we’ve developed a pretty close bond.
If you could add an animal to Tanganyika’s line up? Black Bears! I love bears!! I worked with bears in a previous internship and I absolutely adored working with them. They are so… They’re just like big dogs. They’re just so mellow. I worked with two of the younger ones and they were highly food motivated which made training them awesome!
If you weren’t a zoo keeper what would you be? If I didn’t work in the animal field at all, like if I wasn’t a vet or caring for animals in any way, I think I’d be a librarian. I love reading, I love books. I could spend hours in a book store. I think that would make me happy just being around books all the time. I’d probably have no paycheck what so ever, because I’d spend it all on books!
What is your favorite Tanganyika memory? There’s so many. Probably, my first summer when I was here I worked on Lemur Island a lot. Honestly, my best memory is just getting to hang out with the lemurs all day. I would be on there for hours and I would just get to know them. I think my favorite memory of that is once it was a really hot day and we were all underneath the shader. There was only one shader at the time. We were all gathered under the shader and all of them were sleeping around my feet, and Lizzie was sleeping on my feet! I didn’t want to move, because everyone was sleeping, the park was dead, and we were just all chillaxing!
What is your favorite Tanganyika event? Pumpkins at the Park! I love ambassadoring all the animals! It’s so much fun getting to see all the little kids come up and pet the animals. I love dressing up. I have like ten different complete costumes!
Favorite meal served at the pavilion deli? The chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches.
How old were you when you knew you wanted to become a zoo keeper? It was actually later. I’d always loved animals, but I wanted to be a vet first. So it wasn’t till I was twenty and I started volunteering at the local zoo. I worked with the education animals and I got to feed them and bond with them. I was a docent, and so I talked to the public a lot about animals and that’s what got me interested in the zoo field. I always knew I wanted to do something with animals, but that was kind of where it all started! My first internship was actually here at TWP. I’ll always remember I was sweeping the barn and the giraffes would try to lean their head over and sniff my hair, because at the time I was blonde and they were thinking it was food! I just remember sweeping along and feeling this breath on my neck and being like, “What the heck!!”
Thanks to Amalia for all your hard work at Tanganyika. You’re joy and passion for your animals is great and we are lucky to have you as part of our team! Thank you for all you do!