As a way of giving our fans and followers a peek behind the scenes look at the inner most workings of Tanganyika Wildlife Park we interview a zookeeper each month. This month, we will be meeting Robert Olmstead and talking to him about his experience as a senior keeper here at Tanganyika.
How long have you worked at Tanganyika? 7 and a half years.
What animals do you care for? I’m the hoofstock senior keeper. Basically, I supervise the hoofstock areas and the bird areas. My normal routine is okapi and birds. As a senior keeper, when other keepers have issues that they feel they can’t handle or if they have questions, I’m kind of an in-between person so they don’t all have to go to Steph, our animal curator, and bother her, since she is so busy. They can come to me and I can handle the stuff that she doesn’t need to be dealing with.
Who is your favorite animal here? The okapi. Probably Amaranta, he’s our newest Okapi.
If you could add an animal to Tanganyika’s line up? More camels. An impala, I think that would be cool. A lot more hoofstock, I really like hoofstock. I’d like to see more antelopes. Takin would be cool.
If you weren’t a zoo keeper what would you be? I’d probably be working in retail. That’s where I have the most experience is in retail.
What is your favorite Tanganyika memory? There’s a lot. The best one, was probably the first year I worked here. It was during the winter, when we were closed, we had a bactrian camel named Camille and she was very aggressive toward keepers. She was hand raised so she didn’t have any manners, she never learned from other camels how to behave. So, I got her to where we could put a halter on her and I would walk her around the zoo. I used to take her to where the maintenance shed is now and let her off the halter, and let her run, and play, and graze. I got to spend a lot of time just one on one with her. She was a very sweet camel once she learned boundaries and that kicking doesn’t work for people.
Favorite meal served at the pavilion deli? Probably, the signature sandwiches.
What’s your favorite Tanganyika event? Twilight Tour. It’s fun to show off behind the scenes to people. When they get to come in and see the rhinos up close, in the barns, it makes them feel more connected to the rhinos I think.
How old were you when you knew you wanted to become a zoo keeper? Probably when I started volunteering at the Sedgwick County Zoo back in 2002, but before that I remember watching the Jungle Book and wanting to work with exotic animals. Once I started to volunteer at the zoo, I realized that being a zoo keeper was the only way I was going to get to work with exotic animals close up. I volunteered Sedgwick for half a year, then worked there for 2 and a half years, and now I work here.
Which animal are you most like? The black rhinos. Most of the time they’re easy going, they’re calm, but when you get them riled up they’ll really go after you.
Thank you to Robert for all the work and care you has put into the animals you care for here at Tanganyika. I appropriate the level of dedication you have to your animals and the amount of love you pour into your job. Thanks Robert.