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 this well from day to day. This month I talked to Annemarie Bertholomew about her experience as a TWP keeper.
How long have you worked at TWP?
Nearly a year and a half at this point. I started as an intern and now I’m a primate keeper. I was an intern from May to August so roughly 4 months.
Which animals do you care for?
I am one of the primate keepers here at Tanganyika. I take care of a lot of the primates that you will see out on exhibit. So the mandrills, the red tailed guenons, the debrazzas, I also work with some red ruffed lemurs, the white handed gibbons, and also an adorable african crested porcupine.
Who is your favorite animal in Tanganyika?
That is a really tough question. I love all of my animals for different reasons. They have so much personality. My first love here at Tanganyika was a little red tailed guenon named Clementine. She is no longer here. She and her boyfriend Nigel went off to another facility where they’re well taken care of. She gave me a huge appreciation for red tailed guenons and I love that group as a whole. I found a special place in my heart for Lentil the javan langur.
If you could add an animal to the Tanganyika Experience what animal would you add?
I would love to have orangutans here. They are very intelligent animals. It’s so impressive to see them learn and see them use tool and thinking. They’re just so smart and beautiful animals, so I would love to see orangs.
If you could ambassador any animal in Tanganyika at all which animal would you choose?
I would love to ambassador either the javan langurs or the one of the red tailed guenons, I think they would be really neat animals to ambassador and I think they would have a lot of fun exploring as well.
If you weren’t a zookeeper what would you be?
Actually before I was a zoo keeper I worked in the film industry as a post technical coordinator and an assistant editor. I did like that job but I found my true passion here as a zoo keeper. I think if I could no longer be a zookeeper I might try to continue down that animal path but in more of an either educational capacity or in conservation efforts with animals in their environment.
What is your favorite Tanganyika memory?
Oh my goodness, how do I pick just one? I don’t know... there are so many good ones. My first exciting moment was when I was training with Nigel and I got him to hold my hand and that became a behavior. That was one of the first behaviors that I was able to train here and so it felt really rewarding that I was able to work with him. He trusted me and that I could enrich his life!
What is your favorite food they serve at the pavilion deli?
I usually get the... I forget what it’s called. I want to call it the Turkey Extreme Special but I don’t think that’s it. That’s definitely not what it’s called. It’s the one that has the chipotle mayonnaise on it and it’s just so- Yeah! That’s it! The Signature Sandwich! I love the Signature Sandwich!!! I will also say that your home girl loves some pretzels and cheese.
How old were you when you wanted to become a zookeeper?
I was in my twenties, actually. When I was really little I thought, maybe, I would be a teacher. I ended up going into the film industry, so zoo keeping was actually a career change for me. I’ve always loved animals, I guess I never really thought about it as a career option because when you’re younger and you’re trying to choose what you’re going to do that wasn’t really something that was talked about as an option. It never even crossed my mind. I then found out about a zoo keeping school where you go to the zoo everyday, you work with the animals, you learn how to train and take care of them. When I found out about that program I said to myself, ‘You know what, that is something I’d love to do.’ So I went for it!
What is favorite event we do at Tanganyika?
I actually think that my favorite event is Pumpkins at the Park. It’s a lot of fun have a place where kids can come and dress up. They get to see some really neat animals, learn about the animals, and interact with some of them. Then there is other unique options during the event as well, they can do Zombie Laser Tag or the Cage Maze. Last year at Pumpkins at the Park I got to make cotton candy which, I’m just saying, I was pretty good at it and it was a fun, unique experience for me.
What animal do you feel you are the most like?
I would say I’m a lot like a giraffe. I am super curious, but I also get cautious about other thing. And when I run I look really goofy.
Thank you Annemarie for being a really good zoo keeper. You care for and love your animals with so much enthusiasm and joy. You treat these creatures like family and you are just as loyal to your team. Thank you for being an awesome person to work with and a cheery presents all through the week!