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 had the honor and privilege of interviewing our Animal Curator: Stephanie Jeter and get her take on TWP!
How long have you worked at Tanganyika? It was 11 years on November 4th.
What is your job here? Whatever needs to be done! I’m supposed to know about every animal in the place which requires a lot of record keeping at this point, because I’m losing my memory. I manage 21 keepers. My official title is animal curator / registrar.
Who is your favorite animal here? I’d have to probably say… it would probably have to be Princess, the snow leopard. She’s the first full grown snow leopard that I had full contact with and she’s been here a good long while. She’s one of our staple animals that we got to keep. Since we’re a breeding facility there are curtain animals we breed that are in high demand like the Snow Leopards so the chances of us keeping them is even less likely. Which just makes Princess more special to me.
If you could add an animal to Tanganyika’s line up what would you add? I want woolly monkeys and I want moose! I love moose! They’re just so awesome! I mean, have you ever seen a moose?
If you weren’t the animal curator what would you be? I’d still be at wildlife and parks. I worked there during college and while my kids were little I worked in their office.
What is your favorite Tanganyika event? Pumpkins at the Park. It’s fun!!! I like the park all lit up and the nostalgia of hayrides. It’s fun.
Favorite meal served at the pavilion deli? I guess I could say chocolate.
How old were you when you knew you wanted to work with animals? I would have been in high school. I would have had to have been 15. The Zoo Montana opened so I volunteered up there. I started out with the educational animals and part of the enrichment team. That’s how I got my first job, a board member who owned his own private facility asked who their best volunteer was and my name was dropped. He hired me.
Which animal are you most like? I am a very blunt person, I think very bluntly so to know what animal I’m most like… Probably a mule. I like figuring things out, and I’ll probably exhaust myself trying to figure an issue out! Which is part of the mule thing.
What is your favorite Tanganyika memory? There’s too many to mention. One time the vet came over to look at one of our clouded leopards, because Count (the leopard) kept messing with his tail and we thought there might be something wrong with it. So the vet came over and I went in to get Count. Well, I walked out with him in my arms and the vet almost had a coronary when he saw me carrying around this big male leopard! That was pretty funny, just the look on his face!
Back a while I was wanting to breed the sulcata tortoises but we only had males and we were having trouble finding a female mate for them. Well, one day I got a call from Jim (TWP Director) and he said that a mail man had found a turtle and that they were wondering if we could identify it. Jim was sure it was just a large snapper or something like that so when the mailman pulled in with a police officer I was pretty surprised. So I took at a look at it and not only did it turn out to be a sulcata tortoise, but it was a girl sulcata tortoise! I just yelled, “It’s a girl!!” I pulled her out and sent the mailman and officer on their way! And that tortoise turned out to be one of my best breeders.
A huge thank you goes to Steph for the ton of time she has invested into TWP and the animals with our care! She is one of the biggest animal lovers and we are lucky to have her leading our elite team of Keepers! Thank you so much for all you do, Steph! You’re the best!