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Care of the Wild

Sometimes visitors at the Kansas City Zoo warn Kelsey Goens that there are kangaroos on the loose. She reassures them that no marsupials have escaped. Two dozen or so kangaroos roam the zoo’s Australia section at will during the day.

Kids visiting today’s zoos have a much different experience from what their grandparents may remember of the days when animals lived behind bars. Now you’re more likely to see zoo animals in spacious, open-air enclosures with only a steep-walled moat separating them from the visitors. Or in the case of the kangaroos in Kansas City, there’s no barrier at all.

The job of today’s zookeeper is quite different as well. Care of wild animals in captivity is much more sophisticated, and zoos now place a greater emphasis on conservation and education.

A Different Kind of Education

For Goens, a 2013 graduate of the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, getting a job at a zoo was a dream come true. Caring for wild animals, whether in a zoo, wildlife conservation center or other facility is a demanding job. Goens spends her workday feeding and checking on the animals, administering medications, speaking to visitors and doing lots and lots of cleaning. But for people like Goens who have a lifelong love of animals, it’s a popular field. There might be dozens of applicants for a single opening.

What gave Goens a competitive edge—on top of her obvious dedication and enthusiasm—was her minor in captive wild animal management (CWAM).