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Category — Keeper’s Komments

Happy National Zoo Keepers Week! Meet Bird Keeper, Rickey Kinley

Co-written by: Jenny Gainer, Cody Sowers, Aimee Owen, & Wendy Rice (All keepers at the Zoo)

Our third honoree for National Zoo Keeper Week is Rickey Kinley! Rickey works as a keeper in the Aviculture (bird) department. Of all the nominations we received this year for National Zoo Keeper Week, only one keeper, Rickey, was unanimously selected by the committee as well. Rickey serves as an excellent role model for so many keepers in so many different ways, it’s no wonder he was an easy selection!

Rickey Kinley with one of his many feathered friends

Rickey Kinley with one of his many feathered friends

As a former student with the Zoo’s high school, the Zoo Academy, Rickey naturally connects with the current Zoo Academy students and he absolutely sets the bar in terms of mentorship. Rickey always takes the time to get to know each student and he uses what he learns about them to relate to and inspire that student. Ricky goes out of his way to include the students and make them feel like they have an important role in the bird department, and he consistently challenges them to try new things, even if they are unsure of themselves.

Rickey Kinley back when he was a Zoo Academy student

Rickey Kinley back when he was a Zoo Academy student

Head Keeper Jenny Gainer says of Rickey, “He was a mentor of mine as a student, so I’ve experienced it first-hand. And I’ve witnessed even 15 years later he still goes the extra mile to work with these kids and support the program.”

Outside of his stellar involvement with Zoo Academy students, Rickey clearly connects with every keeper he works with as well, and the fun and playful relationship he shares with most colleagues was evident in their praise and recognition for him. According to his coworkers, Rickey likes to laugh at penguins, and he likes to laugh in general. He has an international fan club that spans many generations and in the past, he may or may not have been known to rock a sweet flat-top hairstyle (a la “Kid N’Play”). Additionally, some reports suggest that the “Morgan Freeman of the Birdhouse” has been known to eat multiple cans of spinach a day (in spite of not having a Popeye-style anchor tattoo), and owns one of the most musically diverse iPods currently in existence (although this fact has not yet been confirmed by Apple Inc. or Guinness World Records).

Rickey Kinley walking with penguins during the Penguin Parade

Rickey Kinley walking with penguins during the Penguin Parade

But in all seriousness, this experienced keeper, who trained under Andrew Erkenbrecker himself, possesses vast avian knowledge and has published many different papers on training (including one of the first papers ever published on penguin training!). Rickey is well versed in critical and logical thinking and he performs well when pushed outside of the box. His contributions to the bird department have been innumerable over the years, and he is absolutely a shining example of zoo keeping. Thanks for all that you do Rickey!

July 22, 2015   2 Comments

Happy National Zoo Keepers Week! Meet Manatee Keeper, Lindsay Garrett

Co-written by: Chris Edelen, Megan O’Keefe, and Wendy Rice

When it comes to incorporating natural talents into your career, few keepers have mastered the art as well as Lindsay Garrett. Not only is she super creative, but her artistic talents have come into play on more than one occasion in her role as zoo keeper. Whether she is shaping concrete for turtle enclosures or casting animal molds to raise money for conservation, Lindsay constantly finds ways to incorporate her strengths into her work.

When alligator “Lucy” was not shifting well into her holding area, Lindsay took it upon herself to trouble-shoot and come up with a solution. She reached out to keepers at other zoos for help and even built a gator-friendly ramp that would allow Lucy to feel the water in her holding pool, making shifting more comfortable for the visually-impaired crocodilian.

Lindsay with an alligator

Lindsay with an alligator

 

Additionally, Lindsay’s incredible patience and focus help make her a talented trainer. She developed a target-training program to facilitate shifting Lucy (who now shifts on cue successfully on a weekly basis!), and her colleagues call her a master of manatee training.

Lindsay training manatees

Lindsay training manatees

When it comes to educating the public, Lindsey is always willing. She even helped to develop an underwater keeper chat to help guests feel more connected to the Zoo’s manatees. Not only is Lindsay a wealth of knowledge regarding the animals in her collection, but she also conveys their environmental importance during her interactions with the public. She has also helped raise funds for conservation through her involvement with the Zoo’s American Association of Zoo Keepers chapter.

Lindsay’s positive influence even extends beyond her own department through her active involvement in the enrichment committee. Lindsay’s knowledge and insight help ensure that all the animals at our Zoo have safe and appropriate enrichment.

Co-worker Megan O’Keefe says of Lindsay: “She is ridiculously hard-working. I’ve never met anyone more on top of things than she is!” Chris Edelen said of Lindsay: “She goes above and beyond, and I am a better conservationist for seeing things through her eyes…”

Thank you for your dedication to our field Lindsay!

July 21, 2015   1 Comment

Happy National Zoo Keeper Week! Meet Head Keeper, Rick Heithaus

Co-written by: Jenna Wingate, Kara McSweeney, & Wendy Rice (All keepers at the Zoo)

Happy National Zoo Keeper Week! This week, we will be honoring five of our “All-Star” keepers as nominated by their peers, starting with Rick Heithaus! As one of the Zoo’s most senior keepers, Rick boasts more than 30 years of exotic animal experience, working with an array of animals from big cats to the Asian elephants he works with today.

An historical photo of Rick Heithaus with an African elephant

An historical photo of Rick Heithaus with an African elephant

Rick Heithaus visits with an African elephant

A more recent photo of Rick Heithaus visiting with an African elephant

Rick is a great team player and he is constantly mindful of the well-being of both the animals in his care and the keepers working around him. Rick’s safety-oriented leadership when working with elephants is both admirable and invaluable. Rick goes out of his way to ensure the absolute highest safety standards are in place and he models safe behavior at all times. It takes a lot of self-discipline and focus to keep safety at the forefront of your day, and Rick has both in spades!

Rick introduces an elephant to a patron of our Behind the Scenes Experience

Rick introduces an elephant to a patron of our Behind the Scenes Experience

When interviewing some of the keepers who have worked with Rick, all praised his incredible mentorship skills. He never misses an opportunity to teach the young keepers something valuable, and he genuinely seems to enjoy sharing information with the next generation of keepers. Though he may seem soft-spoken and unassuming, once he opens up he is easy to talk to and more than happy to share. Young keepers who have had the pleasure of working with Rick love to hear his stories from “back in the day”. From camel rides to mixed-species elephant and hippo exhibits, Rick carries with him the experience and knowledge of a keeper who has lived through our industry’s “Wild West” days.

Rick during a Behind the Scenes Elephant Experience

Rick during a Behind the Scenes Elephant Experience

One of Rick’s coworkers describes him as the “Comedy Ninja” of his department, with hilarious jokes that come out of
nowhere! Rick never seems to complain, or even get mad. Rick has been involved with the “Adopt-a-Class” initiative for several years, and he is great with children.

In his personal life, Rick enjoys taking adventurous vacations with his wife, modeling a solid work/life balance for the rest
of us. His patience and humility are legendary and he models many of the Zoo’s core values on a daily basis. We are so proud to have Rick representing our amazing profession at the Cincinnati Zoo!

July 20, 2015   No Comments