HONOLULU (KHON2) — Maintaining the 42 acre Honolulu Zoo takes a village. There are more than 80 employees that care for the animals and the zoo grounds.
Veronica Schmidt is one of the many hard working zookeepers, whose focus is caring for the birds.
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The southern ground hornbill named Abby is one of her favorites to work with.
“I don’t necessarily know if there would be another bird who I wasn’t so bonded with who would necessarily just stand here and be okay with it,” Schmidt said in an interview with Abby standing next to her.
Abby’s calm nature around his zookeepers is proof of their hard work to earn his trust.
“These guys are very rare. Unfortunately, due to habitat destruction… numbers are dwindling in the wild. So here at the Honolulu Zoo, we do our best to kind of keep those numbers up,” Schmidt said.
Caring for Abby and all the birds requires a daily-structured routine.
“On an average day, you would come in, you would check all your animals, make sure everybody’s okay. Make sure everybody’s where you left them overnight,” Schmidt said describing her daily tasks.
The zookeepers not only make sure the animals are where they’re supposed to be, but they also make sure they’re happy and healthy.
“I examine each bird, you know, make sure there are two eyes. You know, their wings are good. There’s no bleeding or anything like that,” Shari Young, another Honolulu Zookeeper said.
To examine the Hawaiian Owl, Shari Young does glove training.
“I can get a better look at his feet, and his nails if we need to trim and things like that,” Young explained about why glove training is so important. “It’s just a good way for keepers to get a closer look at their animals. Some we can’t even do that, we would have to use like binoculars or something. But this way, it’s a lot easier and it’s really fun.”
Glove training is not only fun for the zookeepers, but also yummy for Makamae the Pueo.
“Each bird is fed a specific diet according to the species and then I feed it out accordingly,” Young said.
In the reptile exhibit, you might run into Kale Taylor. His daily routine at the Honolulu Zoo is similar to the bird keepers, except he takes care of the cold-blooded animals, like the venomous komodo dragons.
“I knew I wanted to be working with animals, reptiles is just like a cherry on top,” Taylor said about why he loves reptiles so much.
Just like with the bird keepers, Taylor also has to do training with reptiles.
“If we need them to walk somewhere, they’ll go toward the target and then we will reward them with food items,” Taylor said.
Taylor has a long to-do list. He cleans the exhibits, feeds the reptiles, and makes sure they’re healthy.
On top of all that, he finds time to let Tank, a friendly Tegu Lizard, stretch his legs on a walk.
“He’s kind of like a dog sometimes like when I go into his his exhibit and call his name, he’ll follow me around the exhibit,” Taylor said.
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With a lot of hard work and a passion for animals, the Honolulu zookeepers are always ready to welcome you.
“It’s definitely more than just a job because you know, these are cool guys,” Schmidt said. “Like it doesn’t get more Jurassic Park than this!”