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Senior Wild Animal Keeper, Marine Mammals and Birds

Wildlife Conservation Society: New York Aquarium
Brooklyn, United States Posted: May 25, 2023

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS): 

WCS’s goal is to conserve the world’s largest wild places in 14 priority regions, home to more than 50% of the world’s biodiversity. The challenges are greater than ever, but with the focus, dedication, and passion of a committed staff—combined with a unique mixture of field, zoo, and aquarium expertise—WCS will continue to set the bar for science, conservation action, and education that has driven our success in protecting wildlife and wild places for over a century.

Position Objective:

The Senior Wild Animal Keeper (SWAK) for the Marine Mammals and Birds section at the New York Aquarium maintains living conditions for the health and care of the animals. Serves as mentor and assists Supervisor to develop skills for Wild Animal Keepers. Trains, maintains, and strengthens each animal’s natural behaviors to benefit health assessment and overall wellbeing. Fulfills delegated functions within the department. Responsible for personal and guest safety when interacting with animals.

Principal Responsibilities:

Responsibilities may include but are not limited to:

  • Assist the Supervisor of Marine Mammals and Birds in developing training programs, animal enrichment, and animal welfare assessment initiatives.
  • This position is responsible for the daily care and welfare of a collection of animals in our Sea Cliff’s section, and this includes harbor seals, California sea lions, African penguins, and sea otters.
  • Prepare and provide proper feeding/nutrition to all animals based on developed feeding protocol.
  • Arrange for food items to be analyzed for nutritional values upon arrival.
  • Perform daily animal care of assigned animals according to established protocols and as directed by managers.
  • Make daily observations of animals and report any abnormalities to staff supervisor.
  • Maintain excellent records of all changes.
  • Perform daily cleaning/maintenance of assigned animal exhibits according to established protocols and as directed by managers.
  • Inspect exhibits, holding facilities, and associated service areas to ensure they are clean and functioning properly (e.g. doors, lighting, HVAC, LSS, etc.).
  • Alert supervisors to any facility deficiencies/issues that require repair or attention from NYA Facilities, EGAD, Pest Control, IT, or other WCS departments.
  • Acquire knowledge and maintain a working understanding and proficiency in the areas of animal health, natural history and husbandry techniques including the understanding of the importance of maintaining healthy animals through proper use of environmental enrichment (e.g. play, learning, exercise, interactions, problem solving as well as proper application of environmental enrichment).
  • Develop strong awareness of each individual animal’s physical appearance and behavior within the division.
  • Provide leadership in NYA operant conditioning programs to facilitate animal management and to enrich the daily lives of assigned animals.
  • Develop animal conditioning skills and techniques. Maintain each animal’s current level of behavior criteria through effective observation, listening and training application.
  • Participate as assigned in non-routine health and husbandry activities such as animal transports, animal introductions/breeding, restraint and treatment of animals.
  • Develop proactive approach to behavioral husbandry.
  • Anticipate behavioral issues and discuss with supervisor, in order to curb potential problems.
  • Function as a team leader showing consideration, tolerance, cooperation, reliability, and ability to solve problems.
  • Communicate effectively with all members of the division and with other WCS staff and volunteers.
  • Maintain all equipment, animal records, and department notebooks on a daily basis.
  • Submit a daily report as assigned which summarizes events/changes in the animal collection and staff activities within assigned work areas, identifies required maintenance, and lists needed supplies and equipment.
  • Accept responsibility for personal, guest, and animal safety by bringing potentially unsafe situations to the attention of the area supervisor.
  • Use SCUBA to routinely clean and maintain area pools.
  • Assist other departments in SCUBA diving to maintain water/habitat quality.
  • Keep log of SCUBA activities.
  • Perform all primary as well as supportive roles in education and general public programing.
  • Interact with visitors, presenting a positive image for the New York Aquarium and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
  • Assist with observation/training of new staff and volunteers.
  • Maintain a high level of self-motivation and a consistent professional approach to the job.
  • Adhere to all New York Aquarium and departmental policies.
  • Bachelor’s Degree in biology, psychology or related field.
  • At least 4 years practical experience working directly with aquatic animals in a zoo/aquarium, rescue/rehabilitation center, or other related facility.
  • Understanding of life support systems and filtration is necessary to be successful in the position
  • SCUBA certification.
Preferred Qualifications:
  • Experience working with volunteers preferred.
  • Active membership in professional associations (e.g. A2A, IAATE) preferred.
  • May be required to operate a motor vehicle with a valid driver’s license.
Physical Requirements:

The position requires work in both indoor and outdoor environments in all weather conditions (including cold water}. Must pass AAUS-compliant dive physical and swim test (400 yards in 12 minutes) within six months of hire.

Tasks require manual dexterity and ability to safely use tools (e.g. computer keyboard, manual tools) and operate equipment (e.g. operation/manipulation of dive gear, mobile radios).

Some tasks require climbing, kneeling, bending, navigating uneven terrain, and moderate lifting up to 50 pounds.

Wildlife Conservation Society is an equal opportunity employer dedicated to hiring and supporting a diverse workforce. We are committed to cultivating an inclusive work environment and look for future team members who share that same value.

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