Job Title: Elephant Keeper Assistant – Seasonal

Department: Animal Care Date Written: January 5, 2023

Reports To: Lead Keeper, Curator or most senior team member in the absence of supervisor

Supervises: N/A

SUMMARY OF POSITION: Zoo Knoxville is seeking to add a new member to their Elephant Care Team. Due to the temporary nature of this position, the selected applicant will not complete all of the phases of the elephant keeper training protocol; however, they will work closely with the team and around the elephants gaining valuable experience on how to care for a geriatric herd of elephants and prepare for a transport. Zoo Knoxville is phasing out their elephant program in 2023. This position is seasonal and is intended to not exceed 9 months. However, due to the temporary nature of the position, it could be shorter than 9 months. This position will work 40 hours per week.

Under direct supervision, the individual in this position is responsible for a wide variety of tasks involving the husbandry of the area species, the daily upkeep of keeper and public areas, and interpretation with zoo guests. The individual must be able to carry out the position’s duties as described below, with or without reasonable accommodations, and comply with Zoo Knoxville policies and procedures as they appear in the Employee Handbook and departmental protocols. The individual must also be of sufficient physical health, as described in the Job Qualifications, to carry out these duties on a daily basis without presenting a danger to his/herself or fellow zoo employees.

RESPONSIBILITIES: An entry-level keeper is not expected to be immediately able to carry out all of the following skills and duties when hired. Rather, these are goals to achieve in the Keeper I position. Skills and duties required of this position include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Provide quality customer service to both internal and external customers, maintaining professional working relations with zoo guests, fellow employees, volunteers, and interns.
  • Provide for the care and welfare (husbandry) of assigned animals in the department, such as following prescribed diets and feeding procedures and protocols for cleaning/disinfecting of animal enclosures, holding areas, keeper space, common use space, and the public area surrounding it. The latter includes upkeep of plant collection as well as minor repairs to exhibits/holding areas.
  • Observe animals in the department daily for reproductive behavior, abnormal behavior, compatibility issues, or potential health problems, reporting these to the supervisor(s).
  • Prepare, distribute, and keep records of animal enrichment as outlined by enrichment protocol and with guidance from area enrichment representative.
  • Train animals using positive reinforcement, with the supervision of an experienced trainer, as scheduled and directed by supervisor(s).
  • Maintain daily reports, logs, research, medical and reproductive records and work orders.
  • Provide assistance to the medical staff by administering medications as prescribed and participating in related procedures as requested.
  • Be knowledgeable of Zoo Knoxville’s history, policies, goals, animal collection, AZA/legal conservation status, captive management issues, factors affecting wild population numbers, and current industry trends relevant to the assigned area.
  • Make presentations to zoo guests, on live camera, and on video, ensuring accurate, unique and interesting information.
  • Observe and report all facility or safety problems to the supervisor. In the event of an immediate safety risk, contact maintenance and notify the supervisor.
  • Any other duties as requested by supervisor(s).


  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • If vehicle operation is required, applicant must be at least 21 years of age with a valid driver’s license; otherwise, all applicants must be at least 18 years of age with a valid state-issued identification.
  • Preferred six months to one year of experience working with animals in some capacity. Examples include working with animals at veterinary clinics, pet stores, on farms, or as an intern or volunteer at a zoo.
  • Communicate effectively in English (oral and written), follow oral and written instructions, and use a two-way radio
  • Physically able to work in extreme temperatures (both inside and outside) and inclement weather conditions; walking an average of 10 miles per day; standing 90% of the time; lifting and carrying up to 60 pounds a distance of 25 feet; performing tasks in an environment that requires repeatedly stooping, bending, climbing, while working in secured animal enclosures and service areas that often contain insects and poison ivy
  • Physically able and willing to safely work around delicate, large, unpredictable and dangerous animals, having sufficient strength, agility and coordination to net, capture and restrain these animals; possessing the skill to handle, examine, and move sick, injured or struggling small animals so as not to cause harm
  • Use disinfectants, cleansers, and work around dusty enclosures/storage areas
  • Use common hand, power, and yard tools while working from the ground or on a ladder in a safe manner
  • Accept regular weekend, holiday, occasional after hour assignments, and be able to change days off as needed
  • Negative Tuberculosis test results required for some work areas
  • Adhere to zoo/departmental policies and safety procedures

Don’t meet every requirement? At Zoo Knoxville we are dedicated to building a diverse, inclusive and authentic workplace, so if you’re excited about this role but your past experience doesn’t align perfectly with every qualification in the job description, we encourage you to apply anyway. You may be just the right candidate for this or other roles.


As an employee of Zoo Knoxville, you must possess English communication skills as well as the ability to communicate using a 2-way radio, email and telephone. The position hours vary depending on business needs and will require weekend and some holiday shifts. The individual must be able to tolerate extremes in outdoor temperatures and weather condition. Must be able to lift and carry up to 60 lbs. Depending on the specific tasks, this position will be required to work within close proximity of exotic and domestic animals and must be aware that there are dangers inherent in working under those conditions. Zoo Knoxville is committed to maintaining a drug free workplace and as such each employee must pass a pre-employment drug screen. Periodic random drug screens are required.

Job Type: Temporary

Pay: From $11.25 per hour


  • 401(k) matching
  • Health savings account
  • Life insurance


  • 8 hour shift
  • Day shift

Work Location: One location