By Robin Sutker, Assistant Curator at Brandywine Zoo
Starting the third Sunday of July every year, we recognize and celebrate the dedicated animal care professionals that work in zoos, aquariums, museums, and beyond. These facilities, including the Brandywine Zoo, could not function without dedicated animal care professionals. These professionals work 365 days a year, in all weather, and even throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Follow Brandywine Zoo, the Brandywine Chapter of AAZK, the American Association of Zoo Keepers, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums across all social media throughout the week for more about our super keepers!
What are the BZAAZK and AAZK? They are animal care professionals, who spend their time outside of work educating, fundraising, and supporting wildlife conservation work around the world. Locally, the Brandywine Zoo’s animal keepers run a chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers, known as AAZK, a 501c3 non-profit founded in 1967. With more than 115 independent chapters across the United States and around the world, AAZK national’s mission is “to advance excellence in the animal keeping profession, foster effective communication beneficial to animal care, support deserving conservation projects, and promote the preservation of our natural resources and animal life.” The Brandywine keepers do all of this – and then some!
The Brandywine Chapter (BZAAZK) was founded in 2013 and has since raised money for numerous animal organizations including the Red Panda Network, Save the Golden Lion Tamarins, and the Turtle Survival Alliance (for a full list of organizations supported, see the end of this post). Moreover, they have contributed to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Employee Relief Fund, which supports zoo and aquarium staff after natural disasters and tragic events. Through fundraisers such as axe throwing, plant, and animal art sales, and even “Venturing Out for Vultures”, this group of ambitious individuals knows no bounds to saving wildlife and wild places.
The Chapter is also an enthusiastic supporter of science education, hosting guest speakers for both the local community and fellow zoo professionals. Past topics have included wildlife conservation, pet first aid, ecology, wildlife rehabilitation, veterinary medicine, and new scientific inventions to help in monitoring wildlife populations and animal behavior. Keepers have also attended national and regional workshops and regularly fundraise at the Brandywine Zoo during events.
Want to know more about the Brandywine Chapter of AAZK? Follow them on Facebook (@bzaazk) and Instagram (@brandywineaazk), and join them at Winos for Rhinos on July 31. Tickets are limited – email firstname.lastname@example.org for purchases and details.
Past BZAAZK donations have gone to:
- AAZK’s Bowling for Rhinos
- AAZK’s Trees for You and Me
- Red Panda Network
- Save the Golden Lion Tamarin
- DE Zoological Society
- Delaware Wild Lands
- International Crane Foundation
- AZA Employee Relief Fund
- Turtle Survival Alliance
- Delaware Human Society
- Buddy for Life
- Tiki Hywood Foundation (pangolin conservation)
- Vulture AZA SAFE Program
- Delaware kestrel partnership