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Animal Care Manager-Behavior Programs

The Living Desert is seeking qualified candidates to join our Animal Department Team as an Animal Care Manager of Behavior Programs.  This is a key, visible leadership position that requires a motivated, dedicated team player who is willing to make a significant commitment to the organization.  This requires an enthusiastic individual with strong guest engagement skills, decision making skills and leadership skills while demonstrating ability to work effectively with all levels of staff.  This leader will adhere to and support all organizational policies, procedures and standards.

This position will oversee the Training and Enrichment for the Animal Collection, Seasonal exhibits, Internship program and Zoo Commissary.  This position is responsible for the animal behavior program which includes the development, implementation, mentoring, follow through and evaluation of the animal care staff.

Successful candidates will demonstrate exceptional leadership skills which include being a model and an example for others to follow, inspiring others to work towards an exciting future and shared vision, challenging self and others to look for innovative ways to improve area and Zoo, foster collaboration, trust and team building.  Working with the Director of Animal Programs to create and continue a culture of recognizing contributions and celebrating accomplishments.  This person will help lead the animal care team in delivering uncompromising excellence in animal care, wellness and guest engagement.

Position Summary:
Reports to Director of Animal Programs.  This position supports in the oversight of the development and implementation of the animal behavior management strategies of the collection and staff.  Develops short term and long term goals and strategies, makes recommendations to Zoo administration regarding collection, habitats, diets, design, construction, presentation and relevance to overall Zoo objectives including conservation and mission.  A large portion of time will be spent on grounds mentoring and implementing a balanced repertoire of show and husbandry behavior goals.  This position will oversee and collaborate with interdepartmental enrichment efforts including with volunteers.  This position will ensure the highest quality of nutrition and well-being for the animals.

Specific responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Supervises, evaluates and provides direction to Senior keepers and Animal keepers in all aspects of daily operations
  • Develops, implements and mentors training and development of staff that includes behavioral husbandry, natural behaviors, keeper chats, enrichment, operant conditioning and positive reinforcement techniques that reflect the mission of the Zoo
  • Continually strives to move training on “show” to be visible by guests, both for natural behaviors and husbandry
  • Oversees the daily organization of the Zoo Commissary including all foods and supplies for animal department. Recommends diet changes as needed for health and training of animals
  • Promotes and enforces organization guidelines, policies and standards
  • Ensures the enrichment program supports the overall behavioral goals of the animal collection and mission of the Zoo
  • Produces and contributes to annual evaluation appraisals for Animal Care Staff.
  • Supervises and/or assists with animal husbandry needs as needed
  • Oversees other areas as necessary in absence of other Animal Care Managers
  • Gathers budget information, collaborates and submits first draft budget to Director of Animal Programs for Animal Program needs
  • Takes a leadership role for emergency situations by acting as Manager on Duty, Animal Emergency Team Lead and become a certified member of Emergency Weapons Team.
  • Review of AZA and USDA standards, including all TLD formal written animal training and enrichment policies/protocols including pertinent accreditation documents.
  • Ensure compliance of safety policies, procedures and practices; ensures staff work in a safe manner with appropriate protective equipment, all accidents/incidents are investigated, documented and corrective action is taken.
  • Develops and incorporates messaging into guest’s engagement activities reflective of Zoo’s conservation messaging.
  • Oversee the established Animal Internship Program.
  • Oversee the seasonal exhibit including staff, facility and animals. Currently, this includes lorikeets.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Animal Behavior, Wildlife Management, Animal Science or other related degree with at least five years of exotic animal care experience and three years in a supervisory role.
  • Knowledge and experience in management preferred, including programmatic planning, budgeting and supervision.
  • Thorough knowledge and application skills of operant conditioning training.
  • Highly professional, motivated, forward thinking individual who will build positive working relationships while demonstrating sensitivity to the “mission” of the Zoo.
  • Knowledge/familiarity with AZA accreditation standards, code of ethics and representative husbandry standards. Familiar with AZA and other captive population management programs.
  • Ability to effectively communicate written and verbally with all staff levels, Board, senior and middle management, staff, donors, volunteers and guests.
  • Analytical, interpersonal, public relations, presentation and communication skills both verbal and written.
  • Valid California driver’s license.
  • Must be insurable on The Living Desert’s automobile insurance.

Working Conditions:

  • Standing, walking, twisting, climbing, crawling, kneeling, reaching motions, lifting (up to 50#)
  • Exposure to extreme heat, chemicals and dust/airborne materials.
  • Works with potentially dangerous animals (large ungulates, carnivores, venomous snakes)
  • Holiday, evening, weekend work required. Available on as needed basis for emergencies and events.
  • Travel opportunities for conferences and workshop as budgeting/funding are available. Some or all expenses paid.

To apply for this position: Qualified applicants must send resume, three (3) references and cover letter to RoxAnna Breitigan, Director of Animal Programs at  Cover letter should include how you will be key in moving the Animal Department forward and how you will move The Living Desert mission forward. Deadline for submissions: Friday, December 15 at 5pm (pst).

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