Lead Keeper for Lions & Chimps North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro, North Carolina

She's a keeper. No, really

Sleeping lions, stress-free chimps, and a great conversation starter all come with Becky Kloepfer's job at the North Carolina Zoo

The glamorous life

Kloepfer's job as lion- and chimp-keeper has rewarding aspects, but there's no way around cleaning exhibits and holding areas. "You have to be willing to do the grunt work, and chimps poop a lot," says Kloepfer. "It's all very glamorous."

What you don't know about chimps

According to Kloepfer, a pet chimp may cost up to $65,000. Chimps may become dangerous with humans at an early age. "They grow to be 150 pounds," says Kloepfer. "They are strong and aggressive and probably the strongest animals in the zoo." Even Kloepfer doesn't come in direct contact; metal mesh comes between her and the chimp. Kloepfer is working with an eleven-year-old former entertainment chimp who is still learning how to socialize with other animals and eat a proper diet. "The owners dropped him off with two bags of M&Ms," she says.

Beauty sleep

The most frequently asked question Kloepfer hears: Why do lions sleep so much? They sleep almost twenty hours a day. Kloepfer, a biology major, explains that in the wild, lions expend a huge amount of energy when they hunt, hence the need for so much rest. "It helps people understand house cats," she says.

Stress relief

Kloepfer aims to reduce care-related stress in the lives of the chimps and lions she keeps. She trains chimps to let workers take blood samples and brush their teeth. Without a chimp's cooperation, anesthesia is necessary. "It's much easier on the animals when they know how to work with us," Kloepfer says. Playful enrichment for lions can mean something as basic as a ball. Without activities, lions can be prone to pacing. "An enriched environment lets zoo visitors see animals behaving the same way they would in the wild," Kloepfer says.

Cocktail conversation

"My job is a great conversation starter at parties," says Kloepfer. "Most people say ‘cool' when I tell them what I do, but it doesn't take long to see they have no clue what my job entails. Then they begin asking questions."

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