Photo by Michael Barrett
Sarah Baumgartner has always known she would work with animals. While we had imaginary friends, Sarah had imaginary animals.
“I have been studying science and biology since early in elementary school. I came across Shark Weekon Discovery Channel around the summer of 1995 and was hooked from there.”
After gaining a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi in marine biology, Sarah decided to continue towards a master’s degree in business and accounting from Mississippi College.
“My hope is to someday run an aquarium or a zoo.”
Animals are not Sarah’s only love, though, as she is also on the board of directors as the head music librarian for the Mississippi Community Symphonic Band while also playing flute for the band.
“I grew up with music in the house and my two older brothers were in the band so I just had to follow in their footsteps.”
While interning at MOTE Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida, she gained more knowledge of what goes into working with animals and soon knew where she wanted to go.
“After my internship, I applied for the Jackson Zoo when a position opened up. I was hired in 2010 and have worked at the zoo since then.”
Sarah’s main area of animals is located in the Aquatics Building.
“I take care of the cougars, black bears, North American river otters, beavers and a variety of birds, amphibians and reptiles. I also help out with training new keepers and can be found working with giraffes, orangutans, red panda, tigers, spider monkeys and tamarins.
“As a zookeeper, we are the eyes, ears and, most importantly, the voice of the animals in our collection. We are trained to watch for different behaviors of each individual animal to keep up with their health and welfare.”
The focus on the animals’ well-being is very important to each person who is responsible for these animals.
“We clean exhibits and back holding areas daily and feed them special diets designed for each animal. We medicate animals for any health problems and offer daily enrichment to keep the animals happy and well. We try to make their environment as close to natural as possible.”
The Jackson Zoo has a simple mission statement: to provide visitors with a quality recreational and educational environment dedicated to wildlife care and conservation.
Baumgartner’s passion for animals extends to her love of what the Jackson Zoo provides.
“The soo is a living classroom. We have many education programs offered at the zoo and with our Zoo Mobile. We give back to conservation and have partnerships that help with research and conservation efforts.”
Conservation efforts include: Change for Change, Red Wolf Coalition and Raptor Rehab.
“The zoo is a great family environment for the whole family to enjoy and also a place to cool off in our summer heat with our splash pad.”
The Jackson Zoo holds 380 animals, each taken care of and loved by the workers who spend each day caring for them.
Reprinted from our July 2016 issue.