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In the Cincinnati Zoo's Wildlife Canyon, keeper Ashley O'Connell greets Bactrian camel Humphrey, who's very friendly and enjoys attention. His mate, Saarai, will give birth later this year. Bactrian camels live in the deserts of Mongolia and China and store energy-rich fat in their two humps. / Image: Melissa Doss Sliney

A Behind-The-Scenes Peek Into The Life Of A Zookeeper

Ashley O'Connell is working her dream job.

Despite the pungent odors and constant cleaning (she's a clean freak by nature), she loves every aspect of her job as a keeper at the Cincinnati Zoo. Six years ago, she transitioned from an intern to full-time, initially assigned to the Primates division and now working in Wildlife Canyon.

"It feels like home!" she says. Ashley grew up with a variety of family pets, including pygmy goats, which is probably why she loves caring for the goat-like takins (make sure to check out the photo gallery).

As a mother of two young children, she knows the importance of enrichment, interaction, and behavioral rewards.

"I try to inspire others," she says. "And it's nice to get out, talk to humans, and brag about your 'kids,'" she jokes, referring to the animals. She relishes the mini milestones, like once-timid animals eating out of her hand.

Ashley sums up her passion with this mantra: "Make them thrive, not just survive."

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Hop into the photo gallery for a behind-the-scenes peek into a day in the life of Cincinnati Zoo's Wildlife Canyon.
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