Dorinda “Dindy” McDaniel is a zookeeper at Greenville Zoo’s primate row. In her approximately 28-year-long career, she has spent 20 years in Greenville, where she has worked with all animals at the zoo.
What made you decide to become a zookeeper?
I would have to give props to my high school guidance counselor. I wanted to work with animals, [but] I didn’t have the grades to be a vet, and they told me about the zookeeper program at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida. After high school, I got in and graduated from the two-year program and started my career.
What is a normal day like for you?
There’s not a normal day [because] normal doesn’t really apply to us. What we would like to happen is we check our animals in the mornings and everyone is doing okay. Then, [we] clean the front of our area and pick up trash so when the public comes through, everything is ready and clean to go.[After that] we start cleaning our exhibit areas and medicating any animals that need to medicated, and that usually takes half the day.
The afternoons [we] are usually doing paperwork, projects and any kind of training with the animals, such as getting them into carriers or training them for injections and ultrasounds.
By the end of the day, we are feeding the animals for the night [and] making sure everything is ready throughout the night.
What is the biggest misconception about your job?
I would have to say that people think these animals are our pets [and] that we kind of go in with them and brush their hair to make them look pretty. We really don’t. Part of our job is keeping them as wild as possible so the public can see the animals as close as they can in the wild. Some of the animals like us and some don’t. Joni, the elephant we used to have, did not like me. You still have to work with them. We still have to be able to take care of them and do training.
How has COVID-19 changed your job?
For me, not really, because I work with primates. Wearing a mask, boots and goggles is pretty much part of my routine every day. For about four hours or more out of the day, I’m already dressed like that. They have now transferred the face mask and gloves requirements to when we work with all mammals. The only thing that has changed for me is the nervousness of having to go into work and be around people. We do a lot more sanitizing and disinfecting to try to keep ourselves from getting this so we can continue to do our jobs.
The Greenville Zoo reopened Feb. 13 after closing from Feb. 1 to Feb. 12 for annual maintenance.
A Day in the Life is an occasional series profiling the people in our community doing the ordinary – and extraordinary – jobs that need doing.
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