Exotic animals come in all shapes and sizes, from giants such as elephants to slithering critters such as snakes. Trainers who work with these uncommon beasts put in a lot of work to learn how to handle them with care. If you've ever been to a zoo, visited an aquarium or watched a movie acted out by primates, you can thank the hard work of exotic animal trainers for making it possible to appreciate the charms of these unusual beasts.
Training the Trainers
Exotic animal trainers receive plenty of instruction while on the job. However, you can also enroll in college programs to prepare yourself for this career. For example, zoo technology students at the Santa Fe College work at the institution's zoo, learning important details about habitat maintenance and animal care while gathering valuable experience. In addition to workplace and college training, exotic animal trainers may become certified through organizations such as the United States Zoological Association, which offers programs that cover groups of species, such as exotic birds, primates, mammals and reptiles.
Working With Exotic Animals
Although some exotic animals require more attention than others, they tend to require some sort of monitoring or care at all times of day and night. As an exotic animal trainer, you may need to work long, irregular hours, including weekends, evenings and holidays. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, trainers experience greater rates of illness and injury when compared to most other occupations. Regardless of the relationship you develop with the animals, they could attack without warning due to stress or fear. Heavy lifting and cleaning duties are other physical aspects of the job, further increasing risk of injury.
Preparing for Showtime
Much of what you do as an exotic animal trainer prepares the beasts for exposure to humans. Keeping animals physically and psychologically healthy lets other people witness the splendor of animals they have never seen or interacted with before. Good breeding practices ensure that exotic animals, especially endangered ones, exist for future generations to enjoy. Animal trainers provide the opportunity for people to have cherished encounters with animals that are difficult or dangerous to get close to, such as whales and tigers. Trainers also present animals to large groups of people for private parties and presentations in amusement parks, requiring excellent public speaking skills.
Labor of Love
Demand for animal trainers is projected to grow by only 3 percent between 2010 and 2020, far below the projected growth rate for all occupations as a whole. The BLS notes that places which typically hire exotic animals trainers, such as zoos, are unlikely to seek more trainers in the upcoming decade. The average annual wage of animal trainers is $26,580, lower than the average yearly wage for all occupations, which is $33,840. Considering the difficult work involved, the overall lack of job opportunities and the low paying nature of the job, being an exotic animal trainer is for people who truly love animals.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become an Animal Care and Service Worker
- Santa Fe College: Zoo Animal Technology Program
- United States Zoological Association: Courses and Certifications Offered by the USZA
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Animal Care and Service Workers: Work Environment
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Animal Care and Service Workers: Job Outlook
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Animal Care and Service Workers: Pay
- Busch Gardens: Zoological Park Careers
Kent Tukeli has been writing for business and media organizations since 2007, including Valnet Inc., Top Affiliate Publishing and Mirvish Productions. He honed his skills at the University of Toronto, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English literature.