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What's it like to be a zookeeper? Maryland Zoo takes us behind the scenes

Behind-the-scenes look at a zookeeper's life at Maryland Zoo
Behind-the-scenes look at a zookeeper's life at Maryland Zoo 02:12

BALTIMORE - Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a zookeeper? 

There's a lot more to it than just feeding animals and scooping poop. 

These dedicated professionals carefully monitor the animals' well-being and create experiences that allow the animals to use their natural instincts.

The Maryland Zoo gave WJZ an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at a day in the life of a zookeeper.

It's feeding time at the Maryland Zoo and Arcadia the lemur is hungry. Zookeeper Ruth Collier is about to arrive with lunch.

Collier knows that in this habitat it's the female, Arcadia, who's running the show.

"They're a female-dominated society," said Ruth. "So, I am placing things in different spots because otherwise, Arcadia will displace Terrence and tell him he's not allowed to have anything."

Once the lemurs are happily munching on their dessert, Ruth is off to see an old friend in the Guenon habitat. 

"Naim is one of my favorites since I worked with her at a previous facility where she was actually born, and I got to celebrate her first birthday with her," said Collier. "She's very sweet, she's very interested in training and she's very smart."

Taking care of primates every day isn't something Collier ever saw herself doing. She was actually a theater major. 

Collier said she was always interested in animals, but she didn't think zookeeping was an option until she stumbled upon a zookeeping technical school in Santa Fe. She said it just felt right.

"This is Lola our oldest juvenile. She'll be 5 on July 5," said Collier. 

Collier has been Lola's primary trainer since she was born. They share a special bond.

Watching Lola grow up and become more independent is bittersweet for Collier.

"She's reaching that point in her life where she's going to start learning to be her own chimp and she can't rely on her mom anymore," Collier said. 

Since we share 98.8% of our DNA with chimpanzees, Collier said working with chimps is a lot like working with people.

"Chimps can be really hard and the primates can be really hard somedays, but they're really rewarding in the grand scheme of things," said Collier.

While this wasn't her original plan, Collier said even on the hard days, she's exactly where she wants to be.

"I'm so happy with how things turned out," said Collier. "I look back on my life ten years ago and I don't even know who that person was, and I feel like I've grown and learned so much just as a person getting to interact with animals and love what I do every day."

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