Cynthia Burger at Louisville Zoo

Volunteer Spotlight: Cynthia Burger

Wonder where many of the Zoo’s keepers come from?  A great many of them start their involvement by first volunteering at the Zoo in their teens. Night keeper Cynthia Burger started her first volunteer day in the giraffe area and never wanted to work anywhere else.  Now in addition to her full-time position, she continues to volunteer every year during “The World’s Largest Halloween Party!” presented by Meijer.

Years/Hours volunteering at the Zoo?
About six years and about 1,000 hours starting when I was fourteen.

What is your current job?
Keeper I, working as a night keeper and also in the Louisville Zoo Commissary.

What’s your best experience at the Zoo?
My first day as a volunteer, I was taken into the keeper area of the Lion exhibit. Katie, the female, was already inside the animal holding area. Then Trapper, our male, came in, and he and Katie began to roar. Tears immediately welled in my eyes. It was a moment that changed me. I’ve had a million more wonderful moments at the Zoo, from feeding a young gazelle with a bottle to hand-rearing a gorilla, but that moment with the lions remains forever in my mind.

What do you like most about being a night keeper?
The Zoo is such a different place at night. I don’t know if a lot of people realize that the animals need care 24 hours a day, and at night, after all the Zoo visitors have gone home, that experience becomes very personal. We make our rounds, checking on the animals, feeding them as needed, and particularly looking out for any animals that might be sick or that need extra attention. It’s really fun to tiptoe around a sleeping elephant while you stock her hay! I also discovered a baby addax antelope right after it was born.

Sometimes we’re there to accept a new animal being delivered to the Zoo, to help get that animal settled. There’s a real sense of responsibility knowing those animals are depending on me, and an “I’ll take care of it” attitude. And there’s nothing quite as cool as being at the Zoo at day break. I’ve worked in many areas at the Zoo, but at night, I get to see the Zoo in a whole new light.

Do you have any pets?
A ten-year-old Doberman and a three-year-old German shepherd. They are my princes and partners in crime!

What are your hobbies?
Painting, all sorts of crafting, reading, and dog training.

Why did you volunteer at the Zoo?
My mother found out about the program from a friend of hers. I’d always loved animals, but from that very first day — getting the chance to be so close to Trapper and the other animals — I knew this was where I was supposed to be.