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Chénira Smith


African American

Current position: 

Animal Care Specialist

Current facility:

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Year zoo career began:


Chénira is an Animal Care Associate at Busch Gardens of Tampa Bay, where she is part of the Rhino/ Hoofstock Team. Chénira cares for a variety of species on the South Veldt of the Serengeti Plain, including giraffe, eland, impala, grevy zebra, addax, nyala, and Thomson’s gazelle. She is responsible for feeding, giving necessary medications, providing enrichment, maintaining records, and maintaining habitats for all animals under her care.

Chénira loved animals as a child and initially wanted to be a veterinarian. She started gaining animal experience in the veterinary field in the summer of 2008 just before beginning high school by volunteering at a local animal hospital. Chénira volunteered for four years, during which time she gained experience in animal care, surgery, recovery, disease diagnostics, and customer service. While attending Penn State University, Chénira began studying Wildlife and Fisheries Science and changed her career path. She gained experience by interning at the Irvine Nature Center in Maryland, the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, and a local wildlife rehabilitation center in State College, Pennsylvania. After graduating from Penn State in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science, Chénira continued at Penn State and earned a master’s degree in Agricultural and Extension Education in 2018.

Chénira’s favorite part of her job is learning about the behavior of the animals she cares for and getting to know them as individuals. She advises aspiring animal care professionals to get as much experience in the field as possible and to turn your experiences into networking opportunities. Chénira’s favorite animal is the elephant, as she has loved their intelligence and familial bonds since she was a young girl.

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