Animal Keeper, Senior
Year zoo career began:
Adalina Ocon works as an animal keeper at the Brookfield Zoo where she takes care of animals at the Ambassador Program, Wild Encounters, and Play Zoo. Because these animals meet the public close up, training is an important part of Adalina’s job. She also cleans their exhibits daily, makes sure they have fresh water, food and medications, and watches them to make sure they are healthy. Some of the species Adalina works with include red pandas, wallabies, goats, birds, sloths, porcupines, lemurs, reptiles, servals, and binturongs.
Adalina had an interest in animals since she was a child and would visit her grandfather and the animals on his farm in Mexico every year, which helped her learn that she wanted to work with animals for a job. Being a first generation Mexican American, Adalina didn’t know how she would work with animals, but she did watch animal shows on TV frequently which inspired her to become a biologist. After graduating from high school in 2002, Adalina attended Bradley University and studied biology, earning a degree in 2005. During college, she gained experience as a research assistant in Colorado working on a study with wood rats, as an audience research specialist at the Shedd Aquarium, and as an education specialist at the Brookfield Zoo in 2006. In 2007, Adalina was hired at the Brookfield Zoo as a seasonal animal keeper before being hired in her current position. Adalina also earned a master’s degree in biology in 2011 from Western Illinois University.
Adalina’s favorite part of her job is seeing the excitement on children’s faces when they get to meet animals that she presents. She is inspired by her dad who is her role model; his great work ethic has influenced her career and have the motto that no job is ever too dirty or unglamorous to do. For aspiring animal keepers, Adalina recommends that you study hard, surround yourself with people you admire, and never be afraid to ask questions or go places that are out of your comfort zone. Adalina’s favorite animal is the red panda because they are gentle and mysterious and not a typical carnivore, as they mainly eat bamboo.