Biracial (Black/ White)
Year zoo career began:
Xa Burton is a swing keeper at the Chattanooga Zoo where she works in multiple different areas depending on staffing and projects. She works with a variety of species, from cougars to naked mole rats, and is responsible for their behavioral and physical welfare. She originally wanted to work primarily with big cats, but she loves being a swing keeper because she gets to work with such a wide range of animals!
Xa grew up in a predominantly White small town in Illinois. She always knew she wanted to work with animals and helped at a farm owned by a family friend for years gaining experience in cleaning stalls and training horses. She attended Eastern Illinois University where she studied biology and volunteered at an animal shelter. Xa took a conservation class in her junior year which led her to want to work with animals in a conservation field. In 2017, Xa began completing full time unpaid internships, first at the Conservator’s Center in North Carolina and then at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. During this period, she also worked part time as an office cleaner to keep herself financially afloat. Xa’s first paid experience was at an animal shelter in Tennessee in 2019 where she worked for six months before taking a position at the Chattanooga Zoo as a Camel Keeper. She then worked as the Primary Barnyard Keeper for a year before accepting her current position as a Swing Keeper.
Xa’s favorite part of her job is that she learns new things about animals every single day! She also enjoys assisting with minor animal procedures such as dental cleanings, vaccinations, and physicals. Xa advises aspiring animal keepers to never reject an animal care job just because they don’t involve working with your favorite animal. Take a job that will allow you to gain quality animal experience and work your way up- it is so rewarding when you get there!