Celebrating National Animal Keeper Appreciation Week (July 16-22)



Our Zoology department, comprised of Aquarists and Animal Keepers, is the do-it-all team! They perform a wide range of tasks from exhibit cleaning and maintenance to assisting our veterinarian with medical procedures. Whether it’s an aquarist crawling in tight places to work on an aquarium’s Life Support System, or an Animal Keeper trekking through snow over the span of the entire Maymont estate to feed the animals, they do it with one goal in mind: to ensure the comfort and well-being of the animals in their care here at Maymont. Their dedication helps us bring people and animals together to enrich, educate, inspire and encourage conservation and stewardship.

Here, we highlight and recognize the animal care staff as they continue to fulfill a demanding but rewarding role.

(from left to right)

Delaney Sheire, Assistant Aquarist
Time as aquarist: 1 year
Educational background: B.S. in Biology and Environmental Studies; undergraduate research on the behaviors of freshwater fish

Lauren Luckay, Animal Keeper
Time as an animal keeper: 7 years
Education background: B.S. in Biology from George Mason University

Kristin Coury, Aquarist
Time as an aquarist: 2.5 years; my entire aquarist career has been with Maymont
Educational background: B.S. in Biology from Messiah College; undergraduate research in amphibian disease ecology in local habitats; diverse animal handling and wildlife education experience as a teaching assistant for organismal and ecological biology lab courses

Anaka Nazareth, Manager of Animal Training
Time as an animal keeper: 13 years
Education background: A.S. in Exotic Animal Training and Management; M.A. in Animal Behavior and Conservation

Cate Perry, Aquarist
Time as an aquarist: 13 years; 3 at Maymont
Educational background: B.S. in Anthropology, minor in Biology; volunteer work at the Downtown Aquarium in Denver

Casey Bata, Animal Keeper
Time as an animal keeper: 9 years
Educational background: B.S. in Environmental Science from George Mason University, concentration in Conservation; pursuing a Master of Natural Resource Management degree from Virginia Tech

What do you enjoy most about working at Maymont?

Delaney: It is hard to narrow down just one thing that I enjoy most about working at Maymont. I am able to not only contribute to a foundation that provides lasting memories to its guests, but I am creating lasting memories with the animals here as well. Being able to connect with animals and share my love for the environment with others is very rewarding. Educating the public while also enriching the lives of the critters that I work with is something I enjoy very much.

Lauren: I like working in such a beautiful place that provides a home for our animals as well as wild animals such as Red Tailed Hawks, White Tailed Deer, Red Fox, Cooper’s Hawks and a wide variety of song birds. I love coming to work to take care of the animals under my care while watching the wild White Tailed Deer doe and her fawn walk about and the hawks hunt.

Kristin: I adore my coworkers, both human and animals. On top of that I really value Maymont Habitat Division’s mission of making Virginia wildlife accessible to all and always working to foster appreciation of our native animals and ecosystems.

Anaka: I enjoy working with a fantastic group of animals and people.

Cate: I enjoy being able to work with the animals every day!

Casey: I enjoy working at such a beautiful place and having the privilege of working with amazing Virginia wildlife.

What should people know about the Maymont animals?

Delaney: The animals here at Maymont are ambassadors that help to educate the public about the environment and wild animals. As a guest, you see just a glimpse of what these animals are like. When you work side by side with these critters every day you see their personalities shine. Each animal at Maymont has its own personality and behaviors. As part of the animal care staff, it is fascinating to watch these animals interact on a daily basis and grow as individuals.

Lauren: I work at Maymont because of our mission to provide homes for Virginia native species that were injured and cannot be returned to the wild. Everyone always asks me which animal is my favorite and I always say a mother never chooses favorites. I love them all!

Kristin: Many Maymont animals are rehabilitated wildlife or animals that may have sustained an injury and cannot be released into the wild. While we aren’t able to perfectly replicate natural habitats, stressors, and food items, we work very hard to engage the psychological instincts of our animals through carefully structured animal enrichment. Enrichment can be as simple as a new prop on exhibit, or as complicated as a training program, but is always designed with a particular species in mind. If you ever see something that looks “out of place” in an exhibit, please feel free to ask us about it- it’s likely a toy or prop given for that day’s enrichment. Enrichment is one of the most exciting and rewarding parts of animal care and we’re always happy to share a specific enrichment’s purpose with you!

Anaka: The animals at Maymont are incredibly well loved and well cared for! Every day we strive to uphold the highest standards of animal care to ensure that all of the animals here live extraordinary lives.

Cate: We have a very diverse population of animals that are native (present and former) to Virginia here at Maymont and it is always great to share that with guests, especially those who may not be aware that there are so many different animals species in Virginia.

Casey: They have an amazing life here and are all so loved and well taken care of by our team!

You can support the great work of the zoology team and help them care for the animals through the Adopt an Animal program. Or spend quality time with one of the aquarists or animal keepers and some of your favorite animals during a VIP Animal Experience or Animal Training Adventure.

2 responses to “Celebrating National Animal Keeper Appreciation Week (July 16-22)

  1. What a wonderful group of ladies! They take excellent care of the animals! So glad you featured them!

  2. These strong, beautiful, intelligent young ladies are role models and leaders. We are fortunate to have them, with their educational backgrounds and their love of animals, taking care of and protecting all of Maymont’s special residents.
    We know that the “Celebrating National Animal Keeper Appreciation Week” (July 16-22) goes on every day and all year! Thank you for your continued dedication and hard work!

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