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General Curator of Animal Care

Utica Zoo
1 Utica Zoo Way, Utica, NY 13501
From $65,000 a year - Full-time


1 Utica Zoo Way, Utica, NY 13501

Pulled from the full job description

  • Cell phone reimbursement
  • Dental insurance
  • Employee assistance program
  • Employee discount
  • Health insurance
  • Health savings account
  • Paid time off

Full job description

Job Title: General Curator

Department: Animal Care

Reports to: Executive Director

FLSA Status: Exempt

Job Status: Full-time

Salary: Starting at $65,000


Job Purpose:

The Utica Zoo is seeking an executive team member to lead the Animal Care Department. The General Curator reports to the Executive Director. As a member of the Executive Leadership Team, this position will be expected to participate with all other team members in a collegial and collaborative manner, considering issues and making decisions from the view of the Zoo as a whole, without partiality to one’s own area(s) of responsibility. Members of the Executive Leadership Team must be able to employ systems thinking and understand that all areas of the Zoo are inter-related and dependent on one another. The General Curator is required to provide and promote positive leadership in a team environment. The Utica Zoo staff recently unionized with CSEA.

This position is responsible for the management of the animal care staff and all aspects of the animal collection including, but not limited to; husbandry, health, risk management, enrichment, planning, training, compliance, permitting, accreditation, registrar duties, exhibit design, and research.. The Utica Zoo sits on approximately 67 acres, 40 of which are developed. The Zoo has over 200 animals from 80 different species and is AZA accredited.


· Health, vision and dental benefits

· Retirement plan

· Cell phone reimbursement

· Employee assistance program

· Opportunity for adjunct professor, local university


· Provide supervision, guidance, and direction for the Animal Care staff

  • Ensure that all animal care staff adhere to institutional policies and practices
  • Encourage staff development by actively pursuing opportunities for animal care department team members to participate in workshops, seminars, activities, and conferences aimed at continually improving job knowledge and professional development with the goal of benefitting the Utica Zoo organization
  • Promote positive mental health, well-being, and staff morale
  • Plan and implement long and short-term goals for each staff member
  • Ensure completion of required on-boarding tasks and ensure staff remain current in all areas of training
  • Responsible for oversight of personnel hiring within the department, with a focus on current and future staffing needs
  • Schedule and oversee employee and supervisory evaluations within the department
  • Ensure sound coordination and implementation of Animal Care Intern Program
  • Keep track of injuries and incident reports and evaluate need for additional training and/or employee correction to minimize incidents
  • Communicate with Lead Animal Keepers to stay informed of animal health changes and needs within the animal care department
  • Establish animal care routines for the keepers and continuously evaluate their effectiveness to ensure staff time is efficiently utilized and the animals receive care in a timely manner
  • Manages payroll for direct reports and oversees the implementation of wage and hour regulations

· Lead in short term and long-term animal habitat planning

  • Create, evaluate, or update standard operating procedures for each habitat
  • Perform research concerning the natural history and habitat of animals for guidance in enclosure design, exhibition and management techniques with visitor engagement and financial sustainability in mind
  • Assist in the design and development of new animal habitats and holding facilities with regards to animal spacing requirements, quarantine practices and animal health, with visitor engagement and financial sustainability in mind
  • Monitor the construction/remodeling of existing habitats via repairs, non-capital renovations and modifications
  • Continually enhance and improve animal habitats
  • Collaborate with Maintenance Dept. to identify any potential maintenance or safety issues as it applies to all AZA, USDA, or other applicable standards, and takes necessary steps to correct or resolve them
  • Monitor pest control program as it applies to animal habitats

· Oversee ongoing planning and implementation of an organized collection plan

  • Supervise and collaborate with the Zoo’s registrar regarding the disposition/acquisition of animals and oversee all related permit requirements
  • Coordinate SSP activities via regular correspondence
  • Ensure exhibition of a diverse animal collection
  • Maintain professional and productive relationships with SSPs, zoological facilities, animal transporters, etc. for the betterment and care of the animal collection of this zoo

· Develop and implement animal health and husbandry programs consistent with professional standards of care

  • Work closely with veterinarian to ensure the best possible health and well-being of the animal collection
  • Promote communication and information sharing between the zoological community

· Assure compliance with relevant local, state, federal and international wildlife, and animal welfare regulation

  • Ensure maintenance of animal records within Species 360 & ZIMS
  • Ensure deadline management of permits according to industry and legal standards, including electronic/digitalized updates per AZA and/or USDA requirements

· Direct the development, submission and implementation of the Animal Department budget and coordinate purchases while being fiscally responsible

· Positively promote and foster work that improves department function and productivity to exceed standards as well as using leadership to promote a team environment

  • Attend cross functional Animal Management meetings with registrar, zoological managers, and animal care leads
  • Ensure proper communication of animal care department Executive Director and/or the management team, board meetings, and docent meetings as necessary

· Participate in ongoing development and implementation of emergency protocols; organize drills or other learning opportunities to assure zoo preparedness and responsiveness

  • Maintain active membership in the Utica Zoo emergency response team

· Cooperate and assist other Zoo departments in accomplishing institutional goals

  • Assists in planning and implementing marketing activities
  • Support Utica Zoo’s conservation and research initiatives
  • Responds to specific inquiries from the public concerning the zoological collection in a timely manner

· Perform keeper, lead keeper, and senior keeper duties as needed

· This job description is not intended to be all-inclusive; therefore, the employee may be required to perform other reasonably related duties as assigned


· Mission

  • Shares in and displays a commitment to the mission of creating unique experiences and promotes public appreciation of wildlife through education, conservation and recreation
  • Actions and decision-making exemplify the mission, demonstrate cultural sensitivity, dedication, compassion, and are in the best interests of the zoo, our staff and our visitors
  • Conducts business with candor and sincerity to maintain the highest ethical and moral standards
  • DEAI is a priority from the board of directors’ level all through the organization chart; this position will be a leader in the creation and implementation of on-going and new initiatives.

· Excellent Animal Care

  • Promote the well-being of a diverse animal collection
  • Demonstrates awareness of the zoo’s responsibility and commitment to conservation issues

· Excellent Visitor Experience

  • Approaches visitor service policies, activities and events with the goal of consistently providing Zoo visitors with memorable experiences

· Excellent Staff Experience

  • Regularly demonstrates the ability to work cooperatively with others to enhance Zoo achievement through a team effort
  • Lead by example while providing encouragement, coaching, mentoring and opportunities for growth, both personally and professionally
  • Attitude promotes a positive, cooperative and respectful work environment
  • Resolves issues and conflicts with diplomacy; communicates effectively with others and provides constructive suggestions to build team cohesiveness and performance

· Management & Leadership

  • Demonstrate leadership through example by fully supporting Utica Zoo’s strategic plan, mission and values, and work with all zoo staff to support these plans
  • Customarily and regularly exercises discretion and independent judgement
  • Demonstrate the ability to meet challenges with a solution-oriented approach
  • Leads through connecting individual and team skills and passions with organizational needs
  • Effectively solves problems and learns from mistakes
  • Employs teamwork, when appropriate, to find solutions
  • Reports to meetings and activities on time, engaged, and prepared
  • Prioritizes tasks to be respectful of others’ time
  • Actively creates connections that encourage open and honest communication with all
  • Provides regular performance feedback and coaching to reporting staff

· Planning and Organization

  • Focuses effort and resources toward completion of tasks, realization of goals and fulfillment of Utica Zoo’s Mission
  • Determines resources and actions required to accomplish objectives
  • Sets priorities and manages time effectively

· Accountability

  • Acts in a self-directed manner; takes responsibility for own actions before being directed by others
  • Seizes opportunities and is proactive in avoiding potential problems
  • Adapts to changing conditions
  • Takes on challenging or difficult assignments
  • Inspires excellence and commitment in others
  • Assure accountability through transparency and zoo-wide communication

· Compliance & Risk Management

  • Consistently demonstrates a competent level of practice in accordance with all company policies and position certification/licensing requirements
  • Oversees all safety committee activities including the armorer program
  • Shows growth as a professional through continuous improvement
  • Participates in safety training and leads by example in following OSHA and AZA standards as well as other state regulations


· A minimum of 10 years’ related experience in an AZA accredited facility is preferred. Minimum five years’ management experience managing animal teams preferred.

· Experience with operant conditioning and enrichment techniques is required

· Strong verbal and written English skills and the ability to communicate and work effectively with varied stakeholders. Bilingual skills a plus.

· Ability to relate positively with a diverse staff and diverse groups of visitors

· Team leadership, financial planning or project management experience preferred

· Demonstrated skills in staff training and mentoring

· Strong planning, analytical and decision-making skills are required, with the ability to work in a dynamic, evolving organization

· Experience with unionized employees preferred

· Demonstrated motivational and problem-solving acumen with a high degree of integrity and ethics

· Possesses the ability to articulate and inspire support for a vision of the future

· Strong computer skills, including proficiency working with databases and Microsoft Office Suite, particularly Word, Excel, Outlook, and Power Point required

· Familiarity with USDA, state, federal and other regulatory requirements

· Knowledge of AZA accreditation standards, code of ethics and representative husbandry standards; familiarity with AZA and other captive population management programs.

· Proof of COVID-19 vaccine

· Willingness to be TB tested annually


· Four-year degree in biology, zoology, animal behavior, animal sciences, wildlife management, psychology, or related field is required; advanced degree is preferred


· Must obtain and maintain a valid New York driver’s license within six months of employ


· This position regularly works with others including Zoo executives and employees, Zoo visitors and community members, media and government officials

· The position primarily functions indoors, with frequent exposure to outdoor Zoo environments and external events

· The employee is regularly exposed to a variety of animals with risk of animal bites (including venomous), zoonotic disease, and other animal-related injury

· Close visual acuity to perform an activity such as preparing and analyzing data and figures, viewing a computer terminal, and extensive reading

· Ability to receive detailed information through oral communication (in person and via telephone), at normal speaking levels with or without correction

· Expressing or exchanging ideas by means of the spoken word. The employee must convey detailed or important spoken information to others in small and large group settings.

· Hand and finger dexterity sufficient for typing and other administrative tasks

· Regular local travel and occasional out-of-town travel required

· Must be willing to work weekends, holidays, and occasional after-hour assignments

· Must be able to work outdoors in all weather conditions and have the physical ability to perform strenuous work

· Must be capable of lifting 50 lbs or more


This job description is not intended to be all-inclusive. Therefore, the employee may be required to perform other reasonably related duties as assigned by the immediate supervisor or other management. The company reserves the right to revise or change job duties as business requirements dictate. It is mutually agreed that this job description does not constitute a written or implied contract of employment.

Utica Zoo is an EOE and provides a Smoke-free and Drug-free Work Environment

Job Type: Full-time

Pay: From $65,000.00 per year


  • Dental insurance
  • Employee assistance program
  • Employee discount
  • Health insurance
  • Health savings account
  • Paid time off
  • Retirement plan
  • Vision insurance


  • 8 hour shift
  • Day shift
  • Holidays
  • Weekends as needed


  • exotic animal care: 10 years (Preferred)
  • management: 5 years (Preferred)

Work Location: In person