In 1997 I had just become a full-time relief keeper at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo---a large regional zoo comparable in size to Chicago's Brookfield Zoo. As a relief keeper, I was tasked with filling in for any zoo animal care providers who were on vacation or out on sick leave. Much like a substitute teacher I learned the routine, but never quite got to know the animals as intimately as the regular care providers or area animal keepers.
I thought I might have some free time to catch up on learning animal keeper routines, but someone was always sick or on-leave for some reason, so it seemed. Hence, I was busy filling in for animal keepers, often learning the job on the go as soon as I was assigned to a given area of the Zoo.
In 1997 the Zoo's Rainforest exhibit had just opened. The world-class exhibit is an impressive facility. The enclosed two level, two acre exhibit was the brainchild of Senior Curator Don Kuenzer and has since received much acclaim as an innovative exhibit showcasing over 10000 plants and over 600 animals from Asia, Africa and the Americas.