Training wild animals has many benefits for the animal. A well-trained wild animal forms a close bond and develops communication with its trainer. This bond, communication, and challenge it gives the animal all help to enrich its life. Husbandry training, where an animal learns to willing participate in, and even enjoy, the veterinarian and veterinary exams and procedures, also greatly reduces stress for the animal. Becoming a wild animal trainer may sound like a fantasy job for some, but it is not a job to be taken lightly. Such a job has great responsibility for the care and safety of the animal, yourself, and any others that interact with that animal.
Wild Animal Trainer Job Duties
Wild animal training can have you working with hundreds of different species. Some trainers specialize in one species such as elephants or marine mammals, while others work with everything from iguanas and raptors, to bobcats and primates. No matter the species, the general job duties of any wild animal trainer is much the same and can include:
- *Daily training of animals using operant condition and positive reinforcement techniques
- *Daily care of animals including cleaning cages ,feeding, providing enrichment, and grooming
- *Medical care of animals as needed
- *Working with animals in zoo shows, school presentations, and other performances
- *Public speaking and education of wildlife, conservation, and environmental issues
- *Supervising and monitoring public encounters with animals
As with zookeeping and other jobs working hands-on with wildlife, the animals need care seven days a week year round. You can expect to work weekends, some evenings, and holidays, in the heat, snow, rain, and sleet. Working in close contact with wild animals will also put you at high risk for getting bit and scratched by the animals. Exposure to zoonotic diseases is also a risk of the job.
Wild Animal Trainer Career Salary
Starting animal trainers earn about $8 to $12 an hour with an average salary of about $38,000 for experience animal trainers. Supervisors may earn about $40,000 to $50,000 a year.
Animal Trainer Education and Experience Requirements
To get even an entry-level wild animal trainer position you must have both a solid academic background and hands on experience with wild animals, animal behavior, operant conditioning, positive reinforcement training techniques, and animal care. Some employers will require a bachelor’s degree in animal science, biology, animal behavior, or psychology. To gain animal trainer education take animal behavior, animal training, and psychology courses. To gain experience, become a volunteer.
Public speaking to all audiences and a background in theater are pluses for these positions. Past experience training dogs and other domestic animals will also help.
Where to Find Wild Animal Trainer Jobs
The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and American Association of Zoo Keepers (AZKA) will have job postings for wild animal trainer positions. Contacting facilities with such positions directly for entry-level or volunteer positions available will also help your job search in this field.
These jobs are highly competitive, have a low salary, and are hard to come by. For these reasons, many professional wild animal trainers eventually develop their own business in dog training, horse training, parrot training, or falconry.