Lauren Staples, 28, of Rochester, New Hampshire, has been working as a senior zookeeper at York’s Wild Kingdom for six years.

Zookeepers feed animals and clean their cages, but they also act as dietitians, vet techs, educators, gardeners and landscapers. Staples says she thrives on working outdoors and enjoys the physical demands of her job. She’s also gained respect for the animals.

Staples’ day generally begins around 7 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. Despite the long hours and relatively low salary – below $30k a year – Staples says it’s all worthwhile when she gets to listen to the lions and alligators and witness new life – including York’s Wild Kingdom’s very first ostrich chicks.