The Oakland Zoo Has African American Zookeepers, And We Interview Liz Abram

The Oakland Zoo Has African American Zookeepers, And We Interview Liz Abram
(Last Updated On: May 18, 2020)

The Oakland Zoo Has African American Zookeepers, And We Interview Liz Abram

ONN – The Zoo Has African American Zookeepers, And We Interview Liz Abram

Raw condensed interview transcript:

: On for Friday, and also Now, and every place else, it’s my pleasure to introduce Liz Abram – slightly different from what you see there – but that’s another story. And, she is a zookeeper with the Zoo, and i have to explain this backstory, based on the title (of this ).

I saw this cool video of zookeepers dancing, everybody dancing too, and just as I saw them dancing, and i was looking, and i just thought “Hey, there’s no one black!” And, so I asked the question: I said, “Well, how come Oakland Zoo doesn’t have any black zookeepers?”“Well, how come Oakland Zoo doesn’t have any black zookeepers?”, and Erin Harrison was kind enough to call me and say “Well, actually we do. Would you like to interview? And I said “yes”, and so that led us to this happy occasion. how are you doing?

Liz Abram: Uh, I have to tell you, uh I didn’t do the, um, dance video. I was invited to, but I didn’t know this dance, and I didn’t know the music. And, so I did my own video with another keeper – we’re more of the uh mature zookeepers that didn’t want to dance that hard or whatever they were doing. So you get a waltz that explains everything! Yeah I’ll send it to you,

: “Okay, can i post it and share it for public or just yeah, yeah, okay. I’m honored – thank you.How did you become a zookeeper?

Liz Abram: Oh well, I was obsessed with horses when i was young, and um, I did live in the urban area you know. I lived in a town with no livestock, but once my mother let me um get on the bus by myself it was about nine years old. I used to take a bus out to a stable, and I would take care of horses because we didn’t have any money.

But i would take care of the you know clean stalls feed stuff, just so I can be around horses and get the chance to ride them. So that was from nine years old, um i was in 4-H, if you’re familiar with that? I had 4-h taught me you know? A lot of skills. So i went through that, and then um i worked on ranches, farms, I worked with llamas and goats and cattle and horses. And then I bought a horse when i was 15. That’s about when I started working full-time, and unlike a lot of people, i didn’t finish high school. I just started working full-time. So, i went through the 11th grade, but luckily my mom’s a teacher, K through 12. And so she had my back, and gave me the education and knowledge that i needed to get on without having a high school diploma. Because i had to work, Because i had a horse. It’s kind of like having a kid. And then fast forward to um 27 years ago i moved to Dallas, Texas and I was looking for jobs. I went to the city hall to look for jobs, and i signed up for a whole bunch of different jobs that were available – and one of them was zookeeper, and i got it. So there you go.

A lot of people do a different path. they’ll go and get a biology biology degree and then intern or volunteer which is a normal path. But i was very, very lucky that they hired me. They used my experience with animals, you know, to be equivalent to the college experience. So and then i had to read a lot about animals, because i didn’t even know half most of the animals that I started working with. They were African Antelope, big cats and things like that. So I had to do a lot of studying, but Dallas Zoo is where i started.

: And when did you start with ?

Liz Abram: 17 years ago. I’ve been here 17 years. It’s a wonderful place to work it’s a wonderful zoo. And they give you so many opportunities to learn and grow. The other zoos I’ve worked at I’ve worked at four – this is my fourth and last zoo. They’re very supportive of their staff. all of us um working here. i’ve been able to go to Africa, to Kenya. I was able to study giraffe. I was able to lead a safari in Kenya, and that was amazing. And then I also have been to Madagascar, where i got to study lemurs and help out with some research there. And that was all because the Zoo supported me.

: How do you decompress?

Liz Abram: Um well I go home, or I go to the stable. My horse, she lives on Skyline, near your high school, at Chabot. I have her, and so yeah, i go from one animal to another, home with my cat, and my spouse.

: So that’s how you do it. And, so how can we help the zoo during this time? Is there a way we can donate?

Liz Abram: Yeah, we have that uh Facebook Live, yeah and also http://www.oaklandzoo.org/donate is perfect.

: Liz, this has been a lot of fun great that’s good yeah definitely this is yeah this is great it’s funny because on when i raised the question a couple of people on Facebook who are not my friends got after me for even raising the question of whether or not they’re african-american zookeepers and i said hey look if you don’t ask you’ll never know okay you know and i’m glad i took the lumps i’m glad i did it my way just fine and yeah very nice talking to you!

In closing, I thank Erin Harrison of The Zoo for setting up the interview, Isabella Linares for handling social media on the Zoo’s end, and of course, my guest, Zoo Zookeeper Elizabeth Abram.

Stay tuned.

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