A day in the life: the National Zoo

After high school Jemma moved to Italy for 12 months where she worked as an au pair. Eventually she came back home to Australia, moved to Canberra and finished a double degree at university. Now she’s the Customer Services Manager at the National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra where she does everything from showing visitors animals up and close, to running all the zoos’ social media. 

A day at the National Zoo?

No two days are the same working at a zoo. I get the chance to work in our marketing team, where I do a lot of the graphics for both the Zoo and Jamala. I help create the content for online channels, and I get to help out with TV and radio content. I run all of our social media profiles for the Zoo and Jamala Wildlife Lodge, which is a lot of fun. I also manage the bookings that come in through the zoo, for things like wildlife encounters and tours. 

I also get to hang out with the animals which is always really, really fun. I work with a few different animals at the zoo, like our cheetah and our puppy duo: Solo and Zama. Part of my role, when I’m working with the animals, is actually taking people around and doing encounters – so getting them closer to the animals and teaching them how to appreciate the animals, and what the animals are really all about. I take people on meerkat encounters, on giraffe encounters, tiger encounters, we get to go for walks with the cheetah and puppy! I get to work with our education avery so I get to spend time with our Galahs – Larry and Floyd (who pretty cheeky). I also do volunteer work one day a week at the zoo, so I get to work with our bears on that day. It’s never a dull day. 


Jemma Walsh
From Strathmerton, Victoria

Jemma working with the animals at the National Zoo and Aquarium
Jemma at work photographing the animals
Growing into this job 

I started working at the zoo as a casual job to get me through uni and to pay the bills. 

My first role was in the Visitor Services team working front of house, doing ticket sales and everything like that. 

I slowly got the chance to work to move up and do some other things in the zoo. When I finished my double degree in political science and international relations in 2020, everyone expected me to go off and try and work in the government or whatever it might have been. 

Obviously covid happened last year, which changed my direction a little bit. But I’m really grateful for the pathway that I’m on now. I’m loving working at the zoo. I got to pick up a lot of the marketing stuff as a result of covid, that’s been something I’ve really enjoyed and getting out there working with the animals as well. This job is something I would never have expected or dreamed of doing. I’m loving what I do now and don’t plan on moving on any time soon. 

“I’m really grateful for the pathway that I’m on now. I’m loving working at the zoo.”

Jemma has been working at the National Zoo and Aquarium since 2017
Jemma supports the Education Avery at the National Zoo and Aquarium

I’m surrounded by such an amazing team who continue to support but also push each other. The zoo is also a private institution so I feel really lucky to work for an organisation that is family-owned and operated. 

Multiple people from my management team at the zoo have also grown up in rural Australia. I guess that shows what can happen if you really put your mind to it.

I want to continue learning from the zoo as much as I can. There are so many  growth opportunities there.  I really want to push myself to take every chance that comes my way.  

I also  want to be the best fur mum to Grommit (my rabbit), and best scaly mum to Klaus (my new shingleback lizard). 

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